Saturday, October 3, 2009
How It All Got Started: Part I
Coach called a time out and the girls in purple and gold huddled around, eyeing the white board, waiting to hear the next play but instead they heard Coach's rant, “King, do you ever pay attention? You need to get the boys outta your head and get in the game. I've been calling you in at point guard for the last three minutes.”
Number 35, a tall girl with a stringy blond ponytail and bright pink lipstick jumped to my defense, “She's paying attention, Coach. She can't hear you.” Number 55, the Mogulette's right wing and sometimes post, chimed in, “She's half-deaf; we make fun of her all the time!”
“What do you mean, you can't hear me?”
“They count how many times a day I say 'What?' I can't hear, Coach.”
“Then you sit by me from now on.”
...and that's how I got to sit next to the hottest coach that ever graced the halls of Munday High during every basketball game.
When the mute button is pushed on my HDTV, it goes completely silent; when the button is pushed on the other set which is connected to a stereo receiver, there is a faint murmur of sound. You know it's there but can't really make out what is being said. My life is like that second television on mute. That is how I hear. Everything is a murmur and much is lost completely. Birds do not sing, leaves do not crackle under my feet, my dog does not wheeze, alarm clocks are useless, and telephones are impossible. If you stand behind me when you speak, I will never know you are there. And yes, some of my friends seem to think this is funny. Ha ha, joke's on me.
But the truth is, it is not funny.
That coach was the first and last teacher to know that I could not hear. Maybe he said something, maybe he didn't, but a few weeks later, the school nurse hunted me down and forced me to take a hearing test. She would have done it sooner, but I managed to avoid her for several years.
Taking it back a few...to the fifth grade. We saw her come into the building with her big metal case. She called us to her office one by one, hooked us up to head phones, and instructed us to raise our hand when we heard the beep. It was my first hearing test. I didn't much mind; I was good at tests. When it was over, she asked me if I had been sick recently. I told her yes. And this was true, I had bronchitis a couple of weeks prior. She said that I didn't do so well on the test but it was probably due to my illness and that she would test me again in a few weeks. She never did.
In the seventh grade, I heard a rumour about a guy who had just graduted from high school in our town. He was rejected from the Marines because he could not pass the vision test. This was disturbing to me since I had decided that my life's ambition was to become the first American female fighter pilot. Between the pictures of Johnny Depp and New Kids on the Block, I had plastered my walls with posters of planes and helicoptors. No way was that nurse ever going to evidence my failed hearing test on paper.
Later that year, I spotted her again trooping into the building with her shiny metal case. It was testing day. I was a clever kid when I needed to be; they started calling students out of my class, one by one; when they got to my row, I asked for a bathroom pass and I did not return to class until I was sure she was done. It worked!
Apparently, they test every other year at my school because she was back only a few weeks after the basketball incident. Once again, I tried to duck out of it. I hastily finished my English assignment, waited until it was close to my turn, then asked the teacher if I could go to the theater arts department to work on decorations for the play. Ms. Ratliff was a sly one; she must have been in on it because she said no and sent me directly to the nurses office where a whole lot of hand raising at the beep failed to happen. I think the coach must have ratted me out because the nurse was firm this time. My mom worked hard to provide for us so I had always been the kind of kid that tried to make things easy for her. When the nurse threatened to send a letter to social services if my parents did not take me in for further testing, I knew I had been backed into a corner. It was time for Mom and Dad to learn the truth.
To be continued....