Loving in Silence: Neighbors Ch. 01byCaptain Midnight©
Suggested by the stories by RedHairedandFriendly ©
A deaf couple welcomes a deaf-and-hearing couple as neighbors.
"Well, look at that!"
The above, and most of the dialogue that follows, is a translation of American Sign Language English to spoken English. Roger Cameron, the person who said those words, never moved his mouth, only his eyes and his fingers.
"What's up?" Joyce Cameron, his wife, asked by the same method. She had walked into the living room in their Bethesda, Maryland, town home to see Roger looking out the window. Roger stepped aside and signed again.
"Look at the moving van across the street," Roger signed.
Joyce went to the window and looked. A man of about thirty was helping the movers direct traffic, while a woman in her early twenties -- about six years younger, it appeared - brought stuff out and set it on the curb.
"New neighbors," Joyce signed, leaving out the Q for question because it was obviously so. "I'll have to have Relay call them and ask them if they want us to bring them a Welcome to the Neighborhood present."
"Maybe you can ask them in person," Roger signed back. "Look."
The man across the street went over to the woman and caught her eye. He signed for her to put the heavy box down; he could take care of it. The woman did. The man then went over to one of the movers and spoke. The woman walked over and said something to the mover as well. The mover mouthed something which looked like "Say that again?" The man repeated the same words and the mover nodded, and went over to his partner to talk about the heavy boxes. The couple ended with a quick peck on the cheek.
Roger and Joyce looked at each other quizzically.
"What do you think?" Roger asked Joyce.
"I think she is VCO and maybe he's a hearing guy," Joyce answered. "He seems to know sign pretty well, though. They sure look like newlyweds to me."
Roger flashed a mischievous grin and Joyce stuck her tongue out at him. She looked at the couple across the street again.
VCO stands for Voice Carry Over. The person cannot hear, but can speak. Roger and Joyce knew many VCO people, usually elderly people whose ears had given out on them. But they also knew, or knew about, people who were born partially or mostly deaf or who lost their hearing early on through illness or traumatic event. These people relied on services called relays to make telephone calls. They would call an operator using a specialized telephone, the name of which varied but will be called TTY here. The operator would patch them through to a hearing person. The deaf or hearing-impaired person would speak as he or she always had, as would the hearing person -- the difference being that the hearing-impaired person couldn't hear the responses and had to see them via a little display readout window on the computer terminal plugged into their phone. The operator would hear both ends of the conversation, but would type the hearing person's responses and any background sounds he or she also heard.
Joyce and her sister Abigail, who had perfect hearing, usually communicated TTY-to-TTY, but sometimes also communicated TTY to voice when Abigail was away from home and talked on her cell phone, which could take only limited text-messaging. The conversations were mostly routine, but Abigail and Joyce shared a bond that had recently grown intimate. Very intimate. Roger had been part of that bond as well and had been just as intimate with his sister-in-law, a divorcee raising three young children.
The woman across the street rummaged through a box and pulled out a TTY phone and a regular phone. Joyce nodded in confirmation. She turned to Roger and pointed toward their bedroom.
"I'm going to call Abbey and see if she can come over. She can interpret when we go over there, just in case. I wonder what the girl does. And I wonder what the guy does?"
Roger shrugged his shoulders, and looked out the window some more.
Joyce was typing a message to Abbey when Roger came into the room. He tapped Joyce on the shoulder and signed.
"It looks like one of them is a student, probably the girl but maybe both of them. I saw her getting a book bag out of their car and looking through it. I can't read the titles from this far away, but I think they are textbooks. I know she has a bunch of spiral notebooks and a laptop too."
"Great to hear!" Joyce signed back. She realized what she had said and blushed a little. Neither Joyce nor Roger had heard a sound in their living memory. They lived in a different world, adjacent to the hearing world and intermingling with it, but not a part of it. Both counted themselves lucky, if luck was a factor, that they had never lost the sensation of hearing the way many of the people they knew had. Those people needed to live in the hearing world even after they were pushed out.
Roger knew things were different in the hearing world. One of his jobs was to teach hearing people about the world of the deaf. He and Joyce taught classes on their nights off from work. Abbey served as their interpreter, demonstrating in words what Roger and Joyce expressed with their hands. One of the classroom functions was to have half the class spend a session with foam-rubber plugs in their ears, and try to communicate to their hearing partners. Later in the classes, the students were to go home and wear the ear plugs continually with their significant others and children, if they had any, learning to communicate and learning what a deaf person feels -- and can observe.
Abbey kept sets of ear plugs in her house, a mile away, as well. She had taught her three little ones -- a third-grade boy and twin pre-K girls -- how to communicate with Aunt Joy and Uncle Roger. Sometimes she used the ear plugs on the kids to help them understand how life would be like without hearing. Sometimes she used them on herself.
Like that one memorable night a few weeks ago, when she and Joyce and Roger had shared that greatest intimacy. Abbey and her husband had broken up more than two years earlier, over trust issues. The divorce process had gone on for what seemed like forever. Abbey had always loved her sister and brother-in-law, but during the legal proceedings that got her custody and full child support, she had grown even closer to the couple. She didn't date often, but she always double-dated with Joyce and Roger. The guy sometimes broke up with her right then and there, or decided to back out on the date.
It was on one of the latter dates where she and Joyce and Roger had been intimate. By prior agreement, on the drive home while she was at the wheel, Roger had touched her even more while Joyce, in the back seat, saw them (and they saw her) in the rear view mirror as Joyce also pleasured herself. Upon returning to Joyce and Roger's house, Joyce and Abbey had gone into the master bedroom, where Joyce had gone down on a woman for the first time and Abbey had received a woman's tongue for the first time. Then Roger had joined in, his manhood penetrating Abbey for the first time: first in the mouth as Joyce and Abbey shared the feel and taste of him and his seed, and then in her pussy while she pleasured Joyce with her tongue.
The trio had fallen asleep after the orgasms were spent, but had awakened and made love again and again, including the two women lying atop one another as he licked and then plowed into both in alternation; in a F/F 69 as he took Joyce from behind and Abbey licked up what she could; and Joyce from behind as she went down on Abbey yet again. Abbey had taken the earplugs and had completely shut out all sound -- leaving sight, smell, taste and touch to overwhelm her and drive her to many orgasms.
The trio had never repeated their lovemaking and didn't plan to. That didn't stop them from being the closest of friends, though. Nothing was secret from any of them.
Oftentimes, including on the day of the first threesome date, Roger had played with Joyce's body as she tried to type. But this day he kept his hands to himself. He went back into the living room and watched the couple as they paid off the movers and went, hand in hand, into their house. He came back into the bedroom as Joyce finished her conversation, and told her that the couple did indeed look like they loved one another.
"Abbey will be here in fifteen minutes," Joyce said, "and bring the kids with her. Phillip's arm is okay. We can go over and introduce ourselves. I think the little ones will charm that couple and if the guy doesn't sign much Abbey will be there to talk to him."
Roger gave Joyce a chaste peck on the cheek and indicated through gesture that more would be to follow after the meeting.
Abbey's van pulled up in the driveway reasonably close to the scheduled time. Abbey and the kids piled out, running to Aunt Joy and Uncle Roger. Roger asked Philip how the broken arm felt, and Philip signed back with dexterity. Joyce went over to Abbey and explained about the new neighbors, who were inside the house for the time being.
"Do you think they are breaking in the bed?" Abbey asked, and then put one hand over her mouth in a gesture of "I can't believe I said that." Since the kids had their backs turned, she had dared ask it to see her sister's reaction, to see if Joyce would act shocked. Joyce merely smiled.
"Why don't you go over there on your own and talk to them?" Joyce signed back. "I think Roger and Philip are up for some baseball practice and I want to show the girls a new recipe I learned off the Net."
"Okay," Abbey signed. "If they are up to you two and the kids coming over, I'll call you on my cell through Relay. If not, I'll just tell them about my wonderful sister and brother-in-law and you can meet them on your own!"
Within five minutes, Abbey had left and Joyce was with the girls in the kitchen. She was an avid cook and liked to make lots of things. Her nephew Philip was on one of his young-group baseball teams and was looking for a partner. Roger loved to watch baseball on TV, and Philip was teaching him the coaches' signs for pitching, batting and baserunning. Philip had been slowed up by a bike accident -- the broken arm referred to above -- and he wanted some practice throwing the ball and swinging the bat. Roger kept a spare bat, ball and glove in a closet and was enjoying practicing with his nephew.
Philip thought Roger could be a coach because he was so observant of everything. Roger didn't know any interpreters to help him speak to the team, but he had read up on other deaf ballplayers from more than a century ago and liked the idea. He had grinned when he read the story of a 95-year-old ex-ballplayer who had celebrated his birthday by telling reporters to "call me Dummy, just like always." Another deaf-mute ballplayer, a pitcher, had actually invented the hand-signs communication by communicating in sign language to his manager and team members, who signed back the pitching choices and extended it to talking to the batters and baserunners as well. Roger had loved a story in one book where an umpire had learned sign language and had signed out an ejection from the game and a fine to the player, who had just cussed him out in sign. The umpire had been inspired by an earlier incident where the pitcher had mouthed a series of nasty names to him.
While mixing a healthy snack, Joyce looked out the window at her nephew and her husband, who were having a grand old time. The girls reached up and tapped at Joyce whenever they wanted to say something, which was often. There was the first crush on a boy, which was discussed; what they had learned that week in school (they were placed in different activity groups), and things they just did for fun. Joyce smiled through it all. Abbey was an amazing mom.
Joyce had just put some of the baked items in the oven when she saw a strobe light go off. "Telephone," she signed to the girls. She and they went into the living room. She read the caller ID and signed, "It's Relay." The girls looked puzzled. Joyce quickly signed, "Someone who talks is trying to call me. Someone else will type it so I can read it."
Joyce was a little surprised, but only a little, to find that Abbey was talking on her cell phone to a Relay operator, who typed for her. She wondered about why Abbey wouldn't have come back to the house -- she had been gone quite a while. She signed quickly, "It's Mommy," to the girls and chatted with her older sister.
Abbey was very excited and the Relay operator had a lot of trouble keeping up with her words. She had met the couple and had made an instant friendship with them. They were newlyweds, all right. Josh Crane was a detective with the Washington , D.C. police force and Samantha, his wife, was a psychology student in at Gallaudet University . They had talked and talked. Samantha was the deaf one of the couple and had a real story to tell -- too long for Abbey to tell on the phone. She wanted Joyce and Roger to meet the couple and see how they did.
The poor Relay operator had a terrible time translating Joyce's sentence structure into spoken English. Part of it was due to Joyce being distracted by the kids climbing into their lap and asking to talk to Mommy, but ASL uses a very different grammar from standard English and the operator -- obviously a new person -- hadn't mastered it. Joyce suggested that the operator take ASL classes on his (he identified as male) time off. The operator typed his thanks in parentheses. Abbey spoke more slowly and the rest of the conversation was much smoother. Although it didn't come out until later, the operator thanked Abbey by voice at the end.
Joyce excused herself to get the snacks from the oven, asking Abbey if she thought the neighbors would like to share. Abbey was away for a minute and said they would love to. Both Josh and Samantha loved to cook and wanted to share recipes. Samantha had many deaf friends and acquaintances, but never one who was also a neighbor. Josh wanted to meet Roger and chat about life in the D.C. metro area, where he and Samantha had just moved from Georgia .
Four-year-old girls aren't known for their patience, but Joyce managed to keep them occupied -- even when the oven timer started buzzing and the girls pulled Joyce away from the TTY for several minutes to get the goodies out of the oven. They climbed on her lap and "helped" her type the responses to their mom. Late in the conversation, Abbey revealed that Roger had gotten tickets to a music concert to be held the next weekend, a solo guitar recital for charity.
Because music will play a big role in the development of the characters, it is fair to spend some time on how the family viewed music. They loved it. Joyce and Roger too. Neither of them had ever heard a note, but both had experienced a wide spectrum through the visual arts. Abbey had been an accomplished clarinetist through high school, and had sung some as well. She taught Joyce the lyrics and the feeling of the songs she enjoyed. Later, Joyce and Roger had splurged on a satellite-television system which gave them music channels -- the music played and images, sometimes simple shifting shapes and some elaborate videos. When Abbey became a mom, she heard of a TV series (which won't be named because it actually exists) on the local PBS affiliate, where a deaf girl and her hearing cousin got into various adventures while communicating the situations in sign language. The girl's mom, a descendant from a large family of singers who had been stars in the big-band era and then on television two decades later, composed her own songs to accompany the adventures, singing and signing all at once. That's how the kids had learned much of their sign language.
Marriage and motherhood had put music appreciation on Abbey's back burner, but she had found solace in music as the divorce progressed. It helped that the kids had inherited their mom's love of music as well. A few times, Abbey had sung karaoke for Joyce and Roger and the kids while signing the lyrics. Sometimes she intentionally blew a line to get a laugh. But concert-going had still been out of the picture because she had never really trusted babysitters other than her sister and brother-in-law. The only time she had gotten a sitter was that magical night a few weeks ago.
That was about to change.
It was most unusual for Abbey, who had had made a lot of tough decisions and issued a lot of orders in her life, to sound as excited as a little kid (the relay operator had gotten caught up in her excitement and inserted (EXCITED TONE) (HAPPY TONE) and many exclamation points). Abbey had only been this excited once lately, at the triple lovemaking previously described.
Joyce had to ask if there were a couple extra tickets, offering to pay for them. After a minute worth of (ONE MOMENT PLEASE) coming up repeatedly on the screen, the answer came back that the two extra tickets were comped, carryovers from a couple of people who had to cancel. Josh was interpreting the music for Samantha and was happy to have another couple to go with them.
After a quick SKSK to end the conversation, Joyce and the girls went out to the back yard. Philip was testing his throwing arm and doing quite well. Roger signed the details of the workout to Joyce, not that it was necessary when she saw her nephew's broad grin.
"Can we all go over to see Mommy?" Joyce signed to the kids. "She has some new friends and she'd like you to meet them."
Philip knew way too much about his mother's and father's divorce. He seemed a bit wary of Mommy's new friends, worrying for her sake. Seemed like the only times she was happy was when she went out with Aunt Joy and Uncle Roger. The girls were very outgoing and -- despite the warnings about meeting strangers -- eager to meet new friends. Joyce explained that Mommy's new friends were grownups and didn't have any kids. The kids didn't seem to mind, but you never knew.
A few minutes later, Roger balled up his fist and banged on the door across the street. Josh Crane answered with a warm smile and a hearty handshake. He signed a welcome and led everybody to the kitchen. Abbey and Samantha were seated at a table looking at a photo album, which they quickly closed. Samantha's eyes sparkled as she shook Joyce's hand. Abbey explained that Samantha really wanted to chat with Joyce and Roger about their lives, and about hers. Roger and Josh signed hellos as Josh greeted the kids warmly. He spoke to them, looking around at the other adults to see if they were lip readers. Samantha was, and signed the question to the others about whether they were comfortable having Josh use the spoken word. No problem, Roger signed. He and Josh were soon on their way to the back yard, kids in tow, to check out some landscaping Josh hoped to do.
Joyce joined Samantha and Abbey at the table. The deaf women compared their ages (Joyce was older, but only by two and a half years), their upbringing (which will be more fully outlined later), how they had come to the nation's capital to get degrees from Gallaudet (Joyce had finished the previous year and gotten a job); and what it was like to live with a hearing person.
Samantha explained that she had known Josh for six years, after going back to high school. When asked about the "back to high school" bit, she opened the album.
The photo was so grotesque it almost made Joyce throw up. There was a little girl of about six, with tubes and wires coming out of everywhere. Her head was shaved to reveal a devastating injury to one side of the skull. One ear was gone. Joyce looked up and realized Samantha had a surgically reconstructed ear.
"Oh, my God!" Joyce mouthed the words, then covered her mouth in embarrassment. Samantha gave a firm gesture about not wanting pity.
"Yes, that's me," she said. "I got run over by a car while popping wheelies on my bike. Severe brain damage and many bones broken. I was comatose for a month."