From Now On
She was terrified when it happened.
It happened all at once. There she was, sitting in front of her best friend as she repeatedly did on Sunday mornings. They would meet for coffee and mimosas and to vent about the unfair demands at work or husbands who didn’t seem to grasp the basic human concept of cleaning up after themselves. The cafe down the street, two blocks away from her small studio apartment, sold the finest pancakes on the east side of the river. The candied scent of blueberries paired with the savory flavor of goat cheese was only cleansed by the sharp, tangy citrus of lemon zest sprinkled on top. It made her mouth water in anticipation as it carried through her open window, riding on the back of the morning breeze. And just like every other Sunday, she would scramble out of bed, throwing on an already prepared outfit, and sprint through the two blocks separating her from enjoyable company and satisfying delicacies.
But this morning was different.
As she sat enraptured by her friend’s animated storytelling, a low humming pulsated in her ear. The sound felt buried, she could practically feel it in her throat, but began to amplify, growing and growing until her world was enveloped by a cacophony of high-pitched whines and ear-shattering vibrations. She stood suddenly and stumbled. Her equilibrium felt off. Her head was swimming and stomach churching. She felt as though she was underwater, engulfed by a suffocating pressure and trying desperately to claw her way out. Everything became muffled. Everything became stifled.
And within a few hours, everything became silent.
The doctors said it was an infection, something she had contracted when she was just a baby; undiagnosed, untreated, and unchanging. Even through the silence she could heed the heavy words echoing through the room.
"There's nothing we can do."
She thought it was something that was only said in movies, tv shows, fantasies concocted to give birth to despairing, overemotional situations. It was something so far-fetched, so theatrical, so unbelievably cliche that she couldn't believe it.
And she also couldn't conceive it.
And she also couldn't hear.
Friends and family considered everything within their power to help. Her fathers invested hundreds of dollars on every advanced hearing aid science could develop but to no avail. Her friends prodded her towards sign language classes, but the rapid gestures and miniscule movements were overwhelming. She couldn't hear the sharp strike of hands as the teacher taught them the phrase for losing your temper. She couldn't hear the soft scratching of graphite as the person next to her took notes. She couldn't hear the rhythmic clacking of drumming nails; the cushioned thumping of a tapping foot; the abrupt roughness of a wheezing cough; the sticky smacking of chewing gum; the repetitive humming of a breathy murmur.
It was all too much, the sound of nothing at all.
She spent most her days lying in bed with the curtains drawn, enfolded in comforters, and ignoring the absence of rustling as she tossed and turned for hours. Messages went unanswered. Visitors were ignored. Her apartment was littered with unopened boxes of whiteboards, notepads, and multicolored pens, scattered with personal notes of sorrow and sympathy. She was wasting away in a winter of disquieted depression and still, staggering silence.
She was terrified when it happened.
It hadn't happened for a while. Her time began bleeding together. Minutes turned into days, days turned into months, and once again it was a Sunday Morning. Her window was shut, her curtains still drawn, and yet the scent nevertheless infiltrated the modest studio apartment. The affectionate, fragrant smell of blueberries caressed her like a lifelong friend. The flavorful savor of cheese greeted her with open arms. The zesty tang of citrus washed over her with a striking clarity. It was frightening but it was compelling, invigorating, and she felt as if she was being pulled by an invisible string as she detangled herself from her refuge. It wasn't long before she was up, dressed, and languidly ambling her way through the two blocks that separated her from the finest pancakes on the east side of the river.
Her best friend was there waiting for her when she arrived. They had been every Sunday morning since the incident. When she was spotted, she couldn't help but grin at the exuberant flails and the eager smile that greeted her. There were already two cups of coffee and mimosas waiting on the table. She lifted her own hand weakly and sat in the usual chair that almost seemed foreign to her. Her friend offered nothing as she adjusted to her surroundings. No talk of customers or unruly, troublesome children. No mention of the days she spent wallowing in her darkness and self-pity. No notation of the hours waiting at this very table every week, wondering if it would be the day she walked around the corner. Just one hand that grabbed onto hers softly, and with the other, signaled the waitress over and pointed to what they wanted on the menu. They sat for a while in silence, one forced, one chosen.
And that's when she felt it.
The onslaught of emotions. The bombardment of awareness. There was no sound of cars on the street right next to them but she felt the fleeting whip of the air as they sped by. The was no conversations of the cafe's brunch rush but she witnessed the animated hands that expressed their passions, the bouncing of their shoulders as they contained their laughter. When their waitress finally returned, placing a large stack of Lemon Blueberry Goat Cheese pancakes in front of them, she couldn't hear knocking of porcelain hitting glass, the "Is there anything else you need?" she knew they were required to ask, or the click click click of shoes as the waitress briskly sauntered away. But she drank in the sweet, savory, zesty aromas that carried into her window in the morning breeze. She observed the muted blues, vibrant yellows, and milky whites that molded harmoniously with the rich golden browns. She felt the fluffy textures give way to the fork as she carved into it, the stickiness of the syrup as it dripped onto her hand. And when she ultimately took a bite, the explosion of flavors overcame her and she couldn't help but cry. The hand that never left hers squeezed tighter as tears rolled down her face. She was still frightened. She was still devastated. But there was an acceptance in her that she hadn't been capable of finding until then.
From now on she was experiencing a different life, and she was going to make the best of it.