2012-2013 Online Edition - PROSE

See What I'm Saying

By Sarah Stidham

 The rain is nothing short of freezing as Riley darts through the parking lot, trying to get out of dodge from the angry ice clouds. As she barrels through the doors, she quickly glances around the room for an empty seat. Thankfully, her favorite spot sits waiting for her, tucked away in the back corner of the coffee shop. As she walks to take her seat, the aroma of fresh coffee and homemade soup fills her nose. The warmth of the coffee shop swirls around her shoulders and engulfs her in a tight hug. Untangling the noose of a scarf from her neck she takes her seat as a quiet recluse. Exhausted from her morning classes, her body melts into the giant armchair that seems fit for a queen. However, a queen she is not. She looks around the room, recognizing the faces, but knowing no names. Some days, she feels miserable at her school, and today was starting to feel like one of those days. As soon as she feels herself begin to wallow in her own self-pity, she stops and reminds herself that this school was her choice. Her mother had told her she was concerned Riley wouldn’t fit in and that she should go to a school with students “more like her.” Riley hadn’t been afraid of being different though. She knew she would be just fine. She hadn’t fit in her whole life and she had managed to be just fine so far. Riley let her thoughts escape out of her brain and let the coziness of the quaint little coffee shop sink in. Everything was in its place as usual. Dozens of coffee mugs hung over the barista’s head. Ones that read things like “#1 Dad” or “I <3 NYC,” those were Riley’s favorite. The lamp on the table sitting next to her offered a warm glow of comfort. Everything seemed to be just the way she was used to, except for one, him.

He had been in the coffee shop just two days before.  She had sat staring at him while his dark, scraggly hair danced around his face when a customer opened the doors to brave the cold outside. He might have been the most beautiful boy she had ever seen. Riley imagined what it would be like if she could just go over to his table, sit down and talk. “How would he act?” she had wondered. Would he surprise her with his vast knowledge and witty remarks? Maybe he’s just a simple guy with a warm heart. Riley had been lost in her own mind, trying to decipher this mystery boy. When suddenly she realized he was looking right at her with a slight smile on his face. Even his beautiful, dark eyes seemed to be smiling. Embarrassed for getting caught staring, she had quickly returned her gazed to the blank notebook on her lap. However, she couldn’t have stopped the smile from creeping across her face. He had noticed her.

That was two days ago and now, there he sat again. Riley wishes so badly she could just stand up, walk over there with great confidence and introduce herself. Suddenly, she could just see her mother telling her, “Oh honey, don’t get your hopes up. You know it is not realistic for something like that to work out.” As much as she wished it wasn’t, Riley knew her mother was probably right. Yet, she still couldn’t help but think, just maybe.

Riley pulls out her work and tries to focus on school, something she knows she can do. She tries to focus but her mind won’t allow it. “Just one more glance,” she thinks to herself.  Riley looks up and sees his eyes appear from under his brow and a crooked smile spreads across his face. He’s staring right at her. Riley shies away from the gaze and looks into her lap, feeling the blood rush to her cheeks. Two days ago, she thought eye contact was just an accident and his smile was just polite, but today it is intentional.

Riley’s heart drops to her stomach when the boy gets up from his table, still smiling, and still staring straight at her. She realizes he is walking right towards her. She nervously drops her gaze in hopes he’ll take a hint and not come over. A second ago, all she could think about was holding a conversation with this boy, but now that it actually is a possibility, she suddenly dreads the idea knowing that it would just be one big awkward situation. As he approaches, she looks back up at him. “He’s even better up close. How is that possible?” she thinks. She watches his lips move gracefully as he talks with a smile. Soon she realizes his lips have stopped moving and he’s waiting for her reply. “Coffee? Did he just ask me if I want to drink coffee?” Riley questions in her mind. Not positive of what he just said, Riley just plays it safe and shakes her head, no, and quickly looks to the floor in embarrassment. Wanting the moment to be over, Riley keeps her gaze down and waits until his feet walk away. Slowly, she looks back up and watches him mosey over to the counter, his shoulders looking defeated.

In that moment, anger boils up inside of her. Normally Riley can live her life just fine, but right now she just wants to be normal. She thinks about how different life would be if she hadn’t gotten Meningitis when she was four. How different it would be if those antibiotics had worked like they should’ve. How different it would be if she weren’t Deaf.

Riley becomes overwhelmed with many questions of “what if?” Slipping back into her self-pity, she tries to remind herself that he is just one hearing boy. She assures herself that, just like her mom would have, there are plenty of boys out there that are just like she is. Still, her pep talk doesn’t help and she slumps over in disappointment. Riley tries to block out her frustration and once again, buries herself in her schoolwork.

A few minutes later, someone taps her shoulder. It’s him again. This time, her face doesn’t light up. Instead, it has a sense of dread knowing what will come next. As he tries to talk, she interrupts him by holding up her hands. He quickly shuts is mouth and just stands in front of her, confused. Sighing, Riley tucks her hair behind her ear, revealing her hearing aids. She points to her ear and knowing he won’t know the sign but hoping he’ll understand the meaning, she signs, “I am deaf.” He stands for a moment, still looking at her and slowly begins to shake his head. Riley knows what he’s thinking. He’s thinking, “Ha! What an idiot I am! Pursuing a deaf girl. Wow, this is one I can joke about with my friends.” Assuming his thoughts, Riley looks down, giving him an easy out to just walk away, but his feet remain planted. She feels a tap on her shoulder, so she looks back up at him, bracing herself. To her surprise his face is not one of disgust and it’s not one of amusement either. Instead, when she looks at his face, she sees the most sincere expression. Still shaking his head, he mouths the word, “No.” She wonders what he is trying to say, “No what? No I’m not deaf? Sorry buddy,” she thinks, “but I’m definitely deaf.” Not sure of what he means, Riley stares at him trying to understand. Once again he shakes his head. He then points at her, and slowly moves his fingers across his face making a fist, signing, “No, you are beautiful.”