I listen to words all day at work, halfling words, spit-out words, words choked in the throat then wrenchingly brought forth, words never born. I read recently of the baby in Argentina, Luz Milagros, her parents named her, Spanish for light and miracles, because they thought her dead then(more) found her alive in her tiny buffeted casket in a morgue refrigerator. Just went to see her one last time and she saved herself by crying. "I'm here," she said, "Please please life is so strange." There is a heartbreak in communication I never knew before I started working with adults with speech disabilities, seems a simple thing to tumble the syllables out until it isn't. A clear sentence its own milagros, so astonishing I want to bow to it and the creator of the sentence.
"Are you happy?" one asked me yesterday, out of the knarled blue of her hand signals and mashed vowels, holding her hand out to me kindly, the one communcation known clearly the world over. There had been silence and then her sentence, wrapped in a map, like a gift.
"Am I happy?" I asked myself, my mind all-twitch at the end of the day, stretched to its edges by repetition and listening beyond listening, the kind of listening that even after a year makes me feel incompetent. It is a hard thing finally to acknowledge you have done what you came to do without ever really knowing what it was you came to do. I thought I was going to be a teacher there and have only been a student, a daily witness to resurrection of speech, to heroic, stubborn language, hard-won from those who never had it easy. "Today is the eighth day of my daughter's resurrection," the father of Luz Milagros said Wednesday.
"No, assmunch, that's not it either"
Homeless and burnt out, Phoebe didn't have the patience for impatience.
"Fuck off, Vic and just tell me the answer already!" She shoved him into the wall of the old milktruck, her home. His grimace turned grin in one instant.(more) He liked acting stubborn. He was gleeful as all hell.
"No, Pheebs, do the work. So what it's a long word... Just take it piece at a time."
She started makng the first three syllables again.
Phoebe just wanted to learn, to get the stupid piece of paper that said she'd done enough school. So that she might qualify to go get another piece of paper, a degree, that would say she'd done enough college. So she could go get a piece of paper that would say she did enough work, and could cash it for enough money, those enabling little colorful papers and shiny chips of metal used to barter or spend on... more pieces of paper, like books and newspapers.
So that she might just learn...
But she didn't have time to play another round of Vic's "If only I'd had a kid sister". She needed this coursework Done so she could get back to her job. Earn a few bucks. Eat. (less)