Everything was going fine. Life was grand and I was starting to believe people when they told me the whole world was at my feet, then the speaker exploded right next to my head and I’ve not heard a single sound since.
Oh don’t get me wrong, it’s not the end of the world and I don’t spend all day in bed crying like my auntie did on her fortieth birthday. If I let a setback like this stop me enjoying myself what would that make me?
I sometimes think my friend Richard was more distraught by it than me. Because it was his speaker, plugged into his guitar and at his band’s gig, but I keep telling him it was my own fault for standing right next to it. He didn’t know it was gonna blow up. He always gets upset when he’s around me for too long. He always says something like “I’m sorry Lizzie. I’ve ruined your life.” And I always have to tell him that there’s not a cat in hell’s chance he’s ruined anything; he’s just made it a bit more difficult.
Of course if I’m going to be honest I do have my bad days. Those days where it really gets to me, the silence pounding in my head, nothing in there except for my own thoughts. It gives me headaches. On those days I don’t want to see anyone or go anywhere. I just want to hear something. Anything at all would do.
It’s a kind of silence that unless you’ve lived it, you’ll never really know, not fully. Anyone can escape noise for a while, but you can still hear your breath, your heartbeat and the air around you. This… This is something else. I always have to keep a keener eye on things and sometimes that attention to detail gets a little overbearing. It’s just until the hospital can get a hearing aid sorted out. It’s taking its sweet time though.
One thing I’m not and will never be is disabled.
I don’t know any sign language apart from how to swear, so when I first went to enrol at college I took a notepad and a pen with me. It’ll be just like when I had laryngitis when I was eight, I thought. I bussed to town and when the couple at the back started arguing I was grateful for the silence.
At the enrolment desk I took out my notepad and began scribbling that I was enrolling on the history, biology and physics A-Levels. I wanted to work on the Hadron Collider in Switzerland. I know, I’m a big geek at heart, but hey.
The old woman squinted her eyes at my message and shook her head so erratically that her glasses almost fell off her nose. She said something, but of course I didn’t hear it. I stood there and I pointed to my note. I didn’t want to speak, because I can’t ever tell if I’m whispering or shouting. She dropped her hands onto the desk and moved close to me to make sure I didn’t miss while she mouthed her words very slowly. She phrased each syllable and from the frown and the wobbling of her neck skin I could tell she was raising her voice.
She sat back down and I could quite easily make out the curses she was muttering. She said she remembered when us people were kept indoors, so’s we couldn’t bother people like them. Us people? Who does she mean ‘us people’? I leaned forward and made sure I shouted at the top of my lungs: “I’m deaf, I’m not an invalid, now tell me where I go to enrol, now!”
Everyone stared at us. The old woman went bright red and her jaw dropped. She sat down and looked everywhere but at me as she scribbled down a room number onto a post-it.
“Thank you.” I took the post-it and left her there. I made a point to tell the people at the enrolment office and everyone else I spoke to that day about her. You should have seen them, they were fuming and said they’d investigate it immediately.
For my work at the University of Central Lancashire I had to write a handful of shorts about discrimination towards the disabled, religious beliefs and one about homophobia.
The following is the disabled piece.