As Ashton and I walk back into the living room Michael holds up his board saying: “Thank god you finally sorted your shit out!! I need pizza I’m STARVING!” I actually smile widely at his statement, feeling Ashton’s eyes burn on the side of my face as he watches me.
As the film comes to an end I feel slightly guilty, we had to watch a different film than the guys had originally planned, because that one didn’t have subtitles for me. Before meeting me and spending a whole day with me I guess they didn’t really realise how different deaf people’s lives are.
“What movie do you wanna watch next?” Michael’s white board reads. I shrug and quickly write down: “I’m tired, is it alright if I just go to sleep? Then you can watch the other movie you wanted to see.”
Calum nods and walks down the hall with me right behind him carrying my bag. Before leaving he quickly wishes me good night. After brushing my teeth I change into some shorts and pull my top off and right that very second the door swings open and I look straight into Ashton’s eyes, I quickly pull my pyjama top down and it’s not until I start signing rapidly to him that he snaps out of his current position and averts his eyes.
“What the fuck, Ashton! I was changing! You’re not supposed to come in when people are changing!” I sign furiously at him. He slowly turns to look at me with a slight blush on his cheeks. “What the hell, Ashton!” I repeat. He quickly scribbles something down on the white board he brought with him “I knocked!”
“But I’m deaf! I can’t hear the knock, you idiot!” I respond. Somehow it clicks in his brain and his cheeks turn even redder suddenly realising his foolish mistake. “I’m sorry” he writes. I just shake my head and lay down under the soft covers of the double bed and close my eyes, the shifting of the mattress makes me open my eyes and look up at Ashton who’s currently sitting comfortably on top of the covers with his long legs stretched out and his back against the headboard. “Can’t you take hint? I want to sleep.” I sign at him. Ashton watches me with furrowed eyebrows and holds up the white board in front of my face “Please write.” it reads.
Reluctantly I sit up straight and press my back against the headboard, I know I shouldn’t be this cold to him, I know it was an honest mistake when he walked in on me, but somehow he still manages to piss me off, but I was going to try. I will try. Once I’m sat up straight Ashton picks up his marker again and underlines the words “I’m sorry” twice. “About what?” I responded.
Ashton looks around the room as if the words he’s trying to find are somehow playing hide and seek with him in Calum’s spare bedroom. He nervously taps the marker against the board before he starts writing. “You were right earlier, I wasn’t trying to be considerate with you being deaf and all. I hoped it would change and you would be-” and then he stops writing. I grab the marker and continue “normal? You were hoping I’d suddenly become hearing, because that would’ve been a lot easier for you.” I look at his face as he reads what I just wrote. Guilt and embarrassment wash over his face as he looks down at his hands rather than look at me, but there’s a hint of something different too. Relief? He must be relieved that I understand what he was trying to say, relieved that it’s not “abnormal” to think that way. He slowly nods, still avoiding eye contact.
“I felt the same when I found out you were my soulmate.” I write after swiping away the other writings. Suddenly Ashton’s eyes shoot up to my eyes and search for some kind of explanation. “It would’ve been a lot easier for me if you were deaf or at least knew sign language. The most difficult part about finding out it was you, was the fact that your life revolves around music. It would’ve been easier if your passion would’ve been writing or sports or acting, but instead I’m stuck with someone whose passion I won’t ever understand.” I explain. Ashton just nods.
I know this probably hurts him, I don’t like thinking about him wishing I was different either. But I suppose that our mutual wishing for a different soulmate makes it easier for the both of us to deal with the guilt and the hurt.
“I’m sorry about walking in on you too” Somehow that actually makes me smile a little, but before I can respond Ashton continues: “It was the first sound I heard you make since I met you. You shrieked when I opened the door.” I casually shrug, making sounds is not important to me, I can’t hear them anyway. Slowly and hesitantly Ashton writes the one question I fear more than anything: “Can you talk? Like do you know how to?”
I feel goose bumps rise on my skin, I know that if I answer truthfully he’ll force me to speak. I’ve had a few years of speech therapy and I know that I’m capable of producing sounds, I also know that I have a noticeable deaf accent. Every time I tried to talk people reacted shocked and confused, a lot of times I still had to write down what I wanted to say, because it’s too difficult to understand me. A lot of people assume I’m dumb when they hear me talk like that. After a while I just stopped, talking is difficult and humiliating. So I decide to lie and shake my head, saving him another shock and saving myself the embarrassment of speaking. The faintest hint of disappointment swipes over his face again. Quickly, in an attempt to defend myself, I write down “But neither do you know how to sign.”
“True.” He writes, not trying to deny it. I rub my eyes and lay down again, comfortably pulling the duvet right up to my chin. I look up at Ashton and see him nod while he turns off the light with the switch near the bed. The faintest light from busy and never sleeping London falls through the window and displays the room in a soft darkness, I shut out all light when I close my eyes and slowly drift asleep, never feeling the same shifts in the mattress as I did earlier when Ashton came to sit next to me.