The Bathtub

“I would pray for you that God give you love in the time that we have,” Nellie’s grandmother whispered, her voice spreading thin like paper in the humid afternoon air. They had bought an air conditioner, the kind that you prop your window up and put it in there, and it whirred between them, its round face serene and blank.

“Thank you,” said Nellie, her eyes still on her grandmother’s mouth. What she had meant to say was I hope so. It was easy to thank her grandmother. It is easy to thank somebody who is always giving. Nellie’s grandmother grasped her hand in her knuckled fist, fingers all misshapen from arthritis, feeling like the roots of a great tree in Nellie’s hand. They sat hunched together like that in front of the air conditioner, listening to the sounds of the afternoon floating through the window over the sound of the fan.

Finally, Nellie’s grandmother let go of her hand and reached back to the little table beside her. She poured herself a tall glass of sweet, sweet tea. It was the colour of amber, and Nellie was reminded of Jurassic Park. Nellie’s grandmother’s hands were steady as a rock, and Nellie felt a small well of pride begin to bubble inside of her. She was a person with much to be proud of.

Nellie sat back in her armchair, letting out a long warm sigh that mingled with the warmer air that wafted about her like veils. She looked around the room, avoiding the bathtub in the centre of it; bare polished boards, bare walls, dust chandelier, not much furniture besides. It was a room with a past. It was a room that looked the future straight in the eye.

“Do you want some tea,” Nellie’s grandmother asked again, clearing her voice and raising it so that Nellie could be aware that she was speaking. Nellie’s gaze snapped back to her grandmother’s lips.

“No, thanks,” Nellie said, shaking her head. She didn’t much care for it, finding it painfully sweet. She wished sometimes that her family would just learn to sign. She had a new freedom with the other Deaf kids at school, an autonomy of communication that she had never known before. This was probably how hearing people felt, she figured.

She still had some hearing, but for all intents and purposes she was what the doctor had called profoundly deaf. The hearing that she had came in the form of waves of buzzing sound, rushing and whispering back and forth without warning. Sometimes she would hear the sounds of voices, the shapes of speech, but most of the time it was inconsequential things she heard. She didn’t have any control over her hearing, no way to focus it, and figured that this was what the rest of her life was going to be like.

Her grandmother gave her a reproving look as if to say don’t think like that, and Nellie took a quick peek at the bathtub standing in the middle of the room. It was full of earth and sprouting flowers, tall thick things that were healthier than anything you’d find in the arid ground outside.

(please note, the featured image is from this post on tumblr)

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