Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Bootifu Dawtas

Yesterday Sam had his second mapping, which he said boosted the volume of his implant to something he could work with. The previous week, his first since being turned on, all he could really hear was machines and the mouse clicking (but that does make a nice clean click).

"How do voices sound now?" I asked him
"Rounder," he said.
"Instead of a collection of beeps, they're a steady composition of notes."
"Oh. Okay. Makes sense."

Actually, that makes no sense at all. Actually (double actually?) it does. Because one parallel to the experience of sounds coming into focus, evolving into words, is of listening to random white noise and then slowly realizing it's music. One day a sentence might be "There nnonc waah keey wwo eeee daughters." The next day its "There once waah king wao three daughters."

That's from a fairy tale my speech teacher recorded for me. I listen to it on tape every afternoon to improve my hearing. Carl is a good sport about this -- he points out to me the speech teacher's New York accent.

"Tha king ha' three dawtas," he says.
"He does," I agree.
"They ah bootifu dawtas."

The coolest new sound of the day: I was standing on 8th Avenue waiting for a light when, in a lull in the traffic, I heard an ominous distant rumbling, the kind of sound that in movies announces that an enemy army is lurking or a killer T-rex is on the hunt. I looked around trying to figure out what could make that noise. There were no big trucks passing and besides the sound was much too deep for a truck. Then I realized it was coming from underground. It was the 1/9 subway chugging uptown.

Other cool new sounds of note: turn signals, the goofy music leaking from the walkman of a guy on the bookstore escalator, the crisp kalunk of a pencil being put down on a desk, and random perfectly clear words from conversations of passing strangers (My favorite so far -- a girl on line in Whole Foods with her hands on her hips saying "Excuse me, mother" into her phone in the unmistakable tone of, mother, you are not excused.)

Not cool sounds: fans, my god. Plastic bags (I had no idea they made so much noise). The racket I make when I do the dishes. The man down the hall at work putting packing tape on four hundred boxes.

Hearing really does bring you into the world, and the world, I'm finding, is very welcoming when you come over to it. At Union Square this afternoon, a massively muscled black man built like a newspaper stand and squeezed into a tiny pair of bicycle shorts was, for a small fee, doing pushups in sets of ten with people standing on his back. When he didn't have any takers he danced to the music from his stereo. I watched him for a few minutes – he really looked like someone who could crush things just by touching them -- than he came over and asked for a cigarette.

"I don't smoke," I said.
"No problem," said the man. "Want to get on top of me?"
"Uh, no thank you," I said, quite thankful I could hear him.
He nodded. "You have nice hands."

Time to go and catch my train, obviously. But still when you've spent the last three years hearing less and less while fighting a constant headache, even that conversation is alright. I feel blessed.

Finally, and most importantly: a heartfelt congrats to Sarah and Andrew on the birth of Anna Rose. Sister of Esther, grandchild of Raphy and Richard, niece of Becky and Ben – she's a bootifu dawta, I'm sure.


Blogger UncaJonny said...

Amen to that last part.

4:52 PM  

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