decaf americanoI wasn’t prepared for the needling agony of hearing like a normal person. The approaching tram was
like the scream of feedback at a gig, the doors like atsunami and the overlapping of passengers’
voices, a cacophony I couldn’t switch off.
But actually, I could. I pushed the little button behind my ear and I was back in the comfort of my fishbowl world. I breathed slowly, deeply and flicked it back on.
‘You’ll need two hearing aids’. The expert’s words I’d ignored for eight years. Typical bloke. Vain with a king-sized ego. It’d been fine. I’d managed. Sure, I couldn’t recognise classic songs after one bar like before and keeping up with conversation at a dinner party was nigh-on impossible, but I was still churning out good designs at work, still laughing in the right places.
But then, the scales tilted. My tongue was too big for my mouth. Words got stuck, came out missing syllables. I stopped singing. Scared I was unknowingly off-key. I taught myself to forget the ecstasy of being submerged in the clicks and curves of sublime music. And my Grace. She had moved to the other side of the bed, sat in the armchair now not tucked with me on the couch. I guess she’d grown sick of repeating. ‘Sohail. SoHAIL. SOHAIL’. No more sharing. What was the point if I wouldn’t hear?
And my girls, too. Their sparkling eyes. Wriggling fingers outstretched they’d run towards me, show me their creations, sob about their days, bring me clean plates. But they’d learnt their mother would answer first time, so they’d stopped calling for Daddy. I watched, then, from the outside, through thick aquarium glass. My girls. Living their lives.
So that day, I felt the sweet pain of switching on for the first time. I hid them and their old man connotations under black curls. I turned the world back up, shocked at the layers I’d grown used to living without.
I can’t explain why I waited all those years on the wrong side of the glass. Grace’s hand rests on the small of my back where it’s supposed to. My girls shout for their Daddy again. And I can swim once more in glorious melodies and beats.
About the author
Janelle lives in Manchester and writes short fiction when she’s not working in communications or singing. Her work is published in Ellipsis Zine, Pygmy Giant, Paragraph Planet, FlashFlood Journal and Reflex Fiction. Her story 'Late' appears in William Faulkner's Typewriter, an anthology by students from Comma Press' Short Story course. She blogs at janellehardacre.co.uk and tweets @jhardacre1