Speaking Behind Glass
© 1998 Glynne MacLean
Published in DIS Information June 1998

The essence of sound - without distinction, vowels without consonants, shapes without form. Always the glass snapping into place, shimmering in invisibility but sufficient to distort, skew and revile.

I can write - shape words with a keyboard. Lower a strand of letters until words form like steps on a ladder. Each moving, shifting as weight is applied. Shifting nuances as one word flows to another. But it is slow, so slow and devoid of expression.

I can type 'I love you', but can't whisper it in his ear, or caress him with my voice lilting across his hair. Instead, opening my mouth, an uncontrolled barrel of sound falls out, harsh with concentration as I fight the slackness about my mouth issuing vowels without consonants.

He understands and hands me back beautifully formed words, in a voice that could grace an aria. "I can't sing," he says, not realising that to me each time he speaks it is song to my ears. Tonality and form, dynamic and pitch intertwine into melody expressing his soul.

Few others understand. They hear the coarseness of my noise distracting attention from the few discernible words until the meaning is lost. Instead it is interpreted, packaged and labelled - "Retarded." "Slow." "The poor dear, oh how does he cope with her?"

But the words are there. A lattice of ladders ever forming, ever changing - moulded by intelligence, experience and education, stacked up against the impenetrable glass. Thoughts and opinions, wishes and desires.

Conversation.

Conversation via the page - stilted but communication. He says I should calm down, not try so hard. "Write - don't attempt to talk. Write it down." So I write and he talks. Mine flat, two-dimensional and his, breathing back life, lifting mine from the page bestowing recognition and worth. Taking a ladder of my words and turning them into communication. Joy, always joy, but underwritten with despair.

I can still communicate - the glass is still sheer, not yet patterned or opaque. I know I should be grateful that I can still write, but occasionally I want to scream out loud, "Are you grateful you can talk?"

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