Rebecca knew her parents weren’t the sort to actually care about being able to communicate with her, but they couldn’t have said what she just thought they said. They couldn’t have.
She turned up the volume on her hearing aids, pointless as it was, and stared at their lips desperately. Any hope of being mistaken was rapidly fading, as her parents’ lips formed the words “you” and “mainstreamed” over and over, the shapes burning themselves into her retinas.
With a jolt of alarm and terror, Rebecca started signing rapidly, even though she knew they’d never bothered to learn, too nervous at the thought of being forced to go to a hearing school instead of her deaf one, with only the help of the paltry accommodations she might receive, to face the exhaustion and frustration of “using her voice”, as the speech therapist she was taken to every other day said.
“You can’t! School’s literally the only place I can actually talk to people! I can’t even understand you guys here, since you insist on speaking orally all the time instead of making any effort to accommodate me at all.
“What on earth makes you think that I’ll be able to understand anyone? Oh, I get it. It’s your unflinching belief that if I just tried hard enough I’d be able to speak and listen just as well as any hearing person. Well, guess what? I’m Deaf.” Rebecca jabbed the word at them.
“Deaf. Can you get that through your thick skulls? And even if you, in all your unflinching generosity,” she said, sarcasm oozing from her fingers, “decide to allow me a sign interpreter, you’re aware of how much gets lost in translation, right? And, and, and -” Rebecca broke off, hands stilling, before resuming with a frantic pace. “Look, what do I have to do to make you change your mind? I have friends, I have a life at school, I’m happy there! I’ll work harder at speech therapy, is that what you want to hear? I can be more attentive to you and pretend to understand what you’re saying. Just, please, please, don’t mainstream me! You have no idea how much I need this school. You have no idea how much I need to be able to have an actual life. Please…”
Rebecca’s desperate flurry of fingers had devolved into a flat hand rapidly rubbing out a circle on her chest, which fell as she realized that her parents had just kept talking at her, unconcerned, during her whole impassioned speech as if nothing had happened.
The rage seeped out of her, leaving her hollow as she realized that there wasn’t really anything she could do to make them change their mind. This, right here, was just the inevitable next step on their path to Rebecca™, their perfect Hearing (in all but name) daughter. Her deaf school was only ever a crutch on that path, and now, they’ve decided, it’s time to kick it away. It’s far past time for Rebecca to stand on her own.
Her parents were still talking, but Rebecca didn’t care. Shakily, she stood up from the table and made her way to her room. Slamming the door behind her exactly the way she’d been taught not to with a sense of satisfaction, Rebecca locked it, sinking into the chair in front of her computer.
As she logged on to the chat site, ignoring the stinging of her eyes as best as she could, she read the messages scrolling in front of her with a sad smile. At least she’d still have this. At least she wouldn’t be completely isolated. No matter what her parents did, no matter how much they made themselves strangers to her, they could never take the internet away from her, at least, not forever. It was a cold comfort, but it was the only one she had.