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A strange new world

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James was six years old when he lost his hearing. It had been one of those months when James had gotten really sick and even had to visit the hospital, and when all was said and done, he was only able to hear whispers.

James, as well as his mother, learned sign language throughout their lives together. On the other hand, Cathy continued to mostly speak to James verbally as she claimed that it was just easier for her this way.

James was still of the opinion that his Mom was right. As a result, he always believed that the world was not made for those who were deaf. His teachers would always think that just because he couldn't hear meant that he was an idiot at school.

All of his teachers were yelling at him, thinking they would be able to get him to hear them if they shouted loud enough at him. There was no point in James telling them repeatedly that he could just read their lips. It didn't matter.

Thanks to an after-school program that James attended, he could make friends who were also deaf. One of James's favourite things to do was spend time with them. He felt like he could only be himself when he was with them.

Then James at to move to Derry. While he was aware of his relatives living in Ireland, he had never really met them. From what he could tell, the Mallon was very nice, but it was obvious to James that they did not always know how to handle him because he was deaf.

Since his mother didn't mention that he was deaf when she first decided to move them back to her hometown.

His aunt Deidre was quick to force her family to learn British Sign Language for him, even though Michelle complained about having to go to school on vacation.

A few nights ago, when his uncle was falling to tell him that dinner was ready, James signed "I can read your lips" to him to try and communicate with him.

Martin replied, "It's okay, James. We still have to learn so you can communicate with us," as he smiled. 

The act of reading lips is an art James has become very adept at ever since he went deaf. However, it became very annoying to remind people that they had to look at him when talking in some cases.

When Deidre handed James a school uniform one night, James asked, "What is this?"

"You'll be going to Michelle's school starting tomorrow," Deidre responded to him.
James was taken by surprise by that statement. From what he knows, his cousin only goes to a school for girls. "Do they know about me?" James asked. Referring to the fact that he is disabled.

"Yes, we told them about you are unfortunately, English," Deirdre replied.


James tried to remember Michelle's friends' names the next day as he followed her to the bus stop for school. 

Michelle introduced her cousin James by saying, "This is my cousin James.". "He is my Auntie Kathy's wean. I told you earlier that my Auntie Kathy went to England years ago to have an abortion but never returned. She also didn't have her abortion."

"Why do you keep moving your hands like that?" Orla asked Michelle as he watched her speak BSL to James.

"James is Deaf," Michelle explained as the group walked towards their bus.

"Wait, like he can't hear a thing," Erin asked. She had never met a deaf person before, only seen them on TV.

Michelle replied, "A little bit, but not much," in response to her friend's question.".

Although James at Sever's Hearing loss meant that he could hear a few sounds, but not a lot, it was still true that he could hear a few sounds. As a result, he often required people to look at him when they talked to him.

When they got to school, Michelle threatened to beat up a girl on the bus as they were going to school. From the very beginning, every time James would tell people that he was deaf, there would always be that one person who would start talking very slowly. 

At his new school, Jenny Joyce was the perfect at Our Lady Immaculate College. She was the one who talked to him that way.

In a slow voice, she said, "Welcome to our school," which led everyone in the room to stare at her strangely as she spoke. 

Michelle said, "He's not stupid; he's just deaf.". This was one of the things James liked about Michelle: she never talked down to him. Sure she insulted him, but it was never about his deafness.

"Just be glad you don't have to listen to her singing," Erin told him. James was glad that she did talk to him normally after all.


James decided that Clare was probably his favourite out of all the girls. After all, she was the only one that had bothered to learn the BSL. Then, of course, the girls tried to learn the language, but none could say anything more than a few common expressions.

 He was at least able to have a little bit of conversion with Clare. But she did make some mistakes now and then.

One evening when they were all at Erin and Orla's house to do homework, James said to Clare, "I think you asked me what homework we had for lunch?".

"What? "Clare asked, astonished, panicking, causing Michelle and Erin to laugh at her mistake giddily.

"It's alright," James signed, not wanting Clare to feel too bad. "You're still learning."

Orla continued, "besides, he can't tell me what he had for lunch," she explained. As compared to the other girls, Orla had never quite caught on to the fact that James was deaf.

In a tone of frustration, Erin remarked, "He's not blind, Orla.".

It was then that the conversation switched over to other questions about what everyone did for homework. 

After a while, Orla decided to speak up, "What's it like being deaf?"

"Jesus, Orla, you can't just ask something like that," Erin interjected, thinking her cousin was being rude.

In response to Erin's question, James reassured her, "It's okay." before turning to Orla. "Besides, I don't really know how to explain it. I'm just used to"

It was something James remembered being able to do when he was a child. He remembers watching television with his Dad. He also remembers his Mom talking to him even if he cannot remember how they all sounded.

"How did you get used to being deaf" Clare asked 

"I lost my hearing when I was six years old," James explained. "I can hear some sounds when just the other person and me talking, but it is usually pretty muffled."

James noticed that Erin had a boombox in her dresser drawer at that moment. "I can feel the vibration of music when I listen to it, and because of this, I can tell the kind of music it is."

"Really, that's kind of cool," Michelle answered. She never really bother to ask her cousin munch about himself.


James was sure he was the only deaf person in all of Derry. Which at times could be lonely for him. Sure he had his friends with the girls, and they were all nice. 

But sometimes, they would forget that James could hear the same way they did. So James was with the others at the Quinn house, and everyone was yelling.

He could tell they were all talking but everyone, even the adults, were rushing around the room just yelling at each other. 

James, of course, tried to get someone's attention, but everyone was too busy with their own words to pay any attention. 

When he saw all the girls leave the house, James knew that whatever they were trying to decide had been made up.
He did try to tap on Michelle's shoulder to get her attention. "Where are we going" he sighed to her.
 
Michelle was quick to answer, "Going to get lunch" She only looked at James for a second to say that before turning back to the other girls.

James tried to get the other's attention. He didn't know what was going on, and he just wanted someone to tell him. At one point, Erin turned to look at him.

"What about you, James," She asked. "Where do you want to go for lunch." 
 
"I don't know," James Signed, still confused about what was going on. At least now he knew what they were all arguing about.

"See, He's no help," Michelle said, and once again, they turned away from him, seemingly going on with their arguing. 

"Look at me when you talk," James yelled using his voice.

This caused all the other girls to stop looking at him. This was the first time any of them actually heard James' voice. His tongue was heavy when he spoke from lack of use, and they could all hear his English accent come through.
 
"Fuck, you can talk," Michelle exclaimed, remembering to look at her cousin when she spoke.
 
"Of course, I can speak; I'm just deaf, not mute," James signed, but he also continued to use his voice.

"Well, you've never spoken up until this point," Clare points out. 

"I don't like my voice sounding weird to me," James replied. It was true he could hear his voice when he spoke, but like everyone else, his voice was muffled.

"It's probably the English accent," Orla Elaborated, not thinking James' dislike of his voice had anything to with him being deaf.

"I guess sometimes we forget that you're deaf," Clare apologize to all the other girls saying their own sorry.

As the group walked along, this remembered to keep James in the loops. Finally, Erin turned to look at her male friend.

"For what it's worth, I like the sound of your voice.



It was a Saturday afternoon when Erin was hanging out at her house with her cousin Orla who already lived there, and Clare. They were watching tv, waiting for Michelle and James to arrive.

The door opened with Michelle walking through. "Hey," She greeted the others, surprised to see that she was alone.
 
"Where's James?" Erin asked, with Clare adding, "Please tell me you didn't leave him alone.

"Relax he's with him, and Ma are driving to Belfast to get him a pair of hearing aids," Michelle Related. She had been invited to come with them, but it did not sound like much interest to her. "They should be back this evening."

"You should have told us earlier," Clare said panicky "I could have rehearsed what I'm going to say"

"Why, it's just James," Erin Asserted even she was slightly feeling the same way about this whole thing.

"Yeah, but this will be the first he hears my voice. So I want the first thing I say to be something special."

"Maybe he'll stop being so rude with his whole never talking with those hearing aids," Grandpa Joe Interjected. For all Erin's friends at been to the house, he may be heard James say three-sentence with him, usually doing BSL then having one of the girls translate for him with it being Clare most of the time.

"The Lads Deaf," Gerry remained. "He doesn't really talk to anyone."

"Well, I'm happy for James," Mary mentioned.


It wasn't until Monday that the girls saw James with his hearing aids as they met up with him and Michelle at the bus stop.

"How do they feel?" Clare asked with clear excitement in her voice.

"They feel different," James answered." Your voice sounded less muffled and whispered now" James was still in the habit of signing even if he was trying to use his voice more.

"Bet our voice sound totally crackers," Orla Boasted.

"They are," James agreed, laughing along with the girls as their bus came to take them all to school.

During the morning assembly, Jenny and her acapella group sang their songs.

"They are not good," James whispered to Erin. This was the first time he heard anyone sing since he was Six rather than feeling the vibration.
 
"Now you know how we feel," Erin said back.


When James first got to school, Sister Micheal did bring him up in her morning announcements. It was mostly to tell the other student why he was the only boy at their school, fearing being beaten up at all boys' schools. She also mentioned the fact that James was deaf. 

James was again brought up relating to his new hearing aids this morning.

"You are not allowed to pull them out of his ears," Sister Michael said, explaining that his hearing aids were headphones but medical devices.

When school was over, they were all walking back home.

"So, how did you like all these new sounds," Michelle asked her cousins.

"It's a lot like how I remember," James replied. Of course, since There was a time that James could hear without the device in his ears, he could recall a lot of things from before. Still, it was a new feeling for him.

The others moved with a different conversation about what had gone on that day with school. James turned to Erin, remembering what she at told him.

"I like the sound of your voice too."