Last blog I mentioned being ridiculously ill. Well, the illness has passed but left the racking cough which subsequently took out my vocal chords. As of today, my voice has returned, but is sad and squeaky and largely out of use because I’m not willing to (further) damage my vocal chords.
The problem is, you don’t realized how reliant you are on speaking until you can’t. I had a small notebook Monday and Tuesday in which I’d written key phrases: “How are you?” “Find everything you were looking for?” etc. When my bagger couldn’t speak for me, I’d hold up the sign. Without fail, every customer would pause, and I could see them trying to puzzle out if I were faking it or not. Most people thought I was. They offered cruel jokes about how happy my employers/co-workers/mother must be because I was silent.
Some assumed I was deaf/mute, in which case they offered the same cruel jokes. I was sorely tempted to write that my vocal chords were severed in a horrific car accident, and didn’t they feel ashamed now?
Others, assuming I was deaf/mute, signed at me. I don’t read sign language, but it was a nice gesture. The ones who didn’t sign inexplicably spoke LOUDER at me.
I attempted to make light of the situation, nodding to questions of if I had laryngitis, and holding up my sign, “SOLD VOICE TO SEA WITCH FOR LEGS; BAD DEAL”
Those who got the joke thought it was hysterical. Those who didn’t get the joke were some of the most confused people I’ve ever seen. As humorous as I found being without a voice for four days, it’s exceptionally difficult to pantomime a conversation with someone, especially when they refuse to look at you. Some of the customers assumed I was doing something for church or raising money by not speaking. I held up the “Did you find everything you needed?” sign to one guy, who glanced at it and proceeded to tell me how it was his mother’s money, and he was sorry, but it wasn’t up to him. I looked at the sign and put on my best “What the fuck?” face. I had people answering “No thank you” to “Hello, how are you?” It’s very frustrating.
Yesterday met the added FailField of my encountering a group of deaf people who wanted to know where cookie dough was. The awkward was intense.
And yes, this somehow ties into the novel-thing. It gave me a taste of what I expect Elizabeth is worried over. She’s not losing her voice though; she’s losing her sight. Not being able to speak was hard, but I had a notebook and people helping me convey things. Being blind is a different story and likely harder to cope with. I’ve been exploring more sensory things since my illness: walking around with my eyes closed, trying to find my way around my house, in the fridge, the pantry, trying to dress.
As a writer, I’ve always been told to write what I know, and fake what I didn’t by massive amounts of research. I already have terrible vision, but I can see. Lizzie isn’t so lucky, and now I understand her character just a little bit more.