Silence (Story by Risa Peris)

He signed – I want to take your picture.

I was perched on a window seat with a book of Anne Sexton’s poetry spread over my bare, crossed legs. I was wearing one of his shirts emblazoned with “Harvard”. I had no pants on and my hair was unbrushed. 

I signed – No. 

We were both mutes. I hadn’t spoken since I was eight and when I nearly drowned in the Mediterranean. He hadn’t spoken since he was twelve when he witnessed his parents murdered in a convenience store robbery. We both had our reasons for silence. 

We lived in New York City and there was a group for everything. We met at the Mute group in a community center. He was older than me by eight years. He composed music and I wrote books. Neither entailed we speak. 

What are words and speech really? Unnecessary relics of a time when humans had to work as a group. But Alan and I were one. Not a group of feuding adults. 

He slid his hand up my thigh. 

I love you – he signed. 

I love you – I signed back. 

He kissed me on the cheek. Not the lips. There was something about kissing on the lips that reminded me of drowning. 

I got up and went to bed. 

We make love now – I signed. 

And so we spent the afternoon in bed. Two mutes with throbbing hearts and sex organs unable to make any sound other than breaths and we listened closely to each others breaths. Somehow not talking made us stronger because love is a feeling and talking separated one from the other, whereas breath glued us together like some childish art project made with pride and enthusiasm. 

He did take my picture eventually, but I was rolled in a sheet and my bra and t-shirt hung off the edge of the bed. I smiled. It will be a lovely picture and we will look at it in silence. We will admire our love. In silence.