You'll Never Guess What I Just Heard

You'll Never Guess What I Just Heard

This is the winner of Young Post's 2013 Summer Story competition, sponsored by Dymocks

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Summer Story 2013 Never Guess_L
Illustration: Sarene Chan/SCMP

It's like being underwater - although it's easier to move around and you can breathe.

But it's still frustrating.

At first, I'd blast music in my room, slam my doors, scream down the stairs. And still ... nothing.

There was just a big gap I couldn't fill.

People always ask me:

"Do you remember when it happened?"

Or: "What was that moment like - when your life changed?"

To be honest, I don't remember much.

Actually, that's a lie. I do recall a few details, but the rest of my memory has been made up by a patchwork of gossip, social media and simple logic. After I woke up, people would tell me their version of what happened to me.

Stories ranged from a careless bump on the head to how Sam bulldozed me into the barrier at the side of the pitch, breaking his arm in the process. The newspapers had their own spin on the event. They made me out to be a huge sports star who took on an entire legion of rugby players and knocked them on their heads, left and right. They made it seem I wasn't even trying - just something I did every day.

Here's what I remember:

I remember sizzling on the pitch in the baking summer sun.

I remember the whoosh of air as Sam raced down the field, ball tucked under his arm.

I remember speeding down the field, legs pumping as I pushed off the ground.

I remember the look of fear and surprise in Sam's eyes, seconds before I smashed him into the wire netting that enclosed the pitch.

Then I remember the pain.

Later I was told I rebounded off the net and fell to the ground. My head had snapped back and I didn't move.

"Dude, that was awesome!"

"Nice one, did you see his face?"

I think my teammates came over - I'm not really sure. This is what people told me. I remember seeing some hazy shapes but it could have been Harry Potter and his gang, for all I know.

"Jordyn, are you okay?"

"Jor ...?"

"Can you hear me? How many fingers?"

"Hey, someone call an ambulance!"

"Jordyn, it's okay, someone's coming."

The last conscious memory I had was of someone holding my hand tightly as if they were afraid I'd let go. Then everything went black.

When I woke up, it was hard. I'm not going to sugar-coat it. It was, and still is, one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.

Adjust to being a deaf person.


At first, it wasn't that bad. My initial shock was allayed by an outpouring of love and support from people, which acted as a mood enhancer. Everyone wrote out questions and helped me with American Sign Language.

But then that all stopped.

It was gradual, sure, but you can only write so much of a conversation down on paper before you give up, despite how funny the joke was.

And learning sign language isn't as easy as you may think. My friends were helpful at first, but it's difficult being friends with someone who doesn't say anything or react to any of your jokes. There was a party going on that I could only watch from outside the window.

Track practice was traded for solo runs and laps in the pool. Home workout sessions replaced volleyball. My iPod sat on the shelf, while my pile of books gradually got smaller. Friends were replaced with long walks and bike rides. My YouTube tab was closed and in its place were recipes for desserts and links to online bookstores.

Slowly but surely I sank into a bubble of silence, a small haven that I constructed for myself.

Did I miss my old life? Heck, yes. Could I do anything about it? Not really. And so for a while I was satisfied with how things were. I began tearing down old dreams and building new ones. Old hopes were ripped down and ones that didn't rely on my hearing were tacked up on my wall.

Everything was good and set ... until that night.

That night I realised how living in my own bubble had slowly begun to destroy the lives of those I cared for. That night I realised the sacrifice that had been made just to keep me happy.

That night I grew up.


I had gone to the kitchen for a glass of water.

As I turned on the lights, my eyes were met with a kitchen table piled high with papers and books. My feet pressed against the cold kitchen tiles as I walked over.

There were books on traumatic brain injuries and ototoxic drugs. There was a book open to a picture of two hands making a thumbs-up over a flat palm. Mountains of taxes, hospital fees, medication listings were strewn around.

I realised it was all because of me.

Mum was sitting at the counter, head on hands and eyes closed as if weighed down by the eye bags beneath her lids. In the dim kitchen light, she looked pale and exhausted, like the moon on a cold night. Then it clicked. My mum was suffering so that I could enjoy myself.

That night I tried something I never imagined I would do.

I prayed.

At the foot of my bed I knelt, clad in running shorts and a sports bra. Trying to keep my breathing even and all "unholy" thoughts out, I began praying in my head.

"Hey, God," I prayed, silently.

"Look, I know I haven't been the best Christian on the block - most of the time I end up skipping church. I can't even remember where my Bible is and I last prayed when I accidentally rode down that praying mantis on my bike. I don't really know if you're there, but how's it going? Is the food up there good? How's the weather been? Are the angels behaving?"

Then I thought perhaps I should pray out loud. Don't preachers do that, in their loud booming voices over their congregations, repelling the devil and shaming the demons and what-not? I tried again, but this time out loud.

"Right, that was just pathetic. I'm sorry, okay? After the whole accident and hearing loss thing, I never turned to you. I never asked your advice or anything. Chances are you won't even listen to me anymore. In fact, I don't even know if I'm saying anything. All I can feel are the vibrations. I'll do my best.

"I know this is straightforward, especially coming from me. But could you ... erm ... could you give me back my hearing? I know it's a huge favour to ask but it's for my mum. She's been so strong and caring. It doesn't seem fair she has to suffer so much for something that wasn't even her fault, you know?

"Are you really going to put her through more than she's had to deal with already?" I finally implored.

A beam of moonlight shone through my windows. My knees were burning against the carpet and my eyes were drooping. As I struggled to smother a yawn, I tried to think of Bible verses - anything to jazz up my pitiful excuse of a prayer.

My bed beckoned, its warm sheets almost leaping out to wrap themselves around me.

I was so tired. And nothing had happened. No sudden flash of lightning, no booming voice proclaiming that my hearing was back. Nothing ...

God remained silent up there. Pretty soon, I gave up and crawled into bed, drained of energy.


I woke with the sun in my face. Even with my eyes closed, I could feel its palpable presence. Its warmth and light filled my room, hugging every crevice, pushing out every shadow. A shaft of sunlight flooded my arms, its heat radiating my torso. My fist clenched as I lay in silence. Hesitantly, I coughed.

Nothing.

I always knew there wasn't a God. It was stupid to have hoped for one. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

With a slightly heavy heart, I dragged myself out of bed and went through the usual monotonous routine of my mornings.

With a last shake of my head, I headed downstairs for breakfast. My feet sunk into the carpeted hallway, hands gripping the cold, wooden banister. My steps were heavy as I began my journey down.

Halfway down I stopped to pull my hair into a ponytail.

Then I heard it.

The slightest of flutters, the sound of droplets. I squeezed my eyes shut and my knuckles turned white as I gripped the banister. Everything seemed to slow down; time had stopped. The shadows crept along the walls, chasing after sunlight. Specks of dust floated around, drifting in the lazy summer air.

And I stood there, eyes shut, knuckles white.

I could hear it - the fall of the rain splattering on the steaming pavement. The flutter of wings as birds pushed off to find their nests. I heard the sizzling of bacon and my nose followed the pungent scent of coffee as my ears danced to the bubbling liquid. My heart jumped and I gasped at hearing the wind whistle through my nostrils.

It had been so long. My ears picked up every new sound as I padded into the kitchen: every brush against the wooden floor, every creak of the stairs, every flutter of curtains in the wind. I ate up the sounds, relishing the orchestra my house had created.

Mum was in the kitchen, throwing some breakfast together. The coffee bubbled, the bacon popped. The oven timer ticked and the radio hummed a soft tune.

Without looking up, mum spoke and sighed at the same time.

"Jordyn, honey, you'd better hurry. We have an appointment at the hairdresser before we meet dad for his business luncheon," she said.

Her fingers flew as she jumped between whisking eggs and buttering slices of bread. There were dark circles under her eyes. How had I not noticed them before?

I stayed at the door frame, tears streaming down my face. Never had my mother's voice sounded so beautiful. It felt like an autumn breeze gliding through the muggy July haze, or the vibrations of a summer storm when lightning and thunder rocked the dry air. It was how I felt in the first few moments of waking up: calm, contented, collected - like everything was going to be okay.

Looking up, she dropped the whisking fork.

"Jordyn, sweetie, what's wrong?"

She spoke clearly, hurrying over and wiping a tear away with her thumb. Her arms enveloped me in a hug, her warmth surrounded me. I cried harder. Taking a deep breath, I said the words I never imagined I would ever say again: "Mum, you'll never guess what I just heard."

 

Stories from the other finalists

- First runner-up: The Cursed Lives

- Second runner-up: The Voice Within

- The Master

- The Unicorn

- You won't believe what I just heard

- Imagining the peaceful forest

- Beauty isn't skin deep

- Living the life of James Bond

 

... and also take a look at the finalists' stories from last year's competition

- WINNING STORY: Eyes of the departed

- It will be spring by the time you awake

- A prank goes out of control

- The sad tale of a drowned ghost

- A love to remain forever unspoken

- Dreams of fame turn to tragedy

- All's Fair in Life and War

- I Should Have Listened to My Friends

- Don't Mess with the Old

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