Precipice

June 22, 2021


She sees me from down the hall, her fingers already flying, and I am stuck silent with books in my hands. There are no nearby shelves, no friends beside me to hoist them on. I’m not even wearing a backpack, because every time I see her I think I should buy one, and every time she is out of my sight I forget.

I put the books between my legs. I hold them there with my knees as she meets me and I greet her with a smile.

How are you? she asks.

Wonderful, I answer, not because it’s true, but because I find the movement far more satisfying than the sign for “fine”.

She eyes the books that hang on for dear life between my knees. Headed to class?

Unfortunately.

Where?

I bring a map up in my mind and draw it with my hands. I trace the turns and long walks with my pointer finger, lips pressed close to my teeth for “near” and open in an O for “far”. Watching signers give directions is like looking in a mirror. She nods along, following my awkward explanation even though, to her, all the directions are flipped.

When I finish with my directions she nods, and I ask, You?

What follows is a hurricane of motion too fast for me to follow. I feel like a weatherman sent to stand in a gale just to prove to the viewers at home that the storm is indeed here and the winds are indeed fast. Her hands are at her chin for “girl”, then down at her hips for “Russia” (or is she saying “broke”?) and by the time I decide that “broke” makes a lot more sense than “Russia”, I catch the sign for Easter and lose my way entirely.

The books slide from my control by degrees. I reach down awkwardly to readjust them, feeling like a teenage boy who hasn’t yet figured out the sign for “subtlety”. If she notices, she doesn’t care. Her eyes are fixed on mine out of politeness. Mine are fixed on hers for fear that I’ll look down and miss even more of the story than has already blown by.

Her hands slow. I don’t want to deal with it all anymore, she says. You know?

I tap a liar’s fingers to a liar’s forehead, point at my lying chest and say, I know.

You’re always such a good listener. She signs “listener” by her eyes instead of her ears. I like that one almost as much as I like the sign for “Canada”. It’s like a little hug, one fist tucked against the chest. Funny that it’s a hand apart from “army”.

Anytime. I tap my wrist for “time” and the movement forces me to confront the fact that I am irreparably late to lecture. Sorry, I say, but I have to go.

Alright. Will I see you at the coffee chat on Saturday? I hear all you miserable seniors get to eat free this time.

I thank the heavens that she can’t hear my stomach growl.

I’ll be there. And I’ll eat them out of house and home.

Great. I look forward to seeing you, she says, and I think I can come away unscathed. But she walks past me and a moment later stomps on the floor to make me turn around. I shuffle in a circle t meet her laughing eyes. She flicks them down to the stack of slowly sliding books and returns them to my stricken face. By the way, she signs without a hint of teasing, I think you should get a backpack.

She turns to leave and does not hear the books fall, tumbling from between my legs with what little was left of my pride.


Saige Severin’s name alliterates like any good supervillain, but her only crime is liking pineapple on pizza.

Instructions

June 30, 2021

Wake up!

You are literally the baby sun from Teletubbies.


Andy Myles is a retired bodybuilder from Kitchener.