The class is a lot bigger than I thought it would be and everyone looks really cool and seems to know everyone else. We go around the circle and say our name, what we do and why we want to learn sign language. Some people work in education, but most are artists. I’m the only person who admits to not working on my art full-time.
First we learn the alphabet. Then some key words. Then some key phrases. Then we learn a short conversation. We turn to the person next to us to practice the conversation, then the next person, then the next. The teachers want us to meet every person in the room. We move silently from person to person for twenty minutes. The teachers tell us that in sign, it’s not rude to point at people.
We sign hello. We sign how are you? and they sign I’m good. We sign can you sign? and they sign yes, but slowly. We sign same. We sign what’s your name? and they spell it. Then we spell our own. We sign it’s nice to meet you. Then we move on. And on. Only an occasional giggle interrupts the silence.
Someone asks if there’s any practice we should do for the next class and the teachers say the best thing we could do is make friends, and practice together. But I don’t remember what anyone told me their name was. One girl got annoyed when I couldn’t keep up with how quickly she was spelling and after that I lost my thread.
But I practice the alphabet the next morning in the shower. “H” is the most satisfying letter, sliding one hand along the other. I always get stuck on “T”, but the tiled wall won’t judge me. I tell the wall I can sign, but slowly. I spell my name for it. I sign, it’s nice to meet you. The wall looks at me blankly. I sign, same.
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