Bicycle Japes

My niece came to call. She is so scatty that we struggle to stay on the same page. She arrived at 9.00. I gave her a hug – an act of which we both disapprove. She ignored it and countered with, ‘do you have an allen key set?’

I’m mystified.

‘Er…. yes.’

‘Good! There some people out the front who asked me if I had an allen key for their bike. I said I hadn’t, but I’d ask my uncle if he had.’

‘I should take them out some tools to fix their bike?’

‘That’s right. I promised.’

I go to my man-drawer and amazingly put my hand on my allen key set and stroll off for the front of the house, leaving my niece talking on the phone to her bloke. I grab a tin of WD 40 as I leave the flat.

There are three young people at the front of the house. One of them is a neighbour and greets me like a long lost pal. I ignore her as I have eyes only for the other woman, who has a far eastern face. She is wearing the cheekiest bright red lipstick, and spectacles that look perfectly formed in her face. Maybe evolution put them there. Furthermore – the face! To die for! I gasp! In one way her expression is a too severe for one so young, but it is also kind and full of determination.

I’m holding the allen keys and can of oil, so speak to the young man, which says something about me.

‘I hope the right size is among them,’ I say as I hand the keys over. He is the lad every mother wants her daughter to bring home. He has ‘it’, a great smile and impeccable manners.

‘The seat is too high for my girlfriend,’ he explains and looks at an ancient rusty woman’s bike, leaning against Eastern Beauty. How did she ride the bike here, if the saddle is so much too high? Who cares? I’m glad she managed. I want to put some penetrating oil on the clamp thread. I can’t because she is standing in the way. I think she will move. She doesn’t. I ask her to move. She doesn’t. I manage to circumnavigate her cute backside and get some oil on the thread. Someone tell me what is going on!

The young man releases the clamp and she energetically adjusts the saddle to her preferred height. He begins to retighten the clamp. I feel a force dig at my shoulder, powerful enough to leave a bruise. I look round and see Eastern Beauty pointing at my oilcan and then at a dry gear sprocket set. She says nothing, but points from one to the other. I get the message and oil the sprockets. I know that many Asians speak remarkable English so I change into English.

‘Would you prefer to speak English?’

She isn’t looking at me as I say it and she ignores me. It’s as if I haven’t spoken. She turns her back and gives the bike an analytical once over. She is so independent and decisive in her actions. Her back remains my only view of her.

The young man intervenes to help with my bewilderment.

‘She is profoundly deaf and can’t speak,’ he explains.

I try to make consoling noises, but she doesn’t want my sympathy. I know that if she is looking at me she may be able to lip-read and I don’t want to patronise, so I grunt something indistinct. Why didn’t I speak directly at her face? Did she think me rude? I know that lip-reading doesn’t always cross language barriers, but one never knows with remarkable people. Maybe she can lip-read in Chinese and half a dozen European languages. Maybe she is German and I the foreigner.

He gives me the tools and thanks me.

The young man and Eastern Beauty ride off together. The way they cycle indicates a couple besotted. How does a profoundly deaf woman cycle in city traffic and have only eyes for her feller?

Meeting Eastern Beauty has left my imagination in overdrive. I could be using, ‘imagination’, to avoid saying ‘clandestine voyeurism’. Who cares? We all do it.

Here are a few.

I discovered that her friends are learning to sign. This means Eastern Beauty can sign, so I’ll ask the inevitable question – do deaf people sign their passion during love-making? I reckon the answer is ‘yes’. Deaf people and their signers have no audio to their speech. That needs saying, because we forget how much audio feedback our subconscious processes – e.g. on a bike in traffic. Deaf people lose that input, which means, language subtleties are lost to them when signing. The switch is either on or off. It’s either a one or a nought. There are no shades any more. Without nuances, the world is a minefield of misunderstandings. If he says ‘how was that for you?’ the answer may be ‘great’. Does that mean ‘amazing,’ or was it a cool ‘OK’. We can tell from the other person’s body language or voice inflection.

Deaf people could provide clarity through facial expression, but they don’t. They use the one/nought method. If they say it was great, then it was! If it wasn’t great they say it was rubbish, even if they haven’t been asked for an opinion. They are famous for their lack of subtlety. Let’s hope the young man fixing Eastern Beauty’s bike, gets a few hints, even if they are not words.

Does this also mean that the missionary position is a bit of a dead loss for deaf people? I speculate that woman on top is the most efficacious. Both can have their hands free to give hints. But if the hint coming from the deaf person is always the truth, Eastern Beauty’s boyfriend is in for a bumpy ride.

We all need a special someone in our life. We always concentrate on the physical needs of disabled people. We need to go the extra ten miles for their emotional needs – and those of their partners. These are much harder to access, talk about and resolve. In the meantime, we must cut them more slack, until they find a way of telling us what to do. What do a few bruises matter? Just get the sprockets oiled!

I’ve since discovered that Eastern Beauty is a successful New York artist, in Berlin to promote her work. I must find out if she has a fan page!


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