Colors of Adolescence Edition 4

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“Does not everything depend on the interpretation of silence around us?”

– Lawrence Durrell –

 It is only recently that I have begun to understand what silence could entail:

It could be the awkward jumble of two strangers,

Or the fragment of peace at 4 a.m. for a mother of triplets.

Perhaps the solemnity of a worker grueling his way into early dawn;

Maybe even a well of emotions, where words unspoken and feelings unseen boil in miscommunication.

Sometimes all, but sometimes none.

When I first stepped into Katika Mix, a dance group for deaf Kenyans, it was as if I were frozen in a fragmented timeframe. Footsteps dangled tentatively in the air, and echoes circled incessantly, suspended in the atmosphere as they failed to reach the ears of any. My silence was forced, and amidst the Kenyans amicably brandishing their fingers at each other, I was the outsider looking into what seemed like an uncomfortable, meaningless lack of sound.

I started to grasp an idea of what their silence meant when the stereo blast to life, letting out an ear-piercing musical screech that caused everyone to plunge to the ground. Curiously, they uniformly pressed their cheeks against the hardwood floor, and let their eyelids slide down to curtain their scintillating eyes. Wondering if that meant something in the deaf community, I followed suit.

With my eyes closed, I now felt the ground vibrating on my fingertips. The sounds of the violin formerly buried underneath the auto-tuned lyrics entwined my fingers, the ominous bass that rumbled from the many layers of instruments rolled over my palm, and I gripped the floorboards to pick up the fainter beats. More experienced in identifying tunes through vibrations than I was, the deaf dancers around me had already begun slipping through mixes of dance genres, each telling their own story of joy, suffering or regret with their unrestrained arm flings and elaborate turns of the sole.

My world was booming more than ever – a flamboyant carnival of blaring music, swelling waves of skin tones, and colorful successions of story after story.

Their world still remained dead silent.

But I have begun to understand what theirs entailed:

It could be the awkward jumble of two strangers,

Or the fragment of peace at 4 a.m. for a mother of triplets.

Perhaps the solemnity of a worker grueling his way into early dawn;

Maybe even a well of emotions, where words unspoken and feelings unseen boil in miscommunication.

Sometimes all, sometimes none.

This one contained all- and even more silence that I have yet to hear.

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