I’ve written about Chester before, although at the time, I called him Larry…because I didn’t know his name yet.
Chester is a deaf man who comes into Tupelo all of the time. When he sees me, his eyes become the size of saucers. He then begins to clap his hands and audibly moan (in a good way.) He then stretches out his arms, full length, towards me. Even though he’s obviously asking for a hug, his arms don’t spread wide, they spread out…like he’s saying: “come ere’ girl, give me a hug.” After we hug, he signals to me how many people are in his party: three fingers, three people..gotcha. I put his name down on the list and hand him a buzzer, to which he puts to his ear and pretends its a cell phone and then rolls his eyes…because he’s deaf, and this is fucking hilarious. I love people who can laugh at themselves. It’s a truly genuine quality. It says: “HEY, this is me. I’m a freak and I know it.”
Chester takes a seat on the bench and through-out his wait, he steals glances at me. His signature move is: “raise da roof”…you know, where you put your hands, palms up in the air..and raise the roof. Anyway, we do this, and laugh. And then he continues to dance, and we have a dance-off right there in the lobby. He gets up and comes over to me and we booty-bump…(side-note, the phrase booty-bump makes me want to vomit a little.)
I wish I had counted how many times he hugged me tonight. It was a lot.
You don’t run into Chester’s every day. When I was 18, I went to Cozumel for a mission trip and met a little girl named Maria. She was deaf too, and came from a pretty rough home to wind up at the orphanage. There was one night I have stuck into my brain forever. It was the last night of the trip…we had sat around at the families’ homes with the kids, eating and reading scripture. Maria lead me out of the house by the hand onto the basketball court after dinner. The kids were playing soccer (lolz, cause’ in Mexico you play soccer even if you’re on a basketball court…) She reached up for me to hold her, and so I picked her up and walked around the court. It got quiet. The orphanage was built inside a wooded area on the outskirts of the city, so you could hear the crickets chirping and everything just seemed…warm. Although communicating with Maria wasn’t necessarily easy, she was starting to fall asleep on my shoulder and I kind of felt this mom instinct kick in. One of my favorite memories as a child is when my mom would stop vacuuming or cleaning or whatever she was doing and she would scoop me up and dance me around the living room. So, I did the same thing. I just closed my eyes and swayed in circles. Taking in the soft noise of old Mexican women laughing and the kids’ sneakers softly hitting the pavement. It was one of the best moments of my life. So quiet.
It may be a coincidence that in both of these stories, the people are deaf. But the kind of joy they brought me…it was more felt, than heard, you know? Which means so much to me these days. Because for so long, I just wanted to be seen. Too much. And I’ve realized that the more I care about how I look, or how people see me, the less I’m really feeling. Because I’m thinking too much about it all. Chester and Maria can’t hear. They will probably never really know the way that words cut deep. Instead, they feel. Chester hugs me 12 times during one shift because he knows what a hug really means.
sidenote: I wrote this a week ago but am just now posting it.
the point of it was that feeling is a beautiful thing, and these people, along with some other noteable characters, have taught me how.
thanking them tonight.