a picture’s worth


Erin perched on the edge of my ink-stained desk, and haloing wispy platinum hair, the Thai sun crept in through gold curtains behind her. I had not gotten used to this yet, the relentlessness of the light. Leaning in to smell the spiced pear candle–my one vestige of North American Christmas–she got that thoughtful crease in her forehead.

“It’s not the photography that makes me insecure anymore.” She shook her head, dipping an absent finger in the wax and jerking it back when it was hot. “I see something, I can envision it, and I know what I have to do to get it. But even the things I see. It’s just fashion. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s weird and artsy. But what does it mean?”

“Show me.”

“Scoot over a bit.”

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Her sign name looks like “Dimple,” and she is better at eating than any Thai person I know. The first night we met, she picked a seat near me on the ground and exuded a faint scent of flowers. It made me self-conscious. I myself smelled of chlorine: my clothes would not dry in the fan-stirred humidity of the house, and the warm, tropical air blew over me, lulling me into sleepy stillness after swimming. But they–all the Deaf I had just met–gathered around. They sat on the floor, signing with Berry. She was popular. Why would she sit by me? Continue reading