by just fine when she kept her hearing aids turned on. She didn't much. The
machines were what City Services could give her, old technology that
jug-handled her ears and rattled her with phone and radio static, a
high-pitched whir. They sharpened and dulled everything at the same time the
way water will just below the surface. But turned off and plugging up her
drums, the aids screened out the world. She lived for this silky silence. (1.6)
Mik's hearing aids don't sound so hot. (See
what we did there?) Even she admits that they are not the best the world
currently has to offer, but it's all she can get. You'd think they'd be her
worst enemy, but she prefers being in control of what and how she hears the
what it was all about—the sadness muted. She could live and die without hearing
another people-made noise. Except that guitar. (3.9)
This wonderfully poetic description of what it's
like to not hear the world seems beautiful on the surface. Except when you
think about the guitar. Mik desperately wants to be able to enjoy the sound of
music just like everyone else, but instead has to suffer without it.
heard him in her ear, a low, distant rumble, soothing but indecipherable. She
clicked on her aids. "Say again," she said. She could talk a little
in front of Jimmi. He never would make fun of anybody. (6.21)
Embarrassed to talk, Mik feels like her voice
sounds strange. It's great that she feels comfortable enough to talk to Jimmi,
but it also reminds us how <em>un</em>comfortable
she feels the rest of the time. She'd rather use sign language and read people's
lips than speak. And while there's nothing wrong with sign language, since
she's surrounded by people who don't know or use it, it's isolating.
with an ear infection. This happened once a month. She was used to the pain.
She went through the drill: scrub the ears and aids with hot soapy water, then
peroxide, then coat them with Neosporin. She popped the first of the ten
generic antibiotic tablets that were always on hand, always liable to upset her
Check out how her ear infection is described:
She's <em>used to </em>the
pain and does a <em>drill
</em>because it happens so frequently. It's easy for us to forget the
way Mik's hearing impairment affects her life when we're reading a book, but
passages like this remind us of the regular suffering she goes through.
are much smaller machines, quite comfortable, and you'll have far fewer ear
infections. The new aids would let you keep your ear canals open and maximize
your natural hearing. You won't have those plugs stopping up your ears."
SO I WON'T BE ABLE TO BLOCK OUT THE SOUND ANYMORE? (16.14)
The doc can't understand why Mik would care if
the new hearing aids could turn on and off at will, like her old ones. To Mik,
this is just about the worst news she could receive, though. Why? She likes to
control the sound instead of having it control her. It allows her to suffer
less in her mind.
be too much, she wanted to say. So many people making noise, so much garbage
getting into my head. Folks like Shanelle, that idiot Jaekwon, dumping their
nastiness on me. And the other folks, the ones crying out with complaints,
trying to hitch up their problems to me, as if sharing their sadness will
lighten their burdens instead of doubling them. As if I can do anything to cure
their ills. Making me realize I'm powerless. I can barely get by with all that
craziness blunted. Reality straight up? No thank you. Connecting to full-blown
reality is tapping into full-blown insanity. (16.22)
When asked why she wouldn't want to hear, this
is Mik's response. Of course it's only in her head, because she's too ashamed
to vocalize any of it, but it's really telling. The word that jumps out at us
the most is <em>powerless</em>—she
feels like she's stripped of her own agency with the new hearing aids.
cradled the old radio. A hip-hop symphony throbbed in her arms, rib cage,
spine, neck, popped and crackled in her old aids. The low frequency notes
soothed her before the song started to fade. Mik cranked up the volume, but the
music slipped further and further away. Her hearing aid batteries were dying.
Mik's dependency on her hearing aids is clear
when she can no longer hear the music playing on the radio. It makes her think
twice about whether she loves her beat-up hearing aids so much.
clicked on the aids. If sound were color, everything was too bright. If it were
a hand, it scratched the backs of Mik's eyes with sharpened nails. The metallic
sizzle in her throat reminded her of the time that girl in second grade tricked
her into licking the top of a nine-volt battery. (24.23)
We love color, but we get how too much of it
can be overpowering at times. For Mik, her new hearing aids are so strong that
it's tricky to get used to. Even with the aids that are supposed to be an
improvement, she still struggles to find the right setting and pitch.
doesn't have to work so hard and nobody's lonely and nobody fears and I can
hear it all pain free." She opened her eyes.
nodded. "What all you hear, angel?"
smiled. "What's real." (37.27)
What do you think Mik means by "what's
real"? It's a poetic way of looking at life, yet we want to dig a little
deeper. Is she talking about the fact that she only hears things that are important,
or said loudly enough? Or is she pointing out that she only turns on her
hearing aids when she <em>wants
</em>to hear something?
purring was nice in her new hearing aids. Across the breezeway some old dude
was playing sax in his kitchen. Folks argued, TVs screamed commercials, police
helicopters chucked. The world was loud, no doubt about that. She thought maybe
she could get used to it. (45.27)
In the end, Mik decides to give the new hearing
aids a fighting chance. She doesn't <em>love
</em>them, but she's open to the possibility of using them—and we can't
help but notice that Fatima gently encourages her to get to this point.
Besides, Mik's seen enough drama and pain that she wants to stop her own