When we Pretend that we’re Deaf
After a very messy break-up, Fiona found herself jobless, penniless and, worst-of-all friendless, in a big uncaring city. Her résumé was patchy, as she’d relied on her ex-partner to provide, and her fancy education clearly didn’t count for much: a thousand job-applications, zero interviews.
So Fiona hatched a zany scheme. She’d heard on the news that employers were specifically hiring people with disabilities; doubtless a cynical box-ticking exercise, to incubate an “inclusive” corporate image. So Fiona boldy decided to pretend to be profoundly deaf. What did she have to lose? Luckily, she’d spent a semester studying sign-language, and also, her good, old-fashioned upper-class arrogance usually carried her through.
She considered practicing speaking in a “deaf-voice”, but decided that would be crass, or even offensive.
Fiona mentioned her new disability on job applications, and, lo-and-behold, landed a job at a prestigious financial-services firm.
Fiona stayed focused on her role, soon getting used to ignoring every sound around her. The work was easy, and her boss, Doug, was very accommodating and sweet. Her colleagues, less so.
Fiona found that whenever her back was turned, cruel words were hurled. “Stuck-up bitch”, and “Doug’s new slutty deaf pet” were the kinder ones. “That son-of-a-bitch Doug’s got a fetish for the deaf”, spat secretary Sandy, jealously, when Fiona got promoted to Doug’s P.A.
The men were worse, smiling meekly to her face, but after she passed them they’d begin hissing perverted propositions and misogynistic insults that would make Patrick Bateman blush. “What a cruel world”, thought Fiona sadly, glad when Doug moved her workspace into his plush, luxurious office.
But Doug was secretly worse than everyone else combined. As Fiona sat tapping away at her keyboard, Doug stalked the floor, whispering all the things he’d like to do to her. I’ll spare you the details; let’s just say that Doug had a very unhealthy attitude towards the fairer sex.
The money was great, and as Fiona began working later-and-later, she comforted herself by harboring fantasies of quitting to write a tell-all article about the company’s despicable exploitation of the disabled. Doug grew bolder, spitting venomous threats and confessions to the back of her head:
“Women like you deserve everything you get.”
“My mother was deaf, just like you, got what was coming to her.”
And those are the printable ones. Long after even the office-cleaners had left for the night, Fiona nervously stabbed at her keyboard in the corner of Doug’s office, facing torrential rain splatting against his huge window overlooking the city. She heard bourbon being poured, and floorboards creak, and murderous mutterings.
Then three things happened, so fast that Fiona couldn’t process which of them happened first, or maybe they happened all-at-once.
Fiona suddenly wondered exactly what had happened to Doug’s previous P.A., who was apparently also deaf.
And she glimpsed, in the window’s reflection, something sharp, and silver, hovering behind her neck.
And she heard Doug whisper right behind her ear: “I know you can hear me.”