Day 2: Pretending you can hear when you can’t.

It’s early on Day 2 but I can’t sleep anymore and ideas were buzzing in my head during moments when I was starting to wake up. If you’ve read much of my work you’ll know that I have a strange imagination. Or, am I just imaging that I do? This morning in those moments when I was half dreaming and half trying to compose my writing in my head, I started thinking about bikers and their hearing problems. If you don’t have the problems before you become a serious rider, then you will eventually. If you already have hearing problems then they’ll get worse. It’s due to the roar of the engine that we love listening to. My buddy El Jefe uses ear plugs but I don’t think they work too well. I remember one time after a ride when we’d stopped and taken our helmets off, I’d been talking with him about how beautiful the view was on the ride and he was nodding along. Then he stuck up his hand and told me to hold on a second and I watched him take these wax ear plugs out of his ears. “There,” he said when he had them out. I asked: “Better now?” and he stared at me with a dead pan look and said: “what?”

At least he admits he can’t hear that well. I’m still with the group of aging bikers in denial. I sometimes pretend I can hear stuff when people around me know that I can’t. I noticed it years ago, even before I got back into my riding. My son Rory (it sounds just like what he’d do!) was introducing me to some friends at the Anchor Bar in Portstewart in Northern Ireland where we used to live. It was at a long table and I was at the end and I heard him mumble (those youngsters need to learn to speak up!) my name, that I was his dad and something else I couldn’t make out. I pretended to hear, just smiled my goofy smile and waived. The girl he had introduced me to gave me this kind of tragic, pitiful, pensive, sideways smile where I could almost feel her eyes retreating into her head. And here I am continuing with my goofy smile and waving. Later, I tried to squeeze my memory and put together the bits and pieces I thought I’d heard, using a sort of Rosetta stone, reconstructing the scene from the few words I had heard – Dad, Gene, prism, freedom (innocent enough), along with Rory’s body language, the girl’s initial reaction, and the laughter in the group that followed.

It took me awhile to figure out that Rory knew perfectly well, despite my pretending, that I couldn’t hear that well. And it took me awhile to guess that what he had said that day was: “That’s my dad, Gene. He’s just out of prison. He’s not used to all the freedom yet.”

I must ask him about that. It is my son Rory after all, so I wouldn’t put it past him.

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