Pete’s Day

Picture is of the lower half of a mans head and upper part of his body. He is wearing a dark jacket and striped shirt. His hands are upright on his chin, tips of his fingers touching. His mouth suggests that he is anxious.

Pete woke up. He stared at the ceiling as he thought about what he had to do today. It was Saturday and being Melbourne, it was raining. Pete is deaf and 48 years old. His day seemed pretty standard. Post office visit, shopping at the supermarket, followed by a snooze at home and then his nephews 18th birthday. His heart began to race!! He pulled the covers over his head, wishing he could stay in bed all day.

At 9.30am he reluctantly dragged himself out of bed. He showered and got dressed. For breakfast he made himself some crumpets with melted cheese. He sat down to watch the news and played with Muppet, his dog. He was really just delaying the moment that he had to head out the door. With luck, the post office would be closed before he got there.

He let out a big sigh and headed out the door. He had to get to the post office. The present he had ordered his nephew was ready to be picked up. It had been waiting at the post office for over a week. Pete had been procrastinating, avoiding the post office for as long as he possibly could. His nephews birthday was today, he couldn’t wait any longer.

Pete arrived at the post office with 15 minutes to spare. He sat in the car for a few minutes gathering the courage to go in. The post office was owned by a lovely couple who were obsessive in their wearing of masks in these Covid times. As Pete walked to the door of the post office he stopped, he took some deep breaths and he entered.

There was a line, thank god. It delayed a little bit more the moment he was dreading. Eventually, he found himself at the head of the line confronting the nice owner. He handed over the delivery notice and the owner said something through his mask. Pete closed his eyes momentarily, this happened every time. Pete tapped both his ears with his forefingers to indicate that he was deaf. Still the owner spoke through his mask.

Pete looked behind himself, there were five people waiting. The people in the line stared at him with what seemed to be a mixture of fascination and pity. He turned bright red, he knew he was holding them up. Suddenly the owner began to mime driving a car. Pete understood that he wanted his drivers license for ID. He hurriedly got his driver license out and offered it to the owner. The owner nodded and went off to get Pete’s item. Item received, Pete moved hastily for the exit, acutely conscious that the eyes of all the customers were upon him.

He got back in the car and rested his head on the steering wheel while gripping the sides with both hands. For some strange reason his heart rate was a bit elevated. This happened every time he went to the post office. He could not understand why the post office owner couldn’t remember that he was deaf. Why did it have to be so hard? He took a moment to gather his wits and headed for Woolworths.

Woolworths was relatively uneventful except at the checkout. The young checkout woman didn’t make any eye contact and looked down as she muttered questions to Pete. He could not understand a word she was saying. He just nodded, hoping that this was the right response. The checkout woman asked him if he had Fly Buys. When he nodded she waited for him to offer the card. After a moment or two it was clear that Pete didn’t have Fly Buys, she moved on to the next question.

She asked if he wanted a sticker for the crockery special. The nod saw Pete get offered a sticker he really did not want. She asked if he wanted to make a donation to the local firies. His nodding came apart at the last request because she also asked him how much he wanted to donate and he nodded again.

For the first time the checkout woman made eye contact with him. She just stared at him like he was the strangest man that she had ever met. She asked him again if he wanted to donate. This time he shrugged his shoulders. Her mouth opened a little bit as if to ask “What’s wrong with you?” The checkout woman gave up trying to solicit a donation and asked Pete if he wanted a receipt for his purchases instead.

He did, but he didn’t hear the question. For reasons known only to Pete, rather than nod he shook his head. As he stood there waiting for his receipt, she looked at him as if he was a complete nutter. She actually physically recoiled from him. He turned beetroot red and gathered his shopping. He left as fast as he could without, he hoped, looking like a maniac.

Pete drove home and went straight to bed. A simple trip to the post office and supermarket had left him spent. He needed a rest before his nephews 18th. Pete slept for three hours!

Pete awoke at 4pm. The party started at 6.30pm. It was a party where he would be the only person who was deaf. He really didn’t want to go. The thought of endless lipreading and communicating with a large number of hearing people made him feel a little sick. As the time for the party got closer his anxiety increased. Pete hated these gatherings but he was close to his nephew. He had to be there.

Although the Party started at 6.30pm Pete didn’t arrive until 8.00pm. He sat at home delaying leaving for as long as possible. He felt very ashamed about this because his nephew deserved better. He looked down at Muppet the dog and wished that everyone was as easy to communicate with as him.

Arriving at the party he was greeted by his sister. His sister knew a little Auslan and spent a bit of time chatting to him. After a while she left Pete to his own devices. Random people that Pete knew came to say hello. With exaggerated lip movements they asked him how he was. His little niece came over to say hello and slowly finger spelt her name … B E T T Y … He gave her the thumbs up and his niece squealed with delight and ran off to tell her mother how clever she was. A couple of people actually ruffled Pete’s hair. After all, he is only 48 years old.

Largely, Pete just sat alone. He really did not have the energy to lipread all night long. It was far safer just to sit alone with his beer and party pie. Then there were the speeches. His nephew mentioned Pete. Saying how wonderful Pete was and how lucky he was to have Pete as his uncle. Everyone turned to clap Pete and slap him on the back. He gave everyone the thumbs up. He had an inkling it must have been because his nephew had said something, he knew not what.

At 10.15pm Pete left. He was the last to arrive and the first to leave. He gave his nephew and sister a hug. They implored him to stay. He made some excuse that it had been a long day and that he had a splitting headache. It was true that he had a headache, but the truth was he just wanted to get out of there. Being there was just awkward and exhausting.

He headed home and poured himself a whisky. A bit of Netflix with captions and a cuddle with Muppet the dog. Within 10 minutes he had fallen into an exhausted slumber in his chair. This was a day in the life of Pete. As he drifted off to sleep he told himself that tomorrow would be a better day. He hoped!

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