by Anthony Rodriguez

Anxiety was never a game I truly liked. Even now trying to coax myself into normalcy was having the opposite effect. My legs grew restless and my heart couldn't even begin to calm itself down. Although this wouldn't be the first date I've been on, with her no less, somehow the atmosphere was different. It was as if we both knew the significance and yet it was unspoken like a secret. I wanted to break the silence but it was painfully obvious that such a thing would be futile. I was here and so was she. --

I lost myself in thought for I didn't even realize the damning stare she gave me. I tried to smile but I could feel my face twisting itself awkwardly. Silence was something we grew accustomed to. If she or I were a normal couple this would probably be the breaking point but our relationship took it in spades. This was normal and yet something in my mind could never get over how easily she could read my face. I was no better than a book opened to its vital chapter and she was there to analyze the words, with surgical precision I might add. --

As I sat there picking at my mind I began to grow aware of the scenery. The night sky embedded with tiny specks of light somehow seemed humble compared to the skyline of the city. Cars roamed in the distance, billboards illuminated with excited fervor and the river that separated us from it calmly waved its watery hands. It was serene and the calm spring breeze only empathized it with a subtle but evident exclamation point. It was truly dazzling and it only made her silhouette glow. It was quite surprising how none of this was planned. We had been walking the city, taking in the sights and the frantic aura of bustling people. School had just finished leaving its students in a state of summer stupor. To say I wasn't feeling a sense of surrealism would be an understatement but I've learned from my time there to take new experiences in stride. Even now I was mimicking the actions of the river, free flowing, uncaring of what direction I happened to take. Before everything happened in the past year I would have dreaded change and would have fought to keep myself from falling into unexpected circumstances, however, my mind could no longer listen to my old self. I was here, with her and there was nothing I would rather be doing.--

A young waitress appeared beside us wearing a smile that seemed to reflect the glow of the city. She lifted her small notepad prepared to take our orders.

I gave her my request and she then turned to my partner who only stared at me with those deep but expecting eyes. If there was anything that made me uncomfortable was the fact I had to keep in mind of the extra procedures that coexisted in our relationship. I beckoned the waitress over who seemed somewhat unsure of what to make of the situation. I then proceeded to explain. The waitress apologized profusely but I could not bring myself to be upset. She wasn't aware and I couldn't possibly blame her for it. Not many would assume that the person I brought along had a disability.

Using what I learned in the previous year I began to skillfully manipulate my arms and hands into gestures. The waitress watched with peaked interest as my partner and I both exchanged similar patterns. Watching a complete conversation using only the hands seemed foreign to many but to us it was a simple matter of communication and one that we didn't mind in the least.

I then gave the waitress her order and she left promptly. Whether or not she was uncomfortable or simply wanted to make the service as swift as possible was unknown to me but I shrugged it off. This was our first date since graduating and I wasn't about to ruin it with hindsight. As my eyes locked onto hers I felt a flutter come to life in my stomach. I could never get used to her piercing stare. It was as that her entire life spent in silence allowed her to see things normal people couldn't. When we first met I had mistaken her expression for disdain or at least contempt, however, after spending time with her I began to realize it was another way for her to communicate. That's when I began to learn that she could not only communicate with her hands but also with her eyes. So much so I truly believed there were things that she could express without the use of sign language. Although daunting at times it allowed me to see what how truly felt. For better or for worse.

Finally she smiled. It was something I could not help but fall for. Her smiles couldn't be compared to anything. Just seeing her lips tug at the corners was something that infected me every time. I too smiled feeling her happiness invade me. She was having a good time and in the end that's what I strove for. It made everything I had gone through in the past year seem like a long distant memory, something I was grateful for.

She gestured to me, her hands moving with such deft that for a moment I couldn't follow. Regaining a sense of understanding I couldn't help but laugh at her soundless question. Seeing my sudden response she too began to laugh albeit without sound. To this day I never understood how she could do such a thing. I noticed it long ago, using her hand to shield her mouth from any sound that was to manifest. However, the concept of humor never was truly lost and it only made me fall even further for her. I couldn't tell whether she was chuckling to my own laughter or it was simply the gesture she tried to convey to me.

I gestured back, a response to the question she posed to me and it seemed to snap her into an understanding smile. It was rare when we found ourselves alone. A mixture of family and friends always seemed to find its way to us but we took it in stride. I could tell by her looks of longing from the other side of the room that she too desired to be alone. Making time was difficult but when the moment decided to reveal itself we always escaped into its welcoming embrace. Sometimes it would dawn on me that despite having wordless conversations they always seemed more intimate. It was as if we had a special means of communication and we could delve into serious and sensual topics despite the people that lingered around us. They couldn't understand us but that made it all more enjoyable. The memory of our conversation at her family's dinner table was one I could never forget.

I felt her leg brush up against mine bringing me back from my mental reverie. Her eyes scolded me for not being more attentive but I couldn't help but return the favor. Even in this dimmed light I could make out a sudden flare of red rush to her cheeks as though she wasn't expecting such a response. I laugh. Normally she would be the one to initiate a blush inducing act but it was finally my turn to give her a dose. It was both alluring and satisfying.

The wind blew pushing her short black bangs away from her eyes. I couldn't tell when exactly I fell for such a woman. Our first meeting? Our constant battles of intelligence? Somewhere, deep between the lines I felt my heart beginning to take heed of her calls. It was like nothing I ever felt before and yet it was just as familiar. Conflicting yes but otherwise appreciated.

In the blink of an eye our dinner along the pier ended and we continued our trip through the marina ultimately bringing us back into the city's heart. I knew she wasn't a person to show affection but feeling the warmth of her hand against mine brought clarity to my otherwise doubtful mind. I was the only one to see her true emotions behind her wall of defenses and it only made my love for her grow. We continued on, taking on corners and leading ourselves without recourse. We took in the nightlife as if the city was ours. I pointed to numerous lights and signs and her dark but unrelenting eyes seemed to glow with passion. We walked past countless stores, the insides gleaming with amber lights that illuminated the streets behind us. I could see her eyes scanning the contents and with a subtlety only I could detect I could judge whether or not she approved of what she saw. We then came across an old fashioned candy shop, the smell of freshly made chocolate was so palpable it made my stomach knock against my abdomen despite my just recent venture to dinner. Before I knew it I found her standing before the window, her hands outstretched over the glass like a child amongst a plethora of toys. I could see her eyes darting from one confection to another as though she couldn't possibly pick one or the other. I smiled. The sight warmed my heart.

I gestured to her asking if she wanted to take a step inside and without hesitation she replied with a curt nod. We walked in gesturing to each other about the scents we smelled. So much so I noticed the man behind the counter watching us seemingly understanding our situation. It was remarkable that even a person without the knowledge of sign language already understood. Well, most of the time. Like a father to a child I stood back watching her seemingly teleport from one stand to another carefully examining its wealth of indulgences. Taking my eyes off her for a moment I began to pick at a few sweets that interested me, however, I joking began to regret my action for she appeared before me holding a rather large bag stuffed with candies.

I gave her a humorous stare as to say I expected more but she seemed content with her findings. Her bag completely overshadowed mine but it only proved to me that she was a connoisseur of anything sweet despite her usual cold but harmless demeanor. I placed both bags on the counter and the jolly looking man weighed them. Watching the digital scale work itself I felt a pang of pain hit me. Quite expensive. Whether or not it was because the prices were high or that she somehow managed to fit the entire store into her little bag was beyond me. From the corner of my eye I spotted her reaching into her purse for her wallet but I quickly place my hand on hers stopping her from completing the action.

A wag of my finger. Not today, sweetheart.

Withdrawing my own wallet I feel my inner self sighing. I never thought parting with a twenty dollar bill would feel so heartbreaking. The man smiles warmly at me as he completes the transaction but instead of thanking us he looks over to my girlfriend and lifts a finger to her as though to give him pause. He reaches behind the counter and withdraws a small decorated box. I could feel her eyes gazing quizzically at the man and then at the box, my own eyes trying to decipher what could possibly lie in wait. The man placed his hands dramatically at the sides of the small parcel and opens it revealing a tiny mountain of caramel sweets. It takes me a moment to realize the significance, that is until I read the small print on the boxes upper lid.

100% pure chocolate covered caramels.

If the price I had to pay for our treats were any indicator it would prove that this tiny box alone probably outweighed that and then some. Looking over to the girl that stood before me I could see her eyes light up as if a switch had been suddenly been lifted. Her smile only assisted her obvious expression and she quickly looked to me for an answer. I turned to the man to ask for a price but he simply knocks the cover closed and pushes the box towards me.

I blink unable to understand.

"For you,"

I peer down at the box and then back at him. An even more welcoming smile spreading across his white bearded lips. The girl beside me pulled at my shirt reminding me that she couldn't understand what was happening. I gesture to her the man's generosity and without warning she jumps in excitement clapping her hands merrily. What's more she made her way past the service counter stretching her long arms and pulling the rather large man into a hug. His boisterous laugh fills the quiet store and I too felt myself melt from the sight of her face. It was one of pure bliss.

I thank the man and gather our treasures. As we leave she immediately takes the small box into her slender fingers not wasting time with her score. I watch her indulge as we walk together in silence. The silence that we grew accustomed to. The silence that brought us together.

The silence where we found our love.

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