By V.T. Dorchester
At a disco, no one can tell you’re Deaf.
When the dance floor throngs and the music is thumping so your entire body vibrates, no one is speaking. As long as Vin stays on the dance floor, he’s like everyone else. There is no particular awkwardness, and no pity.
Stephano introduced Vin to disco.
Vin and Stephano attended a boarding school for the Deaf together.
Stephano’s family lived way up north and worked in the mines. Vin lived with his grandparents on their farm two hours from the city. Vin went home weekends.
Vin’s grandfather is also Deaf. His grandfather, a master of the meaningful gesture and eyebrow expression, has never learned to sign. Vin learned ASL quickly, and tried to teach his grandfather.
At school, Vin did a lot of Stephano’s school work. He lent Stephano money earned from his farm chores.
Stephano taught Vin how to climb out over the chain link fence at the back of the school. Stephano taught Vin dirty words, how to steal candy bars from the 7-11, and later, how to roll a joint. They discussed girls, traveling, cars, and how all the teachers stunk.
On Friday evenings, car buffs drive a long open stretch of avenue near the school. Lovingly restored vintage cars, beaters dragging mufflers, and jacked up trucks all mingle. Girls cheer the coolest cars, the best drivers.
As the evening turns to night, racers take to the side streets down by the river, daring each other to faster and faster speeds. Sometimes they crash.
The September they were both sixteen, Stephano decided it was time they had a car. They would get a car and race away from the school, and the farm and the mines. They would go to Vancouver, Toronto, and Los Angeles. New York. They would get a car and then be free.
Vin agreed they’d buy a car, because he thought it would take a long time for him to earn enough money. It would take so long it wasn’t worth worrying about.
“I have an idea,” Stephano revealed, “I know how we can get money for a car. We’ll go to the dance clubs downtown, and pickpocket. It’ll be easy. People are always bumping into each other dancing, so, we dance. If someone notices us bump them, we just smile and dance more. Besides, no one is going to throw two poor deaf kids in jail.”
And Stephano smiled. When Stephano smiled, he won arguments with Vincent that hadn’t even started yet.
The first time, Vin felt the bouncer’s skepticism as he waved them in. The crowd was nearly overwhelming. Vin’s insides shook to the constant repetitive beat of the dancefloor. Stephano darted in and out of the crush, ginning. Vin fought to breathe.
He studied the other dancers. He stepped out on to the floor and did his best to imitate the moves. He grabbed a purse a woman was wearing over her shoulder. As she continued to bob, he slipped two twenties from the purse and into his pocket. When he let go of the purse, it swung back against her, and she didn’t even turn around.
Stephano was right, it was easy. And when Vin wasn't pickpocketing, he started to enjoy dancing. He could feel the beat, and dance to it, as well as the next flailing guy. Sometimes, Stephano would dance with him.
They went from club to club, for weeks, until they got caught, thrown out by a giant bouncer wearing neon pants.
Stephano was angry they wouldn’t be able to get to steal there anymore. Vin was angry he couldn’t go dancing there anymore.
In the December Vin was sixteen, Stephano disappeared. So did all the money they had stolen, and Vin’s favourite leather jacket. The teachers, his grandparents, the police, all insisted Vin must know something. He met Stephano’s mother for the first time. She grabbed hold of Vin and shook him, demanding he tell her something, anything. Vin told her about his missing jacket.
Vin spent hours that winter sneaking out of school, walking the back lanes. His grades plummeted. For the first time, his grandfather frowned at him as they worked together on the farm. He was questioned by the police. A photo he had taken of Stephano, wearing Vin’s jacket with a sleepy sneer on his face, was published in the paper.
In the May Vin turned seventeen, the ice broke up on the river and an old battered car was pulled out on to the banks. Vin’s jacket was found inside.
At a disco, no one can tell you’re Deaf.
Vin at twenty-three is a bouncer at a disco.
He has a reputation. He doesn’t listen to the pleas and threats as he escorts the drunks and drug dealers out of the building. He’s good at watching. He notices people. He picks up easily on the quick sneak movements of thieves. He’s better at it then the Hearing bouncers. His eyes notice more.
The authorities said Stephano was in that stolen car. They said he must have drowned, his body swept away in the spring floods.
Vin doesn’t believe it. Stephano is tricky. Vin knows Stephano must be somewhere, driving a convertible with a righteous babe at his side.
Vin dances at the disco. He watches for Stephano.
V.T. Dorchester lives in British Columbia, Canada. Their work has been published in Havik: A Las Positas College Anthology.