Spicin’ it with Serrano

By Bertha Serrano

A couple of weeks ago, I became a temporary mute. I had no idea it was going to happen, and I wasn’t given a warning to prepare. I walked into my dentist asking questions, and I walked out mumbling words no one understood.

When I got my braces, my dentist told me I was going to need an expander. Other than knowing it was almost one-third of my bill, I had no idea what that was. After missing my appointment twice in a row, I had forgotten my next visit would include getting one of these things.

I wasn’t too worried. Having braces at this age is a nightmare, so I was ready to tackle any pain and weird stares from people. After what seemed like forever, I finally got up from the dentist chair. As soon as I closed my mouth, I gave my dentist a horrifying look. The top of my mouth had been conquered by wires. It was gross and I wanted to puke. All he could say was that I would get used to it.

I called my boyfriend as soon as I left to tell him about my bad luck. After attempting to simply say, “Hello,” I knew I was screwed. I hung up and sent him a text saying, “I can’t talk.” I soon realized everyday scenarios were going to become a million times more difficult for me. The sign language I had learned in class was pointless, as no one around me knew it.

For that whole week, no matter how many times I tried avoiding these scenarios when I needed to talk, it was impossible.

Getting lunch: I tried planning ahead by packing my own lunch, but I got tired of instant soup and ham sandwiches. If I went to lunch, I made sure I was with someone so they could order for me; if not, I would write it down on paper and hand it to the cashier. They immediately acted as if I was a deaf mute and respond by moving their lips slowly so I could read them.

Saying “sorry” and “excuse me”: I don’t usually talk to strangers on the bus, but these words come in handy on a crowded ride. I had to push my way through to get out and I could see people giving me the stink eye because I didn’t say “excuse me” or “sorry. “

Participating in class: I walked into class with a note explaining to my professors my situation. I’m not the usual teacher’s pet, but not being able to speak my mind when I had something to say was torture.

Bumping into friends: I purposely walked around with my head down and my headphones on so I would avoid finding a friend, and trying to explain why I couldn’t talk using gestures. I did bump into some a couple of times, but I ran away and later explained through Facebook.

Even though I’m still wearing this thing, my speech is coming around. I sound funny and I’m very self-conscious about my voice, but it’s only temporary. This experience has only proved to me that I’m fortunate enough to speak my mind without having to write things out or use sign language to communicate with those around me. For all those who do have to go through this every day, you will always have my respect.