by Diane Buccheri

Over and over, through my head came, actually they sat there, the letters ML. ML. ML. ML. ML. ML. ML. What’s this ML? Relentless. ML. It was in front of me all the time. Reminding me. Of what? My partner and I had been working with computers and deaf people. We were teaching the deaf how to use computers to communicate. These computers had voices for the benefit of us hearing and speaking people. Putting the right touches to the right keys resulted in a rather smooth sounding talking voice. Therefore, the deaf communicated and “spoke” with hearing and speaking people, making life easier and better for all.

As we trained our students to efficiently use the computerized voice to effectively communicate with the speaking world, my partner and I sat at tables working individually with each student on regular desk sized computers. This was the easiest way for us to teach and for our students to learn. Nevertheless, when not involved with instructional efforts, my partner and I were in the process of designing small, hand held computers which would be carried by a waist strap and easily used in everyday activities and conversation. Our intent was to produce the least cumbersome, most accessible, and conveniently operated machine that we could. A computer which could be utilized with one hand to voice communicate while the other hand could manage other chores such as opening a door, hold groceries, push a baby carriage, or drive a car, was what we aimed at. Our work was quite intricate.

We enjoyed the interpersonal time spent teaching our eager and progressing students. Also, we enjoyed the time spent in the work room, our two heads bent together over our designs or testing our designs out on each other. Day in and day out our minds and hearts were bent upon our work. My partner and myself were enthralled by our intentions and inspired by our students’ needs, enthusiasm, and progress. Our thoughts never lost track of our endeavors. Intent and happy, all of our time was spent together. Obviously, we worked well concurrently. How fortunate to make such a good team!

Something More
And so it came to be that our working partnership led to a fuller partnership. Not only did we work together, eat together, study together, but we ended up living together. We were a true match made in Heaven. Much to our mutual surprise, me, the fully devoted, woman-with-a-goal, with no other thoughts in her head or heart except the ever invasive ML, whatever that meant, was – you guessed it – pregnant. Initially, we were shocked. Shocked into disbelief, actually. That stuff happened to other people, didn’t it? Not us.

So there we were and there we persisted with our work. Long days were spent with our beloved students and long nights deep into thought in the work room. The only difference was that it became more and more difficult for us to meet heads as we poured over the desktop scrutinizing our designs. Also, the computer screen became an increasing strain for me to read. Both, of course, due to my growing stomach getting in the way. Nonetheless, just as engrossed in my work, I persisted, oblivious to much else. Our child was an absolute beauty. She grew to be a lithe, waif-life creature with shiny black hair and startling blue eyes. Her white, white skin seemed luminescent and she moved with airy grace.

Everywhere she went, her delighted laughter accompanied her along with her twinkling eyes and light steps. Somehow, she was very happy playing by herself a great deal, while we worked, experimenting with computerized programs, sounds, observations, and results. She taught herself a lot including tying shoelaces, making braids and ponytails, and arithmetic. Her mind was alert, perceptive, and deep. Her inquisitions kept her busy.

A Gift
Truly, we thought, she was a gift. A very special child sent to us, for a reason, perhaps? Why us? Why did we receive this remarkable child to lighten our life? In the classroom she mingled with our students and learned along with them. They, too, were delighted by her. Enchanted, even. In the work room she usually amused herself with toys, books, and coloring and drawing but sometimes peered over our designs and tested out our new productions.

She helped us, unknowingly, determine their usefulness through her playful experimentation. Her name? We’d had many ideas. Name her after my mother? No. His mother? No. This name, that name? No. My head persisted with Mary Lee. Why? That name never particularly appealed to me. Not that I disliked it. It just was rather plain. But Mary Lee persisted and that was our beauty’s name.

The Dream
One night in a dream, ML kept appearing. ML. ML. ML. It was everywhere. With it, images of my daughter floating by, laughter trailing behind her but a serious look in her blue eyes. Her presence, both elated and serious, hinted at something. A sense of something impending surrounded her, followed her, was left in the air by her, in that night’s dream. Suddenly, next to me appeared one of my deaf students who had clearly had a horrible time learning to speak. For years he attempted to articulate to no avail. No amount of practice and no instructor or therapist could result in discernible speech.

In fact, his voice sounded much like a monster’s who may haunt you or track you down and hurt you. This effected in causing people to shun him with attempts at covering horrified fear. The poor young man would never have a good life without some other type of help. He came to my partner and me, having given up on using his voice, to learn computerized communication. Our hearts opened to him immediately. For me though, I had a small struggle with the fact that visually, he reminded me of someone whom I had liked and gotten along well with until he became threatening to me and my well-being. Something in this threatening person of my past made him inexplicably jealous and possessive.

Anger, thus, caused him to be physically dangerous to those he focused his emotions upon. That was unlucky me for a while. With time, I put aside this reminder more and more easily as I looked at our needing student and came to know him for himself and not what this physical appearance initially kindled in my memory. His heart was gregarious. He was outgoing and smiled pleasingly. He responded to my caring, my partner’s caring, and most of all, became good fast friends with Mary Lee. The two of them enjoyed each other’s company tremendously. A special bind was evident.

What caused this link of personalities, I wondered? Purely the delight they shared in everyday life, in the little things? For example, the two of them reveled in running after butterflies, never catching them, but finding pleasure in the flight and pretended pursuit. Building sand castles, intricate and extensive, took their combined attention for hours. They ate chocolate chip cookies after dinner, sitting on the stone wall, facing the sunset. Speechless, they accompanied each other, easily communicating, somehow, mysteriously in total sync. Then good night she said with a laugh and a twinkle, and he merrily went home.

Startled, there he was, silently appearing, in my dream, next to me, just as she left her trailed image behind her in my vision. Widely smiling, he pointed at the vision of Mary Lee and looked me straight in the eyes, his expression filled with purposeful meaning.

At that point I had a dynamic connection: That’s it! Mind Link. That’s what the ML has been about all this time. That’s what Mary Lee was given to us for. That’s why we’d been working together, so hard for so long. That’s why we loved our work so much, my partner and I.

Rather than use computers, outside appendages, to communicate with the deaf, why not link minds together with the aid of a computer and communicate without speech from the deaf? No, not mental telepathy, because that wouldn’t involve computers and that would definitely be too much to ask for in this rat race world of go, go, go, aggressively me, me, me. Most definitely, the general public could not be expected to learn and practice mental telepathy for the smaller population of deaf, non-speaking public. More practically, computers could be programmed to alert deaf people’s brain of specific communications. Specific words? Well, maybe. Or maybe meanings without words.

I would have to see which way the work would lead, once I put my inspiration to research, trial and error. I would also have to do some investigating as to programs for different situations such as whether it is a deaf person communicating to another deaf person or a deaf person and a hearing person speaking to each other. Meaning, whether any words or sounds or just mind links would be involved. Signals could be sent from the computer, operated by a deaf person, to the brain electrically.

Possibly, wires could be attached to the necessary parts of the brain, from the outside. Even better, but involving more precision and knowledge, implants could be placed in the brain to create an electrical connection to the computer operation causing waves to pass from the computer to the brain, disseminating unspoken communication. Oh, there is a lot of work to come.

That’s the ML! Thank you Mary Lee.