Because his left ear was shaped like that of an enormous punch bowl, my brother could always hear what I said. For instance, he would hit me on the head if I let out a giggle when a good-looking guy passed me by after taking Communion. Only then would I glance down at my cupped palms like a proper girl while my brother gave the cute guy a dirty look.
Contrary to how his classmates had teased him in third grade, he was not delivered breech nor did my father, who was a policeman, pinch his ear frequently. My brother had a big left ear, that’s all. And this ear, would cup every sound like radar. It had no static, it never had a dead air. It was like a portable spy microphone and it always heard what I said.
And only what I said.
He never heard what my Father murmured into the phone or what my Mother whispered to my yaya. In the wet-market. But my brother, even when asleep, could always hear me.
His ear had no definite focus, so even if I hid in the back of the classroom or giggled inside my closet, he still heard my faintest laugh. His ear heard me everywhere, without regard for above, below, behind, left, or right. It was seamless web where I was the fly trapped as soon as the hammer in his ear struck when a sound escaped my lips.
He does not mind the sounds made by my period cramps or constipation. What rouses him from deep sleep or fouls his basketball shot is when I speak with gasping breaths. Or when my tongue flicks while speaking in the telephone. Or even when just talking to someone over the laundry area wall. Just a nervous or silly laugh. Or when I whisper secrets to my friends. He will hear me. He cannot just shut it right then when he hears me. Nor would he shut it out even if it distracts him.
One day, I found my grandmother’s old sewing box while I was looking for my skipping rope in the cabinets. The box was some old Danish biscuit can and its lid was already rusted. From there, I was able to find a needle and thread. I forgot about the rope and I thought of something to help with me and my brother.
I began sewing the edges of my mouth. I made two running stitches to the right and three backstitches to my left (since, in the dining table, my brother always sits to my left.) At first it felt awkward, like a velvet red lipstick thickly applied. But soon, I got used to it. I was like a happy smiling clown.
For three days, it helped me modulate my voice so I wasn’t speaking loud anymore. But when my friends would laugh out loud — because another classmate had the wrong pair of socks or when my seatmate wore the same pair of shoes from the last year — I could not help but laugh, too.
And when doodles and hallmark poetries began reaching my desk in recess, I could not help but blush and flash a smile to the boy peeking at me outside of the classroom.
So the stitches came unhummed day by day.
A day before the prom, I tried ripping off my eyelids. I wanted to attach it to his lobes so that he would have earlids. I thought that if he was always hearing me, it would ruin my prom. It would be my only prom since the school decided to hold it only every other year to save on expenses.
So that was my plan: to pluck off my eyelids and paste it to his earlobes while he was sleeping. But as much as what our eyelids can do, the earlids did only so much. The disc jockey at our prom kept saying that “music shall fill the air.” True enough my brother’s hearing was in the air when my ruffled prom dress fused with the arc of balloons.
The prom ended at 11:30 in the evening. It was supposed to be at 11 sharp, but the seniors were able to haggle a half hour more to say their goodbyes. However, my brother and I just spent it waiting for our father to fetch us.
In class, the Christian Living teachers taught us the discipline of obedience, humility and silence. I remembered it very well. That night, while where we were at the waiting shed, I screamed back obedience, humility and silence to my brother, choking me with my necklace.
Two years from now, before I finish my nursing course, I will become pregnant. And his left ear will still be enormous, not as enormous as a punch bowl anymore but maybe only a soup bowl. Speak, so that I may see you, he will whisper to my fluxing silhouette while peeking from behind my room’s door.
Because since that prom night I have vowed a silence against him and let the giggles burst only inside my chest while I take Communion. My cupped palms began to accrue the mists from my heaving and panting. I held my tongue so that he never did hear me again from inside my closet, from behind the room, or even at the dining table.
The silence bred an insatiable anger and a life inside me. He will not hit me anymore, but the sewing marks in my lips will remind me of why I feel I have the right to be angry. Only dead air will reach his ear. No matter how small it is now, he will only hear the deafening threshold, so he will be forced to resign inside his room and I to mine.