: unable to speak : lacking the power of speech
: characterized by absence of speech: as
a : felt or experienced but not expressed touched her hand in mute sympathy
b : refusing to plead directly or stand trial the prisoner stands mute
: remaining silent, undiscovered, or unrecognized
a : contributing nothing to the pronunciation of a word the b in plumb is mute
b : contributing to the pronunciation of a word but not representing the nucleus of a syllable the e in mate is mute
His name is Berwald Oxenstierna, and he would say that the word above has never been better at describing him. It really isn't that common, to be born mute, that is, but he's been told enough and had too many studies done on him to forget that. You see, most people get diseases or suffer traumatizing events in order for them to be mute, but Berwald's case is a little special.
His mother was from a bad neighborhood nestled into the 'Capital of Scandinavia' or Stockholm, Sweden. The district was Hjulsta, a small urban town where bored teenagers steal money from white people for fun. It's sad really, for this has nothing to do with racism, but the pure boredom there. His mother wan an accountant, alone in the world as an orphan; her name was Alva Oxenstierna, and she was beautiful. But even beautiful women who are gentle and intelligent fall for the lowest of men, and so she did. She never told anyone who the father of her growing child was, so Berwald had no name to place on his genetic father, thought he thinks, sometimes, it's for the best. He doesn't want a name to place hate on.
Maybe, if she had been more careful that day, or if that one pesky gang of kids had decided they would sleep in that morning and not come running fast down an alleyway that lead them straight to the heavily pregnant woman, only three weeks to go until she could wrap the boy she was expecting in the woolen blanket that had been knit especially for him; maybe none of this would have happened. But it did.
The head runner turned the corner fast, not looking ahead of him as he called joyfully back to his friends not to press their luck on beating him, when he ran right in to her, head on. It sounds so dramatic, he thinks. Don't people run into each other all the time? Yet, Alva was not able to catch her balance, far too worried about her stomach and heart, aching as they both throbbed from the collision, and so she fell, and she hit her head, and she died.
Not much can be said for her after, but Berwald was told that her arms had to be pried off of her belly, swollen with his infant self, so that they could rescue him and cut him out. He had not been expected to live, and even if he had been, he had been expected to suffer major retardation or some horrible disability where he could not walk or see or hear, for his small body had been so roughly pushed around. None of this happened, remarkably, and newspapers called him a miracle baby. He was perfectly healthy, at least, for a while.
Being so locally famous, Berwald was quickly adopted by an older couple who had never been able to have children, and they had known Alva. It was at the age of three that the two of them realized that something was definitely off about Berwald. He has always been shy, but had a healthy appetite and took interest in looking at books, even if he was not yet an excellent reader. But….they both swore they had never heard him speak a word or cry.
After two weeks of his guardians attempting to coax him into speaking, it was decided that Berwald should see a doctor. The pediatrician found nothing, and he told them that it wasn't impossible that he simply hadn't learned how to peak yet, or needed some kind of guidance. Berwald really did give them credit; they tried everything.
Books, cd's, online programs, seminars, but nothing worked, and at the age of five, when he still had not uttered a word, they took him back. A brain scan was immediately put into place, seeing as it was not a mere confidence problem, and a saddening discovery was made. A large dark spot, where the Broca's area of the brain should have been busy and bustling, was quiet. The doctor, after being told of the accident before his birth, came to the conclusion that trauma from the collision had damaged that part of his brain, the part that controlled speech. Berwald would never be able to speak.
He didn't understand why they cried so much, after all, he never had, so they weren't missing anything. But he learned; learned that living in a world where people use words to communicate was hard. Especially when Berwald began to grow into a man and his guardians grew older and their hands wrinkled; everything was harder.
Berwald was tall, with a wide and set jaw that made him look tense at all times. His eyes were a dark blue and framed by black wire glasses. His physique was large and immovable, his adopted father often referred to him as a mountain, jokingly of course. There was probably much to do with his personality by being raised by older people. They were quite in their movements, slow, as was he. They gave kind smiles to those in public, so did he; though, it's important to know that his smile was perhaps slightly intimidating, as Berwald often looked as if he was in some kind of pain by doing so.
The bad thing, however, besides his absence of speech, was that Berwald was terribly awkward and nervous around others, especially when meeting people. His face scrunched up in concentration; his way of attempting to figure how to greet them and often turned people off to him. It was terribly discouraging, and at times, it definitely made Berwald feel as if he were some kind of beast. He often looked in the mirror, examining his staggering height and thick chest and grim face, and his frown would deepen. It was no wonder people would shy from him, when he was clumsily fumbling for his pen and paper and a crease in his brow as he attempted to communicate. It made perfect sense.
Just like that day when he had come home to find an empty house. Immediately, he panicked; they were always home before six in the evening, always. None of his texts went through, of his calls, and finally Berwald resorted to running the mile-and-a-half to the police station, busting in and desperately scribbling out his situation. It seemed brash, but they had never once been late, never, such an oddity in their schedule was too strange.
The police officer returned twenty minutes later, a grim expression. He didn't want to believe the rest, didn't want to believe that the only two people in the world that smiled at him without the slightest bit of fear or repulsion were gone, that such significant and important people could be erased by a simple mistake of a semi driver. Berwald had never cried so much in his life. Even at the funeral, two months after the accident, he cried, silent sobs wracking his body as he covered his face.
He got the house, as he had already been eight-teen, so it made sense, but he couldn't live there, in that house, with those memories. So he packed everything up and put it in a storage unit, and sold it, not wanting others to take what had been precious to them, and he left. The city, he had always wanted to live there, and she had always said that he could and should, but he had never thought so until then. There were so many people, but now he might as well.
He got a job as a labor worker, using his muscle to assist in clean ups and construction. The work days were odd, many days he would only work maybe four hours before his shift was up, but it paid well and the other workers didn't mind his silence. The only thing was that he was left with much free time.
When he didn't visit the gym, he sat home and listened to all the music that he could. Anything, that's what he listened to. Operas, rap, country, pop, foreign of all genres, alternative, classic, everything. Berwald took the words to heart, sometimes even sitting for hours and listening to the way the voices came out smooth or rough, fast or slow. It fascinated him as much as it scared him. He glanced at the guitar in the corner of his flat, sitting pristine and beautiful, despite its age.
"Son, one day I want you to play this, and I want you to sing. We know you can, the doctors said that wasn't affected….please, I can see the story in your eyes, boy."
Berwald blinked and looked away, turning up the volume.
For once, it was a fairly nice day as Berwald found himself walking to catch his subway train. It had been another usual day at work, despite the fact that a particularly large tree was in the way of one of the new structures to be built in the park. Normally, the bulldozer was attached to the stump by a chain and it didn't take much to excavate it. However, with the tenderness of the ground, they had been forced to cut it and then carefully dig it out, not wanting to disturb the ideal balance of the level ground for when the foundation was set. Unfortunately, they had only a few axes to aid in the plight, a chainsaw not having been foreseen a need for. Berwald didn't mind the hard work and had gotten it down in a little under an hour. He especially felt prideful of the many pats on his back and nods of approval. It wasn't like these men talked a lot anyways, but he often felt that just not having the ability forced him to have to prove himself on a regular basis. That led him to being a bit of a perfectionist with his work, which had landed the very nice job of being a top construction worker. Had he not enjoyed being one of the main ones to build and create with his hands, he would have taken on a contracting job, but again, the talking issue hindered him a bit there.
Anyway, he was glad that it was nice out as he walked, and even though his faced looked stern as ever, Berwald's mind was filled with the thought of a warm bath, one of his new instrumental albums and an afternoon nap. It was enough to spread a smile over his face, looking quite out of place on his face as he walked.
Berwald stepped onto the train just as it arrived, taking a standing spot near the back. He never took a seat. For one, he had been used to reserving it for the elderly, but on the other hand that prompted conversation, and still, after all these years of being mute, he had never really learned to go about pulling out his notebook in a civilized fashion. He became anxious and always dropped something so it wasn't really his specialty. That, and his gaze was little less than intense and he seemed to always have a look of anger about him.
Deciding he didn't really need to be downing himself, especially after such a hard day, Berwald opted to instead listen to the conversations around him. There was nothing too interesting today, just a few teenagers talking about a school assignment and a man seeming to argue with a coworker over the phone about getting something in on time. It all added to the usual hum of the city, and Berwald relaxed slightly, until they made their next stop, where the flood of new people put him slightly on edge again. It wasn't really he had a problem with people; it was just hard to communicate.
He shifted closer to the wall of the car, hoping to grant more room to those getting on, and that's when it happened. Berwald was shuffling over as usual; when his eye caught another man's just getting on. For whatever reason, he could not avert his gaze, even as the other moved closer to him, trying to find a place to stand.
Berwald was seeing what he could only describe as the most attractive and beautiful man he had ever seen. He wasn't very tall, maybe the top of his head would brush Berwald's chin, and his had such an enticing figure. Despite the cold weather, he wore a thin jacket with a tank top underneath. It looked like exercise wear, so there was a good chance he had been jogging, and Berwald couldn't help the way his eyes traveled over his body, finally noticing the slender legs but rather curvaceous swell of his ass in the jogging pants. He had fine hair that hung around his slightly sweaty face and very appealing eyes that had an odd almost lavender hue to their blue color.
Berwald wanted to look more, hell he could have looked for a few hours, but considering he had been staring for a good minute, it was time to look away. He did so a little flustered, every now and then taking quick peaks at the man. It was around the fifth time he had looked, shifting from foot to foot in an effort to disguise his intentions, when he caught that beautiful gaze. Berwald froze for a moment, waiting for the man to give him an odd look and move father away, but he never did.
Tino had just finished off a very good run before he had gotten onto the subway, his limbs pleasantly sore. He had never liked running much, but perhaps the new scenery of Stockholm was inspiring him, the refreshing jog doubling as a little sightseeing. Really though, he preferred his usual job as a masseuse. It may not have seemed like a lot of work, but he had killer hand strength and arm muscles to match from working out those hard kinks in people's backs.
In fact, Tino supposed he should get going to his new workplace. It wasn't like he has work today; he didn't start in a week. But Tino wanted to at least get to know the area.
He had just moved to the area few days ago, on a whim for something more exciting than the small Finnish town close to the Swedish border.
So, his breathing just starting to come down, Tino had rushed to catch the next tram to downtown, rushing in the small doors just as they were about to close. The train hadn't been particularly packed, just enough that he had to stand a little close to the other people. He hoped he didn't smell.
The ride went underway without event as he worked out what direction he would need to start walking when he exited the train, but there was a good twenty minute wait till they got there, not counting stops, so that soon proved to be less than a distraction. Tino then decided to take up one of his many favorite pastimes; people watching.
People could just be so interesting, and there was so much to tell from body language that Tino had pretty much declared himself a mind reader. With careful eyes he began to scan the tram, looking for anyone that particularly stood out. There was a man who looked like he had just come from an office, arguing on the phone, seeming rather tense and strained. That was why Tino loved massage. Tino could ease that strain from people, plus, he was a talker, which people didn't mind if you were making them feel amazing with your hands….which sounded a little dirty.
Trying to quell that train of thought, Tino's eyes met another's as he aimlessly looked about. He froze. Staring back at him were the most serious and steady eyes he had ever seen, and instantly he cocked his head to the side, paying more attention to the bluish green eyes. What was that called? Sea green? Either way, the eyes' owner was even more impressive. Tino could have kicked himself for not noticing him before.
Tall, that was the first thing he noticed, and thick chested; built like a building. He had thick arms that looked a little long, but not terribly so, and had shaggy blonde hair. Those long legs too… Glasses obscured his gaze, which Tino couldn't help but notice was very intense and almost panicky. It wasn't until he met that gaze again that Tino realized he had just given the man a full up and down once over with absolutely no restraint. His face heated in embarrassment, but he maintained his composure, smiling and waving at him.
After all, they had both been caught in the act of staring at one another; it couldn't hurt to say hi. Tino's days sure was looking up, a nice run and now even a potential date? He was too lucky.
This turned out to be as lucky as he was going to get, as the man made absolutely move to wave or even smile back. He seemed frozen, standing stiffly, that same glare still present on his face. A little confused, Tino made his way over, friendly smile still in place.
He was stubborn, and had been notorious for it back in Finland. Tino wasn't tall, rugged like most men, so he was often poked fun at for being a weakling of a wimp. Ever since middle school, when he'd gotten tired of the constant teasing, Tino had started to seriously work on his strength and even how he handled situations. You couldn't tell him there was something he couldn't do, and behind his very polite and sweet appearance he held the ability to put someone in their place. Tino wasn't going to be intimidated or ignored by anyone, especially a man like…well, he was a good catch.
Tino was even more taken aback by his height as he stood just beside the man, appearing to look casual and not attract attention to either of them. He might come up just to his shoulder, if he straightened up all the way, and Tino decided he really liked that. Instead of turning to look at him, however, the man stared down at his feet, and Tino was beginning to think that maybe he wasn't interested when he spotted a gentle pink working its way onto his high cheek bones. Tino smiled in victory.
"Hey," he said it softly, gently nudging the man with his shoulder. It caught his attention enough that he looked over, the glare settling on him again. Tino had to admit it unnerved him again, but if there was anything he liked, it was a challenge. He seemed nice after all, if not a little weird. Not that Tino wasn't. He was absolutely sure a grown man still legitimately enjoying Moomins was a little off.
The man nodded, finally, after a few minutes. He looked very nervous, as if Tino was suddenly going to bite him. Tino pursed his lips together, a few minutes passing by until he finally held out a hand, "Tino, and you?" That seemed like a good way to break the ice at least, and it was more or less simple. Berwald took it after almost an entire minute, shaking quickly with his large, rough hand before he fumbled with his bag. Tino was a little confused, wondering why he hadn't got his name when he pulled out a notebook and pen. He set about scribbling something down quickly, his face in complete concentration before he held it out to Tino.
Tino hesitated in grabbing it, not completely understanding, but complied anyway. In neat script, the words read Berwald, nice to meet you. Tino looked at the notebook for a bit, his brain working out what exactly he was dealing with. Berwald seemed to sense his confusion, holding out his hand for the notebook again. It was given to him and he scrawled something else, handing it back.
Can't talk. Mute.
Oh…Now Tino understood, and his face must have showed it, as Berwald dropped his eyes to the floor. Before Tino could jump to any conclusions, he stopped and turned his eyes up to look at the man. He seemed timid, almost disappointed, and Tino figured that made sense. It must be hard to communicate when you can't talk. Was Berwald used to getting shrugged off because of it? It made Tino's heart ache a little, maybe he could-
The call for his stop couldn't have come at a worse time, and he cursed under his breath. Tino gave Berwald an uncertain look, biting his lip. He quickly held out his hand, gesturing for him to give him the pen. Berwald did so, looking just as confused as Tino had earlier. Tino wrote quickly, practically shoved the notebook into Berwald's chest, and gave him a look. "See you," and then he ran off the train, heart racing.
Berwald stood absolutely still, not moving a single muscle until the train began moving again. He tore his eyes away from the door, eventually, and held the notebook a little more tightly. He was almost afraid to look at it. He was still a little shaken up.
It wasn't a normal occurrence that anyone really talked to Berwald. He was just one of those people that looked a little intimidating and that you just left alone. He didn't mind it much, it was normal to him, but what then man he'd just met, Tino, had done, made his heart race. After a few moments he decided that it definitely made him happy. There had been no sign that he was being made fun of, and he seemed genuinely happy to talk to him. Well, before he told him about…
That reminded him; he was still clutching the notebook with its unread message. Maybe if he stopped visioning those interesting eyes for a minute, he could focus on reading it. He moved slowly, nervous. He had no reason to.
If you ever need to relax, come give me a visit at Goda Händer.
Berwald couldn't help the smile that crossed his face; even it looked a little cynical to the others on the tram. He, Berwald Oxenstierna, had just made a friend, or maybe even a more than friend. He couldn't be sure. He didn't know how you could tell if someone was gay, but he supposed that just a friend would be better than nothing,
Of course he had a few, Lukas, a friend he'd met in college, was just as stoned faced as him, but maybe just a little cold. It wasn't like he was a bad guy, he just had a very short patience, as opposed to Berwald who had "the world's longest patience", if he were to believe Lukas. Then, there was Matthias. He was Lukas's boyfriend of two years, which was a feat.
Matthias was insufferable half the time; the other half he was asleep or absent. But, if Berwald was honest, he wasn't so bad. He never said anything about Berwald's condition to make fun of him, well, not in a bad way. Berwald wasn't all that sensitive about it; he wasn't going to cry if someone made a remark or anything. Berwald knew he couldn't expect everyone to understand at first. What he hated worst was when people treated him differently. He would much rather be made fun of than have everyone baby him.
Berwald was brought out of his stupor when his stop was announced. He scrambled out of the train, his heart still racing and cheeks red. By the time he made it home; practically running the whole time, he was thoroughly exhausted. Emotionally and physically both.
With a sigh, he dropped off his bag, not setting the notebook down until his shoes, coveralls, and coat were removed and placed by the door. It wasn't even dark yet, so Berwald opted for some coffee to help keep him up. For a long time, he sat quietly, the notebook in his lap and coffee in hand as he played a few new CDs. He was deep in thought as he entered the next one; a new album from Mumford and Sons. He hadn't heard much of them, but the reviews were good and the sound was nice.
As it played, he heard little of the words, focusing instead on the note. Tino's handwriting, though rushed, was moderately neat, and Berwald recognized the name of the popular massage and sauna place immediately. He didn't live that far from it, either. There was just a problem; what did he do?
He seldom conversed with people, even his friends, they accepted his usual quite disposition and even ordered for him at restaurants to avoid Berwald having to awkwardly write it down and hand it to the waiter or waitress. He could communicate well enough with nods and hand gestures when he was comfortable. And he wasn't even really scared of people. It just made him so nervous to pull out his notebook and scrawl out a reply or answer to an asked question. That look of confusion just made him sigh. Tino, though, had seemed not to mind that much.
Sighing again, he stood, shutting off the player, and made his way to the bathroom. He stripped out of all his clothes and stepped into the hot stream of the shower. He stupidly forgot his glasses were still on and frowned as he moved to take them off, nearly stabbing himself in the eye. Just one meeting with someone and he was all out of sorts. Who could blame him though?
Tino was very attractive. Even though he was shorter than and not as wide in the shoulders as most men, he still had a fine jaw and wasn't feminine looking enough to be mistaken for a woman. Tino had a radiant smile too. His skin, had been a pleasant pale, would it be soft?
Oh, Berwald was in the shower, naked, and thinking about touching an absolute stranger. He quickly began to vigorously scrub his scalp, hoping to rid himself of such thoughts. Perhaps this wasn't such a good idea…
It was the next morning at work when Berwald finally allowed himself to think of Tino again. He wanted to believe that the man was being completely honest with him, but it didn't stop him from trying to recall all the details of their short conversation. He seemed genuine; perhaps it was just Berwald's low romance self-esteem calling on him. He had tried dating. Key word: tried.
Just because he could write his words didn't mean they were any smoother. In fact, Berwald had been told by Lukas, the only other person he had ever shown some of his own written lyrics; whish he only ever did every once in a while, had even said that he was a hopeless romantic. That was probably true, he did watch far too many romantic comedies to not be…
He took a seat, the hammer in his hand balanced against his knee. It wouldn't be long until the foundation for the structure was complete. What was it going to be again? He couldn't remember. He continued to stare off into space for a few moments before a strong hand clapped him on the shoulder.
He turned, eyes widening a little as he recognized the man before him. Ludwig. Another college friend; he had been very helpful when they were studying for their engineering finals and after that; the two had gotten along well. When Berwald graduated, a year earlier that Ludwig, they had promised to stay in touch, even if it was only a few phone calls to wish happy birthday or holidays to each other.
He was a very serious man, even more so that Berwald, but even though he was powerfully built and yelled often when angered, he still enjoyed one thing more than anything. Baking had been something they had done a few times together, but Berwald could only handle so many of those sessions where baking every cake and cookie known to man was a guarantee.
Holding up a finger, Berwald moved to get his notebook from his bag, only to have the clipboard Ludwig had been holding handed to him. He gave his best appreciative smile and began to write.
It's nice to see you again, what brings you to Stockholm?
"I got a better job opportunity here, I'm contracting the building." Ludwig said, reading over Berwald's shoulder. Berwald raised his eyebrow. He had known Ludwig was going to make good money one day, but he hadn't known that well. He nodded, showing how impressed he was with a firm pat on Ludwig's back.
They conversed about everyday things, how the other had been, and it wasn't until the conversation stalled that Ludwig turned to him, looking a little curious.
"So, what were you thinking about when I showed up? It's not like you to take breaks for anything, you alright?" Ludwig's brow was furrowed a bit as he held his gaze.
Berwald looked to the ground, blowing out a breath as he scrawled out his thoughts.
Ludwig couldn't hold back a grin. "A crush huh? Well, I wish I knew what to tell you. You know I'm not the romance man." He nudged him playfully, and Berwald couldn't hold back his own smile.
"Just go for it I guess…" Ludwig stood suddenly, looking at his watch with furrowed brows.
"I'm sorry, I have to get going, but we should have lunch sometime, my number is still the same. Nice to see you." Berwald stood and they clapped each other on the back before Ludwig walked off in the direction of the nearby parking lot.
He watched him walk away for a moment before sitting and contemplating his words. Just go for it? Well, Berwald had thought of that, but he wasn't exactly eager. That meant awkwardly trying to converse with someone he had a crush on, and already! Berwald hadn't even realized it until Ludwig had said something. He supposed that he would just have to take a chance. If Tino didn't like him that way, well it would be better to have just a friend than leave it be and never know, or so he hoped. Berwald just couldn't not go see him; there was something about that man that irked him.
So, with his decision in mind, Berwald worked consistently, feeling much better already. Even on the train, he reviewed what he was going to do. At least he couldn't stutter. All he had to do was walk up and request Tino, the rest, well… Berwald assumed he was a masseuse, which meant having to deal with someone's hands all over him. But he if he could handle that, maybe they could have a decent conversation?
It was really Berwald's choice, so he kept that in mind as he slipped into his home, going through his normal routine with just a little more excitement that usual. What could go wrong?