A narrator copes with loss
|The problem with writing this is that you will never read it. As hard as it was to feel around the edges or trip into the middle of the present and constant awareness that life involves unanswerable pain made excruciating by the love, now these word have no possibility of providing either comfort or perspective. They are instruments of nothing, powerless, empty, and useless. For thirty years I have written for the purpose, I realize as I explore it now, of impressing you, and of urging you to grant me a piece of yourself in return. It is the same reason that mow a path and trim the trees that would otherwise overgrow it. It is why I maintain a clearing out by the pond, so that you might one day camp there.
I set my alarm to greet you. I look for some ghostly sign, some small anything. I have taken no pictures. No setting suns, no twisting tree trunks, no shimmering surfaces of water. No selfies.
Friday night Mike, a college friend, showed up at the house for the weekend. He is now a linguist and lives in a tribal village in an African mountain valley. He learns a language in which the very meaning of words depends on the tone in which they are said. It’s not like this language, where meaning is redirected, manipulated or shaped by tone. Instead the same set of sounds can mean “coax” or “the tread of a car tire” depending on variations of pitch. They have sarcasm too, and anger, and gentleness and all of the other things that we convey with tone. There are no school in which to learn the language and it has no written form. It is acquired only by spending time with those who speak it.
But the more fascinating thing is that in this village when everyone wakes up at 6:00 they go into the street, greeting each other, asking how the night went and how the family and animals are. This is the first order of business every day. Among these people to be alone is worst imaginable fate. To be banished is to be death, or worse, it is to be put to death again and again, every day.
I imagine that if someone left the tribe under whatever circumstance such things happen, it would be an extraordinarily difficult thing. While the proper in the village all speak other languages of trade and of education, and so can get along well enough outside, can anyone ever be understood outside their truest language or by those who have not greeted them each morning when they woke?