Classification

P94.7 Interpersonal communication

I wouldn’t say we speak different languages but I wouldn’t say we speak the same language either. Her accent lies just out of reach and her metaphors are startling. Her grammar is awry, less wrong than reimagined. She doesn’t seem to be literate. I’ve shown her texts in various alphabets and systems of ideograms and have seen no indication that she understands that they correspond to speech. I’m starting to think that maybe they don’t.

hawthorn her interior walls

P95-95.6 Oral communication. Speech

My impulse, as a professional user of language, is to interrogate. “What is your name?” “Where did you come from?” “Why did you leave?” “Where are you going?” “How old are you?” “How did you live?” Her impulse, it seems, is to avoid interrogation, and politely turn the conversation to general topics. The rain. The scrabbling of mice in the hayloft. Her swollen feet. I wet a blanket and freeze it and give it to her for an ice pack to ease the swelling. Having discharged this duty, and unable to pry any personal information from her, I begin to babble about myself, answering all the questions I wish someone would ask. She lies down and goes to sleep. I find myself trying to detect semantic meaning in her snoring.

a pinball machine between autumns

P99.5-99.6 Nonverbal communication

Overnight, I rethink my approach to conveying information and return to the barn in the morning with a new game plan. I point. I mime. I employ exaggerated facial expressions and a few dance steps. Her eyes widen and she begins to copy my movements, which isn’t what I was going for but seems to be accomplishing something. Our bodies may be proportioned dramatically differently but they are both built on roughly the same plan and have more or less the same impulse toward movement and expression. I wasn’t sure before whether to call her a human being and now I’m not sure whether to call myself a human being or whether we should just come up with an entirely new name that encompasses both of us. There I go again, falling back on language.

horseshoe nebula I’ve probably gone far enough

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