My lover and I don’t speak. Not a word. “Funny,” you might say, “how can you be in love with nothing to talk about?” It’s not like that. My lover and I are not like you and your lover. When you get into bed at the end of a long day and curl up close to your lover you might whisper, “I love you.” At the end of the day my lover traces over “je t’aime” on my right thigh. He and I are covered in words written in a thousand languages that we will never speak, but can always understand. That’s what love is, isn’t it? Never speaking – always understanding.
When we walk down the street his Latin fingers intertwine with my Greek, two great civilizations allied. People stare, but I don’t think they understand. Sometimes they stop us, asking why we chose to be like this. I hold out left palm, “No”. It’s Italian, but they won’t realize. They’ll just think we wanted to stand out.
We met in college at the library. We were both linguistics majors, go figure, and spent a lot of time in the stacks. At first we both just thought the other was shy. “Why else wouldn’t he try to talk to me?” I figured. One day, as he was reading over an original text from Egypt, I reached out and touched his cheek, “Salut”. He turned to me and smiled. “Sono stato in attesa.” He ran his fingers down the back of my left hand, “I’ve been waiting.”
We would sit for hours exploring each other’s bodies, finding words that we didn’t even know existed. He used to like to write limericks, tickling the words down my sides. We’d spend our lazy Sundays doubled over in laughter, happy to finally have someone who understood.
At other times it is hard to communicate. I’m sure even you and your lover who speak experience that. Sometimes we must combine languages, becoming a transnational landscape of emotions. “Teet minuelle wütend!” I lean into him with both hands, one on his Finnish left shoulder, the other on his German ribs – “You make me angry.” It’s not exactly what I want to say, but he understands.
We don’t have a word for goodbye. I guess that’s how we knew we were supposed to be together. “Más tarde,” he waves to my left ankle, but I know he’ll be back. Later and goodbye are not the same. Once I was certain it was over between us and I beat on his shoulder blades, “FADA GO DEO!” Tears streamed down my cheeks as I hit him over and over with “long forever”. I couldn’t leave; I couldn’t say goodbye.
M. Boals began writing because she loved to see the way characters develop. “My lover and I” was born out of the author’s own experience of falling in love with someone who spoke a different language. The character of love is complex, and she hopes this piece reflects that.