In Tongues

He tried, but failed.

Almost all language had fallen away from him; falling away overnight, leaving him to make his way through the increasingly unfamiliar landscape with only limited and dwindling expressive resources.

Worse yet, though he could not immediately determine the extent, he noted with growing panic a similar falling away of his ability to comprehend both spoken and written communication.

The prospect of final and utter bereavement from what had always, up until even that very morning, provided him with measureless pleasure now completely overwhelmed and terrified him.

Not knowing whether the transformation would be finally realized over the course of moments or of years, each utterance, each sentence on the page took on the precious quality of air itself.

The fear of suffocation drowned him.


Yet, instead of making the most of every opportunity to use either spoken or written language (as one might expect he would), instead of attending lectures, or singing aloud wherever he went, instead of hoarding magazines or sending daily letters to each of his many friends, he became increasingly selective and parsimonious of his words.

Some small snippet of a song’s lyric, or perhaps just a phrase from an overheard conversation—almost anything, regardless of its import or usefulness—would attach itself to him and, for days or weeks he’d find himself unable to speak, write, or even think of anything else.

Such phrases found their way into his every thought and into everything he said.

He listened for words or sounds from these phrases in everything he heard, often missing the larger message altogether due to his intent concentration on the click of the ‘k’ sounds or the sibilance of the ‘s’.

For two weeks and two days as one year changed into the next he was stuck on ‘gl’ words like glue, like glimmer, glide, gloat, glut, glossary. Gland.

These words, though, he pronounced with a special and lingering emphasis on the second letter—the ‘l’ being his temporary deity and the ‘g’ (which he preferred to pronounce more gutturally, more sharply than necessary) bearing a considerably lesser, almost nonexistent reverence.

Glock. Toggle. Glossolalia. Glum. Glee. Glade. Wiggler.

4 thoughts on “In Tongues

  1. Pingback: Better late than never – The life of a 40 something

  2. It’s worrying! I find I go to bed muttering my six words over and over in case I’ve forgotten them by morning. Easier to get up and write them! Have a good weekend Ron 🙂

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