Wednesday, November 25, 2009

On "The Day You Were Sad" by Jennifer Levin (771 words) ***

I remember walking into a Japanese bookstore in New York once. Everything was in Japanese. I don't know the language, don't even know the symbols that are used in the written tongue. I knew then what it is like to be illiterate--completely illiterate. I mean, if go to a European country, I can at least parse out the alphabet, recognize a few cognates. But here, I was clueless. The writing around me might as well have been abstract art.

A few years ago, I was having drinks with a friend when the sister of his wife (now ex-wife) came by and started talking. After she left, he said something to the effect of, "Couldn't you tell that she was crying?" No, I couldn't. Something horrible had happened to her and I was as blank about it as I'd been about the language in that bookstore.

I've never been one to read signs very well--that is, body signals, heart signals, people signals. I'm an illiterate when it comes to that, though I think I have gotten a little better with age. But only a little. Here's a story about just that sort of thing. All the signals are there, so many signals one says, Um, how could you have missed that? But miss it the narrator did. And thinking about its meaning for her life and for the life of the person who she missed is what this piece is all about. Read it here at Twelve Stories.

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