No, I’m not talking about the 5 Love Languages; I’m talking about a language that is unspoken yet understood between two people who love each other.
I’m currently in the middle of reading Anna Karenina, near the scene where love has blossomed between Levin and Kitty.
The way they communicated with each other to confirm their reciprocal love was not through a spoken language. To be discreet amongst the people with whom they were gathered, they merely jotted down letters as codes for their questions and responses.
Here is a snippet of the passage:
‘How can I stay alone… without her?’ he thought with horror and he took the chalk. ‘Wait,’ he said, sitting down at the table. ‘There is one thing I’ve long wanted to ask you [Kitty].’
[Levin] looked straight into her tender though frightened eyes.
‘Here,’ he said, and wrote the initial letters: w, y, a, m: t, c, b, d, i, m, n, o, t? These letters meant: ‘When you answered me,: “that cannot be”, did it mean never or then?’ There was no likelihood that she would be able to understand this complex phrase, but he watched her with such a look as if his life depended on her understanding these words.
She glanced at him seriously, then leaned her knitted brow on her hand and began to read. Occasionally she glanced at him, asking with her glance: ‘Is this what I think?’
‘I understand,’ she said, blushing.
‘What is this word?’ he said, point to the n that signified the word never.
‘That means the word never,’ she said, ‘but it’s not true!’
He quickly erased what was written, gave her the chalk and got up. She wrote: t, I, c, g, n, o, a.
… He suddenly beamed: he had understood. It meant: ‘Then I could give no other answer.’
He glanced at her questioningly, timidly.
‘Yes,’ her smile replied.
‘And n… And now?’ he asked.
‘Well, here, read this. I’ll tell you what I would wish. Would wish very much!’ She wrote the initial letters: t, y, c, f, a, f, w, h. It meant: ‘that you could forgive and forget what happened’.
He seized the chalk with his tense, trembling fingers and, breaking it, wrote the initial letters of the following: ‘I have nothing to forgive and forget, I have never stopped loving you.’
She glanced at him, the smile staying on her lips.
‘I understand,’ she said in a whisper.
He sat down and wrote a long phrase. She understood everything and, without asking him if she was right, took the chalk and replied at once.
For a long time he could not understand what she had written and kept glancing in her eyes. A darkening came over him from happiness. He simply could not pick out the words she had in mind; but in her lovely eyes shining with happiness he understood everything he needed to know! And he wrote three letters. But she was reading after his hand, and before he finished writing, she finished it herself and wrote the answer: ‘Yes.’
In their conversation everything had been said — that she loved him, that she would tell her father and mother, that he would come tomorrow in the morning.
Thus, the two lovebirds communicated without talking, and everything was understood.
It’s funny how communication works between two people who love each other. Even with the simplest conversations, like giving directions, you would think that the two would understand the most ambiguous of phrases, simply because they know each other so well.
But that didn’t happen to me and my husband today in a rather comical situation.
We ate lunch at a ramen place and decided to get dessert at a popular ice cream shop nearby. We had 10 minutes left on our parking meter and thought it would be okay to quickly get ice cream and make it back to the car since there were only a few people waiting out the door (usually there’s a long line out the door). We walked over and stood in line, realizing that though we were up next to go inside, there were 3-4 groups inside deciding on orders. Husband was getting anxious about the parking, so I told him to get the car while I ordered for him and to wait for me in the lot behind the ice cream shop.
When I was paying for the ice cream, he texted me, “I parked on College Ave., head away from the ramen place.”
Confusing, no? Where on College Ave., and what did he mean by ‘away‘???
(To provide a bit of context, College Ave. extends for ~3 or 4 miles north and south, and the ramen and ice cream places are both on College Ave. When husband said “away from the ramen place,” I immediately wondered “north or south?”
I stood outside the ice cream shop, holding two cups in hand, one beginning to drip on the sides. I texted him, “What do you mean ‘away’? North or south?”
“South, opposite the ramen place.”
Again, I wondered, “What does he mean by ‘opposite‘?” but continued to walk south, because that’s what he said.
While walking some distance, maybe a 1-2 minutes later, he called again asking where I was; perhaps this was our only moment of understanding in which we understood that we didn’t understand each other. Maybe he had a feeling that I wasn’t going where he wanted me to go.
And alas, I was going opposite of where he wanted me to go. When he said ‘south’ he meant ‘north’ (because he has a horrible sense of direction), and when he said ‘away’ and ‘opposite’ of the ramen place, he meant, ‘towards the ice cream shop.’
It is (sort of) my fault; I knew this about him; I knew he had a horrible sense of direction, and I knew he always, always, without fail, instinctively went the opposite direction of every destination we have ever embarked upon. I should have known that when he said south, he meant north.
I laughed and laughed, and he was perplexed.