In Twilight

This is a tale of magic and mystery. Of how so little can go so far. Most of all, it’s a tale of a bad day turned good. And all of it is true.

Yesterday’s blogging got me through those lonely early morning hours before my brother woke up. I did my duty and verbalized the fact I wasn’t doing well. In response I received assurances that it was okay for me to buy a new computer game online to keep me occupied, or to go shopping, or to watch films – anything I needed.

By 11 a.m. everything was flat. I was tired of sitting at my computer, tired of doing nothing. My brother began the job of putting up some UV protection film on our window. Being a huge job, I did what I could. That consisted of “helping”: standing by, ready to hand him a tool or use my fingernails to get the plastic pulled away from the silvery sheets. A boring lackey job, but needed. As the glare was cut away, strip by strip, I marveled at how much light I could look into without squinting. How I could stand in the window, in the sun, yet not feel that burn on my skin. An hour and a half later and the western window was done. Just in time; the weather is set to turn unbearably hot in a last bid effort to give the city a bit of summer before autumn encroaches on us. I sat in that blue sun, that twilight, and contemplated my next move.

Being that I was up too early exhausted, I decided to give into it. Sleep, if I could. With the sunlight dimmed so much in the living room I thought I could just chill out to something on tv and nap out. What I chose to watch surprised me. Ten seconds in and I was already laughing. Whatever in me needed to rest did so as my eyes watched and my mouth smiled. When the film was over, I stood refreshed and ready to do something.

Refills on my prescription meds needed to be addressed. That meant a visit to the pharmacy, and a few challenges in the Dutch language. I checked my dictionary and made a few notes to help me remember what I needed to say.

…There’s something about the way I say I don’t speak Dutch well. Maybe I’m becoming recognized and known. Maybe I’m still not saying it quite right – or maybe I say it too well to be taken seriously. Whatever the reason, it raised a smile from the woman across the counter at the pharmacy. I asked her to speak slowly to me. Visits to the pharmacy aren’t too intimidating for me; I know what questions to expect from the personnel there. Yesterday I went further, enquiring as to whether I had refills for two meds I needed. The reply came out crystal clear: no, you don’t, you need to go to the doctor’s office and ask for a script at the front desk. I got that, I thought. Grinning, I left to walk the full 50 steps to the doctor’s office. Once again, my statement that I don’t speak Dutch well elicited a smile. I never resorted to English, not once. And FULL understanding came to me. Not partial, not enough to get by, but 100% complete I got every word you said understanding.

Out the door just flying because I understood. Before I even got to the road a woman stopped me and asked if I knew where a building was located. Most residential buildings have a name attached to them. She knew it was somewhere close, just not exactly where. Alas, I couldn’t help her – but my elation continued because once again I got everything she said and I was able to respond in Dutch. I don’t know; maybe it was my ear to ear grin from then on, but it seemed that every single person I passed had to speak to me, to greet me, to say something to me in Dutch. It was like I had a neon sign lit up over my head – she can understand you now.

Without meaning to, I walked for an hour. Just around. Grinning. Feeling like I made some big jump in the learning curve. Having real sentences and conversations begin to form in my head without having to think, think, think about the grammar format or the verb tense.

There’s an innate sense of memory when a language finally begins to click. For most of us, that happened in our native tongues when we were very little. Doing it as an adult with a foreign language brings back those feelings of childhood. The simple elation of understanding and being understood. It’s a very powerful high, let me tell you. I remembered instances of feeling really free; the first time I flew somewhere by myself, the first time I had coffee out solo in the big city. Yes, I too noticed that what came to mind were solo escapades. But that’s what I experienced: a very singular, very intimate expansion of my private world. Somehow all the individual words have added up and I can talk now. This has to be the way a child feels when she finally masters ‘bottle’ or ‘mamma’ or even ‘no’. Freedom, individualism, and complete and utter joy over being able to participate rather than simply observe what’s going on around her.

It hasn’t escaped my notice that my inner and outer worlds are in complete sync right now. As I expand my inner understanding my external understanding grows, too. A rare and beautiful moment in my life, that’s for sure.

I’m experiencing a cascade of consciousness. All, now, in twilight.

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