Silence is golden

Alex McNab

I find it a little disconcerting that I am having trouble figuring out what to write. I think the problem is that I am trying to put my feelings into words and, at the moment, words just don’t seem to be doing them justice. I think because I have been learning to better communicate without words that I now find it awkward to search for about five hundred of them to describe seven days’ worth of thoughts, experiences, and emotions.

This next statement might sound funny if read aloud, but, instead of talking with people, I’ve been feeling with them. Let me rephrase that last sentence. What I meant to say was that, instead of talking with my girlfriend, I’ve been feeling with her.

What I mean is that I don’t have to tell her how I’m feeling at any given moment because, more often than not, she is feeling the exact same way. It’s a nice kind of connection to have with somebody. It makes quiet moments more enjoyable and I am relaxed. Also, it allows for ease in physical gestures.

One of the worst non-verbal communications is the wink. I have no idea what message a wink tries to get across. Is he or she checking me out? Is he or she referencing some inside joke that I’ve forgotten? Is he or she even winking at me?

But, with Makana Williams, my girlfriend who I met in Beijing where we have been living for the past five months as we study Chinese language and culture with School Year Abroad, there is no ambiguity. We can have an entire conversation with each other just sitting in class squeezing each other’s hands. Mind you, I won’t know what she is thinking in class, words are necessary for that, but I can tell how she is feeling, and she can tell how I am feeling, and so it is in this way that, when we are too tired to open our mouths to speak, we continue to communicate. Perhaps it is because we often take advantage of these physical subtleties that we seem to have become hyper-sensitive, searching for meaning in every movement we make.

For example, two days ago in English class as I was listening to my classmates discuss the irony of the book “To Live”, I caught a glimpse of Williams out of my peripheral vision, and I noticed that her eyes seemed a little redder than usual. Worried, I turned towards her, and I made a sad face to ask her if there was anything wrong. In return, she faked a yawn from across the table, meaning that she was fine, just a little bit tired, and she smiled, reassuring me that everything was alright. Returning the smile, I let her know that I had received the message.

It is in instances such as these when I understand how much can be said in silence. I like words, but words are complicated. A blind person would not be able to read this neither would a person from another country that could not speak English, but touch and movement are universal, and they are constantly showing. They never tell, and that’s what makes physical gestures so powerful. That’s why bodily communication is the deepest form of dialogue. I have nothing left to say. Just imagine me patting you on the back or squeezing your hand. The rest of my article is written in that touch.