By Susan Schaller
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Extra info for A Man Without Words
With sudden inspiration, I jumped out of my chair, found a piece of paper, and laid it in front of him. I signed "tree," mimed drawing, and gave him an encouraging nod. He signed "tree," mimed drawing with his pencil on the paper, gave me an encouraging nod, and put his pencil down. I signed "tree," again. " I signed/mimed a leaf falling from the tree, which I picked up and offered to him. He repeated my moves. Frustrated, I didn't risk a third try. Elena had mentioned numbers. I took the paper and wrote: 1 2 3 .
I had run back from Mary Ann hoping to express my excitement over his new knowledge of personal names, especially his own new name. His dwarfed signs and self-absorption checked me. I was somehow frightened of this somber, stiff man as I watched his mechanical repetitions. He couldn't see me, he was looking into some private corner. How was I to build on the previous day's breakthrough? What did Ildefonso's experience mean? I was no longer sure. What did he understand exactly? What should I do next?
I began to give him the words he wanted. I wrote a bigger and clearer cat and handed him the paper. He lowered his head and studied its form, clenched his jaw, leaning rigidly forward and uncrossing his ankles so he could set his feet flat on the floor. He was preparing for this new work like a sprinter at the starting line. He tried to copy cat, but the resulting scrawl was illegible. I walked behind him to guide his hand for a second cat. His hand, a fisted knot gripping the pencil, felt like a rock.
A Man Without Words by Susan Schaller