The Passed Note Issue 8 October 2018 - Page 23

Professor Russell Whitman is intelligent. He is kind. He would make a beautiful husband.

This is his first visit since I have become a woman.

Whitman is afraid the Gara song will die soon, so he is recording it before it does. He is right; it probably will. Most young Gara will not use it outside the village and it is not allowed at the Beach School. After learning English in school, many Gara will take their new freedom skill and leave the island in search of a different life. The Beach School’s wall map calls them to the glowing yellow of the United States of America or the vibrant blue of Canada. They will come back only to visit. Whitman mourns this inevitable change and tries to preserve us in his hand- held recording device. I remind him that he once told me culture is not permanent.

During his first night back, I asked Whitman about his amazing language ear while he swayed in his beach hammock. The fires had gone out for the night, and ours were the only eyes still open. I watched his body, long and stretched out, his ankles crossed, his torso swinging back and forth.

“How many different languages do you know?” I ask.

“I don’t know. A few, I guess.”

“I am not asking you to puff yourself up, Whitman, I just want to learn what you know.” He tells me languages are his thing and shrugs off my wonder.