From Ingenuous Natures

            Suk was organising a three-day international school trip to the local reserves. It involved thirty non-local youths from the capital, of both genders and of various ethnicities and nationalities. Since Yorn had been assigned to Quayle and his baby-gurgling studies, Suk was obliged to use other and more extensive transport sources, one of which had let her down at the last moment. Her group was milling around reception in an aimless manner, with many students calling each other up on their mobiles, modern technology slowing assembly down rather than speeding it up. The teachers were only partly effective in arousing their charges and feeding and counting them for the start.
            This was fortunate for Suk as it gave her forty minutes or so to find emergency transport and also to have breakfast herself, sitting in front Quayle. Despite the hassle, she was in high good humour as engagements of this kind were highly profitable both for herself as guide and for Vasa as a base and accommodation. Further, the teachers and students were generally remarkably ignorant of anything natural and so Suk could show off her expertise without ever being challenged.
Profit with the chance to swank invariably put Suk in a good mood.
            “How are you getting on with Tara?” she asked, in between making calls to Yorn-substitutes. She knew the situation already from Tara herself but wanted Quayle’s version of their romance.
            Quayle gave her a look as if to say it was none of her business.
            “It’s my business,” said Suk. “She looks after my children and we talk about everything, including you.”
            “You talk about everything,” said Quayle. “Words are just noises.”
            “Your babies’ howls are just noises,” said Suk. “Adults talk, my dear, as you may have noticed.”
            “Do you communicate?” said Quayle.
            “That’s the point of talking,” said Suk, aside from berating some minibus owner.
            “That’s too easy,” said Quayle. “Do you really communicate except by scolding and drowning somebody in your torrent of noise?”
            Suk ended her burst of scolding with soothing noises of thanks and appreciation, delivered in her most placatory, almost whining, Thai manner, just slightly ironically.
            She looked at Quayle. “I communicate perfectly well in two and a half languages because I understand the people around me, the people I live with. I don’t have your problems.”
            “You express yourself through your own mind, understanding the noises which we call words in your own way,” said Quayle. “I take the same arbitrary noises and understand them in a slightly or even very different way.”
            “No, we don’t,” said Suk. “If I say I want to pee, you understand that I want to pee because we all know what peeing is, even you, a man full of funny ideas, know what peeing is. I know what peeing is and have told you I want to pee, which I do, now, and will, soon, see?”
            A teacher interrupted her to apologize for the delay, explaining that one of the girl-students was being sick.
            “We can roughly agree on what peeing means,” said Quayle stiffly, and somewhat as if shitting would be radically more difficult. “But we are often confronted with more complex situations and explanations. Your mind, full of its impressions and experiences, has its own personal language which can never be the same as mine or anybody else’s.”
            “Peeing is peeing. It’s not poohing or cooking. There’s nothing rough about it at all,” said Suk, trying another minibus owner.
            “All meaning is individualized,” said Quayle. “I interpret your words in my way and you interpret mine in yours. We read our own meaning into everything everyone else says.”
            “You are doing that to your baby noises,” said Suk. “They obviously don’t mean anything at all, except that the baby doesn’t like your face. If you really thought we can’t talk to each other, why are you bothering to talk to me now?”
            “Speech is a form of personal takeover, it’s the domination of one person’s understanding over another’s. It’s conquest, a form of imperialism.”
            “Takeover? Conquest? Are you accusing me of bullying people?”
            “I’m not accusing you of bullying people – although you do – I’m just making a comment on the nature of language,” said Quayle. His face carried an expression which Suk knew very well from the whole train of academics who had come into her life, notably, that she, a savage or primitive or naïve realist, did not understand or could not be expected to understand whatever they were talking about because she was an impatient, bossy female, small, sexy and formally uneducated.
            “Do you want more coffee?” said Suk, suddenly.
            “Yes, alright,” said Quayle.  “Thank you.”
            “You understand what I mean by offering you coffee, don’t you?” said Suk. “You also understand that I am offering you coffee to shut you up from saying ‘you don’t understand’ because that is what you were going to say, wasn’t it? Wasn’t it?”
            Quayle hesitated.
            “Wasn’t it? Or something like that,” said Suk triumphantly. “You see we can communicate, you were going to conquer me by saying that I don’t understand, that all talk is domination. I understand your words, even before you say them.”
            By a tremendous effort, swallowing all statements such as ‘it is not as simple as that’, ‘you haven’t quite picked up on what I am saying’ which indeed tended towards a flat ‘you don’t understand’, and because he was surrounded by students, teachers and Suk on her mobile again, all failing to communicate, Quayle almost shouted “we fabricate meaning, we don’t discover it”.
            Suk did not pour scorn on such a statement as she undoubtedly would have done because she could not hear it above the babel of noises in not a few different languages. However, she turned back to Quayle,
            “If we all find it so difficult to communicate, why are you so worried about small languages disappearing. Wouldn’t it be better if we all spoke the same language? Wouldn’t that help a bit?”
            She laughed and began issuing a series of orders and exhortations to all in the reception area, a mixture of cocky instructions to her guests in English and yapping orders in Thai to her subordinates or to others on her mobile. By some admixture of luck, common will and communication, her youth event moved off, leaving behind only one sick girl to Tookta’s motherly care.

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