A Matter of Understanding

Katie DuBois


“Hey, can you tell me where Daley Plaza is,” a young woman asks the stranger next to her. Both stand in the crowd before the crosswalk, mere planktons in the school of people.  He ignores her, making not a single twitch to betray his indifference.

“Hey,” she tries again.  “I’m visiting and I need to get to Daley Plaza.  Do you know where it is?”

Still not a flicker of awareness and the light will soon change.  At his continual silence, she throws her hands on his shoulders to twist him towards her.  His startled eyes shift to her.

“I’m sorry,” she apologizes, her frustration fleeing quicker than it came.  “I just, I need to get to Daley Plaza and I don’t know where it is.”

He gives her a puzzled look and moves his hands up to the height of his chest.

“Daley Plaza.  Where is it?”

His finger touches his ear, draws it down to his mouth.

“What?” she cries in frustration.  “Just say something like a normal person!”

He motions to his ears, crosses his hands in front of him.  At last, she understands.  With a huff, she turns to cross the street.  He stops her, forcing their eyes to meet once again.


One hand, ram-rod straight, touches his nose, moves out.


“Straight,” she reluctantly guesses.


He nods.


Four fingers.


That is easy.  She nods.


Hands face one another at his chest, move towards her.  At her puzzled look, he repeats.


He shakes his head and repeats.  Then points down and repeats.






“Four streets?”




Fingers crossed on one hand, the middle and index, move to the side. At her blank stare, he repeats. He turns her away from him.  He repeats the motions with his hand in front of her. 


She turns, “Oh, right.”  


He nods.


“Then what?”


He crosses his hands again.






She begins using the rudimentary alphabet she’d learned in school, getting to ‘a’ when he stops her.  Her hand in his, he moves it to her mouth until her lips touch her palm.  Then he pulls her hand back.


“Thank you?”


He nods.


She repeats the motion.


He touches his thumb to his index finger, palms facing her.  Together his hands bend at the wrist.
She puts her hand to her mouth and away again, before heading off, following the directions he’d given her.

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