Moribund

Listen to a reading of Mirovia on The Elocutionists

He ordered Merlot and gestured far too often as he spoke. His monologue required little from her. An occasional head nod or feigned laughter. By the time he started talking about work, she found she had already forgotten his name, though she rechristened him Todd, a suitably banal moniker.

She spent the better part of the evening trying to turn off the language centers of her brain. Human speech is, after all, intercepted on its way to the auditory processing centers and routed directly to Brocca’s area, the part of the brain responsible for deriving meaning from spoken word. Because of this, she thought, we never truly hear human speech. It is almost impossible to deny this compulsory linguistic dance, to register the words as simple phonetics, devoid of meaning, even when that meaning is mind numbingly insipid.

“And yet I still managed to double our sales despite the department’s tight budget.”

Tight budget, she thought. Perfect example. Were words not so tightly bound to semantics, we could recognize them for their inherent beauty. Cellar door would be seen as the highest form of praise, as pleasing to the tongue as to the ear. “You, my darling, are simply cellar door.” And ugly words would be recognized for their ugliness despite their benign meaning. “Look out for him. He’s a real tight budget. He’s a muncher. And a spurter.”

She succeeded, eventually, letting the myriad conversations from the bar area wash over her date’s mental flatulence.  The entire restaurant was nothing more than a large gathering of primates participating in an instinctive mating ritual. And she was Jane Goodall, observing, mildly fascinated, but unable to participate. She allowed herself to be taken by the hum of a thousand wordless utterances. It didn’t sound like monkey chatter, as she would have expected. It was beautiful, like birdsong.

“Amanda?” Damn. Her own name had hit her like a kick to the amygdala, reengaging the hardwired speech processing routines and shattering the momentary bliss.

“Hmm?” She managed, taking a sip of her wine. She had to get out of here.

“You seem distant. What are you thinking?”

“Oh, I was just thinking that far too few languages are moribund.”

“Mori…what?” he asked, raising his eyebrows in lockstep with his glass.

“It doesn’t matter. Tell me, why is it do you suppose, that the holes in cat’s fur are always in exactly the right spot for their eyes?”

“Erm…”

“And why do mirrors reverse left and right but not up and down?”

She watched as he emptied his glass in a single swallow and glanced at his watch.

Birdsong drifted by.

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