By Susan Schaller
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Extra resources for A Man Without Words
But as suddenly as he had asked for names, he turned pale, collapsed, and wept. Folding his arms like a cradle on the table, he lay down his head. My fingers were white as I clutched the metal rim of the table, which squeaked under his grief more loudly than his sobbing. He had entered the universe of humanity, discovered the communion of minds. He now knew that he and a cat and the table all had names, and the fruit of his knowledge had opened his eyes to evil. He could see the prison where he had existed alone, shut out of the human race for twenty-seven years.
He didn't under50 Susan Schaller stand the new sign. He had only just learned that names existed, and now I was asking him to understand the name for names. I realized my mistake and shelved that sign. "Ildefonso you, Ildefonso—male. " I pointed to each man in the room: He—male, he—male, he—male, and then to each woman with the sign for female (the generic pronoun sign is the same as pointing so it was easy for Ildefonso to understand). " The gesture for what is open hands facing up, circling slightly, with fingers pointing out to the world.
Yes, yellow," I signed encouragingly, although I had the impression this was old hat for her. I taught or reviewed several other colors, and each time she understood. When we got to red she grew agitated, and began 38 Susan Schaller her strange speaking and incoherent gesturing before starting her tale of blood and sex again. " I gestured. She pointed below her waist, described sexual intercourse, and indicated her pelvic area. "Now? Blood? " I asked. In answer she grabbed my hand and held my ring finger, signing "Man?