No one took your voice away. It has become a series of grunts, universal noises expressing recognition or glee, chained vowels sung out too loudly cause you do not speak the language here and volume is a reflex. You do talk a little, mostly like a baby, pointing and using the most rudimentary words, strangers nodding or staring into your face like itís an eye chart, waiting to understand what you mean. Strangers treat you like a baby. I donít mean to say they patronize you, no. I mean they treat you like they would a baby: Sort of delicate and gentle. Being mute and illiterate must make you more charming, just as it makes the world more charming, since no one speaks of things like schedules or repairs when you, an observer here, write the script that takes the place of language. You donít speak the language, you just hear sounds and surely each conversation is about love, or art. You toddle through this world, greedy like that, wanting, and strangely enough it is given to you, what you need when you need it.

You brutally mispronounce the name of your desired destination, affirming that this is the right bus. He nods. You open a handful of money before him and he graciously picks out the fare, nothing more. You ride, traveling with a stupid smile that belies the primary nature of this route, locals heading to work. Any of these stops could be the one youíre headed to; youíre even nervous for awhile, wondering if you missed it. But you couldnít miss it, cause when the bus stops at the stop whose name you butchered getting on, someone helps you. A woman takes your shoulder, your arm, turns/guides you and says the place-name the way it should be said, so correctly that you canít even recognize it. You get off at the right stop, and now a man points, he doesnít even bother to talk cause he knows that wonít mean what it should to you, you lazy american but thatís not what his point means at all, and thatís not what it feels like either. It feels like help. It feels like kindness. You didnít leave it on the bus, or home with all those useful words youíre so comfortable with, no. You didnít leave it. In fact, you found it.