She takes my hand, like she has something she wants to say and is determined. But how can she, knowing so little English?
* * *
She came to us 2 months ago from Sudan, bringing with her a contagious smile and a gentle spirit. She came in at the bottom rung on the language ladder, but has worked hard. I catch her practicing all the time. When she understands a lesson and her worksheet is all correct, she looks around to see who might need help. She never leaves class without saying ‘Thank you.”
No matter the weather, she shows up. And then last week, the whole week, we didn’t see her.
* * *
Today, instead of waving hello from across the room, she comes and stands before me. It’s the first time I’ve seen her without a smile.
She squeezes my hand.
I squeeze hers back.
“How are you?” I ask.
She shakes her head, pats her tummy.
“You don’t feel well?”
She shakes her head, again pats her middle. She crosses her arms in front of her as if cradling an infant.
She nods her head, then shakes it. Yes and no, both at the same time. Then, with a single gesture, the sweep of her hand away from her, I know. Something she treasured is now gone. A miscarriage.
My face falls. She nods. We hug long.
There are griefs for which there are no words, but also no language barriers.
I should warn you, in case you get into this kind of work: You do get attached. You do care.