He was looking for an equation, for something to understand. And he said it in the best way he could.
Language is more than what we say--it's also how we say it, and whether or not we even understand what we are saying. Language is manners, then, well-said or not. Language is the attempt to understand as much as the understanding itself. It is the how as much as the what, form as much as content, intent as much as words. And as I said at the beginning, it takes two to start this car up.
These are the lateral muscles and physical directions of language that translation often fails to use. I had to be able to hear what this young man was asking me, whether or not I was prepared. It was another vocabulary altogether, yet filled with familiar words.
But maybe that's all right. Maybe that's exactly what keeps a computer or a book from doing the job. Maybe that's what keeps us human, and engaged, and necessary.
How many fights have I had? he asked.
Just one, I said, like you.