Does He Speak a Different Language? (#425)
We went for a post-dinner walk on the beach, where Jim got into a conversation with some fishermen (from the way he gestured with his hands in the middle of his chest, I could tell he was relating the story about how he was briefly caught in a fishing line over a week ago on Saturday). Charlie ambled into the waves and up on the sand, and very close by two boys who were digging a big hole. I could see the older of the boys saying something to Charlie, who was looking down at the hole. He walked a face paces away and stuck his hands into the sand, then walked very close by the boys and the hole and then to the ocean, and then back to the boys.
Jim walked up. “He hears things a little differently,” he smiled at the digging boys. I looked up the beach and waved to their parents, who were on the deck of an oceanfront beach house.
“I’m Nick,” said the older boy. “This is concrete,” he added, holding out a small mound of wet sand on his shovel, which he carefully tamped down on the wall around the hole. “It’s stronger.”
“Wow,” said Jim. “His name is Charlie,” with a gesture towards our boy.
“He can dig too,” said Nick. I walked over to Charlie and back to the boys and the hole.
“Hi,” said Charlie, eyes aslant and turning to walk back. Jim followed as Nick told me that there was another Nick in his town who lived across the way and was the same age and they were friends.
“Nick’s a good name,” I said. “It means ‘victorious’—winning.”
“I didn’t know that,” said Nick.
I waved again at Nick’s parents on their deck and thought about how Nick comes from the same ancient Greek word as Nike (yes, that Nike)—”victory”—and how “victory” comes from the Latin word for “win, conquer,” vinco, vincere, vici, victus. And (I think I have been subconsciously preparing to teach my Latin and ancient Greek classes) how vinco is the root word of the name Vincent, which is Charlie’s middle name.
He is a conqueror—a victor—a winner—-in his heart and core. (And core is from the Latin for “heart,” cor.)
“This kid has heart.” Jim has been saying that all weekend, to our friends who all left the beach house around noon. The wind had changed directions—coming from the south—and the water was cool. We sat in the beach house and spread out newspapers and ate bagels while Charlie studiously put together the 150 pieces of a puzzle of the “scrambled states.”
Charlie had woken up before our guests and opened each of their doors and given all three of them a long look. “Rice cooking, eat rice,” he kept saying, extra-worried. He got in a short ride in the back seat of Hal’s newish car and then somberly watched him drive off before boarding the black car to drive our other friends to the train station. The Garden State Parkway was heavy with unexplained Sunday traffic and twice Charlie—eyes creased—suddenly went into back-arch mode, just for a few seconds. We dropped our friends off at the station with promises of New York walks in the fall and then it was “b’ue ocean!” all the way back to the beach house. Charlie smiled and tensed his shoulders in frissons of delight as we drove over the bridge back to the beach.
That’s a piece of Charlie-lingo that has universal meaning.