I cannot speak today. Instead, I must act out every word in charades or write it down on a pad of paper. I carry the pad of paper around with me, scraps of my life written down in faint pencil. “I already had breakfast,” says one. Another: “Daddy’s at the grocery store.” And, written heavily in big letters at the top of the page, “I have a sore throat.”
I meander upstairs and turn towards the chair in the corner of the family room, thinking of the old National Geographic magazines stashed on top of the guidebooks piled behind the plump flower-patterned chair. Cassandra, my older sister, is camped out on the red couch, computer open on her lap, homework spread around her in a private whirlwind. Homework. On a Saturday. I nod to her as I pass, silently hoping to never have this much homework in high school.
“Hi, Grace,” she responds. Then, seeing my mopey expression, “What’s wrong?”
I hold up my pad of paper so that she can clearly see the bold letters at the top of the page.
“Oh. Sorry,” Cassandra says. “Hurt a lot?”
I nod vigorously and make my way over to the chair. I sink into it and grab a National Geographic magazine at random from behind me, fingers gently brushing against the spines of the guidebooks. I sink into the chair and begin to read, skimming lazily.
I finish one magazine, then another. I’m aware of the time passing, aware that perhaps Daddy should be home by now. I reach over and tap Cassandra’s foot. She looks up, her fingers pausing in their incessant typing.
“Yes, Grace?” she says irritably.
I stand on tiptoes, fingers pointing toward the sky as I look down at Cassandra, my brow furrowed. She hands me my pad of paper, and I wave it away. I want to communicate by charades; I need to see if I can do it.
“Bear?” Cassandra guesses.
I shake my head no, then run to Daddy’s desk and grab his glasses. Shoving them on my head, I run back to Cassandra. She ponders what to guess, finger tapping her chin.
“Bear with glasses? Harry Potter?” I roll my eyes, then resume my pose. I’m getting a headache from the glasses now, but Cassandra has to guess my pose first. I point violently to the glasses, nearly jabbing myself in the eye.
“Glasses… Daddy’s glasses…” Cassandra guesses halfheartedly.
I nod vigorously.
“Daddy’s glasses!” Cassandra yells.
I hold up one finger to indicate that I only want the first word.
“Daddy!” Cassandra guesses.
I nod and tear off the glasses, relieved, then tap my wrist. I’m giggling now, helpless laughter at the ridiculousness of it all.
“Watch,” Cassandra says.
I shake my head, still giggling, and tap my wrist more urgently.
“Time?” she guesses.
I nod, giggling, and point to Daddy’s glasses, now lying sideways on the coffee table, then to my wrist.
“Daddy… time…” Cassandra says slowly, more unsure.
I nod encouragingly, smiling now. Cassandra pauses, and then her eyes light up. “What time will Daddy come home?”
I nod and start to giggle again, and soon Cassandra joins in.
“I don’t know,” she hiccups.
We roar with laughter and fall to the floor, still laughing. I smile at Cassandra as I realize the only language we need is a wordless language of love.