There were so many ways of saying things without speaking. You could do a drawing, for example, a portrait of a woman, with two shadowy anxious eyes, fair hair down to her shoulders, a delicate nose, and a mouth with parted lips revealing very white teeth. You could write a letter, a long letter full of adjectives and adverbs in which, lying slightly, you tried to say what you think.
At the end you’d put:
‘Yours with love,
Then you’d put the letter in an envelope, and the envelope in the letter-box, trying not to think that it might get lost of end up screwed into a ball in a dustbin.
Or you could go down to the sea-shore with an empty bottle and put a note in it with a message. Then you’d throw the bottle in the water and watch it drift along the coast.
It was all very simple really. All you had to do was leave messages anywhere and everywhere, under stones, fixed to trees, between the pages of the telephone directory or the Divine Comedy, and one day Mina would come and find them, one after the other, and understand.
Or you could take a knife and carve letters on the leaves of aloes or in the trunks of plane-trees. It was there all around you if you could only read. Inside the bells on dogs’ collars, inside sardine-tins. In Coca-Cola bottles, or on the backs of cinema tickets. One letter here, another there. You took the V from television, the O from florist’s, the Z from Cinzano. And you made up your message. There was nothing mysterious about it, or even hidden. If only you wanted to be able to read, the message appeared in the street, over the sky, or on the grassy earth. All the millions of different messages that all meant the same thing.
[Terra Amata, Le Clézio, J. M. G.]