I sounded out as the film began, pointing to the letters on the screen.
Sitting on the lawn of a large outdoor music venue in our area, we were bundled up in sweaters or coats, blankets on our lap, bellies full from our strange picnic assortment of halal hot dogs, chips, grapes, watermelon, PB and J’s, rice, naan, hummus from the American grocery store (which never tastes like hummus from a middle eastern country or grocery store), glass cups of Persian tea in hand, we were ready to settle into E.T. as the local symphony played John Williams’ score in person, behind the movie screens.
I had never seen E.T. I feel a bit like a culturally lost child sometimes, when I am out of the loop of pop culture, which is often, it was fun to watch it with my Afghan friends for the first viewing for all of us, and a couple American friends who genius thought up the whole evening.
My friend is a year older than me but has six children. I am still single. I always think this must look so strange to people in her culture. Different languages and different cultures and life stages, you’d think a friendship couldn’t happen but we have managed to communicate a lot considering our limited abilities with one another’s languages.
There is laughter and laughter is a surefire sign of friendship in my world.
“E.T.” my friend repeated.
“Extraterrestrial.” I read. “Oh sheesh,” I immediately thought.
As my friend repeated the word I immediately realized was it was going to be hard to translate, I pointed to the sky.
“E.T. Extraterrestrial.” Then caught myself, remembering I’d point to the sky when mentioning God.
Pointing to the sky again. “E.T., not Khoda.”
My friend laughed heartily and I laughed because of the whole situation.
“Khoda” means God in her language.
All unsaid but understood was: “I am talking about the alien in the sky here friend, not the sign language for God and you got it and I got it and this is hilarious. This is what we have to work with but we can communicate and we love it.”
After that bout of laughter I settled back to learn the storyline I should have learnt as a child. I looked at the kids huddled under winter coats and blankets, four adults in lawn chairs and just felt love.
As E.T. is getting his lesson in words from the young Drew Barrymore, my Afghan friend suddenly laughed and said: “E.T. learn English!”
“Sara* learn English!” I exclaimed. hahahaha… E.T really was getting similar lessons to my friend.
She started laughing… hard.
We were done. We laughed until we ached. The people around us must have found us to be such a disturbance.
I didn’t care. Communication comes in many forms. Ours is slow and broken but there is laughter and understanding and there is love.
*Name changed because, ya know, privacy.