“Know what I love about the world?” asked Mark. Beads of sweat formed on his forehead.
“Cryptic statements about vague topics?” replied Natalie.
“I was going say how things you look at every day can be totally amazing. I come downtown and I never ever noticed that. What’d you call it?”
“It looks like a form of Ogham, an ancient Irish dialect. The lines they carved in the corner of stones were the basis of their written language,” explained Dr. Natalie O’Hara, professor of linguistics at the Open University. She ran her hands down the corner of the building, her fingers traced the horizontal lines in the stones. Natalie pulled out her camera and snapped photos.
“They’re impressive, but a real mystery,” said Natalie.
“What do you mean?”
“For starters, these buildings are no more than a couple of hundred years old. Ogham was used twelve hundred years ago. Hundreds of miles away,” said Natalie.
“See? What’d I tell you. Amazing. Aren’t you glad I brought you?” said Mark.
“No offense, but how did you even recognize this? Only a handful of people know this language. And they’re all doctors. You’re my janitor.”
“There’re a lot o’ smart janitors out there. Maybe one of ‘em took it up as a hobby,” said Mark.
Natalie didn’t respond because she wasn’t listening. She stroked the grooves in the stone as her mind wandered.
“Who put you here?” she mumbled to herself.
“What does it say?”
Natalie bristled at the interruption and glared at Mark.
“I mean, if someone went to all the trouble of doing this, it’s gotta be important, right?” said Mark nervously.
Natalie gave an impatient sigh. “It doesn’t mean anything. I’m telling you. Ogham hasn’t been used in over a thousand years. And if it’s genuine, nobody else understands it.”
“Then what’s it doing here?”
“Some punk probably saw it on the internet and thought it’d be more permanent than spray paint,” said Natalie with authority.
“What if you’re wrong? Maybe there’s a linguist out there who’s not an academia nut who’s trying to communicate with you, I mean, us,” said Mark.
“If he or she’s really an linguist, they’d know communication is only meaningful if someone else knows the language,” said Natalie firmly.
Mark shrugged. “You know it.”
Natalie’s eyes narrowed as she stared at Mark. She turned to the carvings. Pulling out her notebook, she started scribbling. Mark paced on the corner.
Fifteen minutes later Natalie turned to Mark. Her mouth opened to speak, but she paused.
“What does it say?” asked Mark.
“I think you already know,” said Natalie.
“Mark, how long have we known each other?”
“Sixteen years, eight months,” said Mark.
“We’ve practically grown old together,” said Natalie.
“You don’t look a day older than when we met,” said Mark. He smiled.
Natalie sighed. “I suppose you’d like an answer?”
“I’d like the right answer,” said Mark. He was going to reach for her hand, but his courage failed.
“I have to think about it,” said Natalie. “You understand, don’t you?”
“Yeah, I understand,” said Mark. “Do you want me to take you back to the university?”
Natalie looked around. She was surprised by all the people bustling around them. “If it’s okay with you I’d like to stay here and think.”
“As you wish,” said Mark. His heart sank as he turned to leave.
“Mark, did you learn Ogham just for me?”
Mark stopped, turned and smiled warmly.
“Meet me here tomorrow at four o’clock,” said Natalie.
“As you wish.”
Mark arrived at the corner the next day promptly at four. A crowd gathered and was staring at the building.
“What does it mean?” people murmured to each other.
Mark looked at the building. Above the carving Natalie spray painted the word ‘Yes!’