Too Close to See

I watch them. I see what's going on. But they don't see it. I'm not sure anyone else sees it either. Well, let me rephrase that. They see it, they just don't see it the same way that I do. But I guess that's natural. I probably have a unique view because I tend to look at just about any interaction in terms of language. That's my job after all. And my passion.

So I watch them. Two people trying to learn how to communicate. How to understand each other. They represent two cultures-two cultures that at their best barely communicate. Add in the gender issues and you have a major problem. Lots of tension. And that's what the rest of the crew sees. Two people who don't get along but who have to try anyway.

But I see it differently. I'm fascinated by the two of them, can't remember how that fascination started. Maybe it was because T'Pol seemed so hostile to me, and Trip went out of his way to be welcoming. Maybe I was taking his side when I listened to them fight (or discuss, T'Pol would never fight. Well, she'd never admit to fighting.) Anyway, however I became fascinated, I have watched them since the beginning. Watched their relationship, their communication.

It started with annoyance. The natural bristling that is the reaction when two languages come together with no understanding. There is no common ground; there is no sympathy. So the interactions are difficult, full of discord and fraught with misspoken words and awkward sentence structure. There is progress made but it is made through the disconnects, the misunderstandings. The participants don't see the strides that are being made because the gulf between them is just so wide.

Trip and T'Pol were like this. They seemed to bristle every time they were around each other. Trip would insult her and she'd find some less emotional way to respond in kind. Every interaction was a negotiation at best, a battle at worst. It probably didn't have to be, if one of them had been willing to back down, but of course neither one of them would give ground.

They'd probably die before admitting it, but they are so alike. Confident, proud, and stubborn to a fault. But loyal and kind too. And passionate. Oh, I know anyone that heard me describe the Sub-Commander as passionate would laugh out loud, but she is. If they would just really look, they would observe the quiet intensity she brings to everything she does. And what is passion if not intensity? Sure, it's not loud or obvious, but it's there. It colors every action she takes. And it seems to be especially present when she interacts with Commander Tucker.

I was jealous for a while. There, I said it. I was jealous. I envied the look of determination he gets when he is trying to win an argument with her. I resented the way his eyes light up with mischief and pleasure when he sees her. She definitely causes a reaction in him. Not that he doesn't care for me, I know he does. We're friends and I like that. But I guess, maybe at first, I wanted something more.

But I'm ok with it now. I mean, they are just so interesting to watch. They've made great progress. I see them together and they don't realize that they are finally communicating. There is a naturalness between them when they talk--or more probably argue--that is lacking in T'Pol's interactions with the rest of us. They have a lexicon of shared terms...shared turf if you will. An established list of things they don't agree on, and things that they do. And they are expanding that list all the time, or at least trying to. I saw Trip trying to get T'Pol to appreciate pecan pie. I know he tried plomik soup at her urging. I don't think they'll be ordering those dishes again, but at least they are trying. Their shared world is getting bigger.

On the away mission to the Akaali homeworld, I was astonished at the unspoken communication that went on between them. The abbreviated language that meant, "your ears are showing through your wig" or "someone's coming, put that tricorder away." In every case, all he said was, "T'Pol." In every case, it meant something different and she knew immediately what that was. I spent a good portion of the mission with her and tried the same thing. She did not respond to me that way. In fact, I had to spell out several rather obvious things. She and I do not yet have a large enough shared world for us to talk that way. I have hopes that someday we might. In the meantime, I'll watch their world grow.

I don't think they are even aware of what is being built between them. But they seem to enjoy it. Not that they are aware of that either. Or maybe they are. Maybe that's why they've started to challenge each other again like they did at the beginning of our mission. The bridge crew is still talking about the argument they had when T'Pol gave the order to prepare to leave orbit after the Mallurian told us the captain was dead. Trip jumped on T'Pol for her order, clearly not understanding what she was really saying. I know from what Reed said later that Trip was bordering on insubordination. His actions shook some people up. But I guess I'm still green enough to not automatically see things in military black or white, right or wrong. Or maybe it was just that I wasn't that surprised. Because that's how learning language is. You learn in levels. First you have the basic words and begin to see the rhythms of the language. You think you are making great strides picking your way through a conversation with a native, until, that is, you hear that person talking to another native speaker. Then you realize that you communicate like a toddler compared to them. It is frustrating, can cause tension.

That's what going on with Trip and T'Pol. They've laid the foundation, now they are moving on to the next level. But they have so far to go and they know it--on an unconscious level at least. That's why they are picking at each other. Because they are frustrated at how little they can really say to each other. And both of them are masters of using language as a tool, even as a weapon. Trip usually employs his humor to ease a situation, but I've seen him use it cause trouble. T'Pol utilizes her logic to convince as well as to irritate. It is normal for them to reach for language first. But with each other they can't do this and they hate it. They don't like being inarticulate. It leaves them both off balance. So they strike out. But they'll make progress. I already see them doing it. Cataloguing each instance that they misread. Trying to learn from their mistakes. Adding to their personal lexicons. Increasing their common ground.

But they're too close to see it. I think it will be the kind of thing that isn't apparent until it hits them both over the head and shouts "hey, unbearable attraction here!" I can see them both when this happens. Trip with all his southern charm and shyness saying, "What the...?" And T'Pol, raising an eyebrow and protesting that, "This is not logical." I could be wrong, but I don't think so. I've always been successful spotting those students that would go on to master a language. If Trip and T'Pol were in my class, I'd say it is only a matter of time before they achieve total fluency. I hope I'm around to watch.

FIN