«Because when we say too many As, Es, Os in the same sentence, we are clearly talking about a female. Or, if we combine the Os and Es in different degrees of Us, well … in that case we are clearly talking about a male.»
I stare at her, without really understanding what she means. The question that arises is: «Do you have also the neuter?».
«Sure. The Is.»
It was a legitimate question, even if ‘neuter’ is not always used for wildlife. So maybe she could have given me a less careless but more surprised answer. However, changing the subject, I offer her something to eat. I rummage in the bag that I brought just for her and I pick a handful of dried crickets and locusts. She approaches it without qualms, collects her snack.
«Thanks,» she says, while pecking.
We look around – emptiness all around as far as the eye can see. Steppe and stones, and a relentless sun that does very little to warm. The wind is strong. I ask whether she is often alone.
«Mostly yes – she answers – except for mating in the spring. We have a call, you know. A very articulate dance.»
I nod. I look at her long, strong ash grey legs. The camouflage plumage, almost anonymous. It makes me think that she is a good runner, when staying in these regions. Before migration.
«Do you move a lot on the ground?»
«Yup. For example we have to dig the nest, because there are no trees here. There is not much vegetation further south either»
The lunar landscape still comes back to me, very strongly, except for the colors, which are violent.
«Tell me something else about your language.»
She looks at me sideways – like all great houbaras do – with her clear eye, as if I had said something very strange again. I’m interested in her language, that strange interweaving of consonants that do not seem to have room for vocals, just as this land seems not to have space for life; and instead.
«We do not have words’ small parts like some of you people. We have long, whole words, and they change depending on the place, time, and purpose. One long word might well describe this landscape, for example. »
She lifts up her head as if looking for something in the air, but it is a mere gesture of indication. I look at her, waiting for her to go on, but she doesn’t.
«Do you mean it’s agglutinating?».
I nod to drop the topic. She looks at the horizon and the deep sky. She will fly away before winter descends harshly upon the land. I get up and shake off the dust from my pants. The As and Es are for female nouns, so I definitely think I understood correctly that she is female.
«Beware of the desert,» she says.
She spreads her wings and shakes them, as a greeting sign.
English version supervised by Sabrina Macchi