title. The Silent Letter
name. Virgilio Da Molo
right now. working as a management consultant at Impact Strategy Consulting
The silent letter
Such an awkward name, such a tiny presence, but so elegant, seductive and powerful.
It is something I had always seen and respected, for its aura of professionalism mixed with a cocky “we are here to do business”. But I did not know its name until I was thirty three and had landed in the freezing lands of Quebec. It was the old B&W era of analogue connections and screeching modems, a world so different from now except for one thing: if you have an IT problem, the technician on the other side of the phone line is an Indian chap.
In that old B&W era when R&D was not yet so advanced, the Indian IT guy would spell you text to type into some scary black screen waiting for code. The IT language had obviously been developed by some Polish of Ukrainian origin and smoothly refined with a few dollops of Hindi and Kannada. But I could still understand A like Alpha, B like Bravo, C like Charlie and even K like Kilo or Q like Quebec, and was typing the text in the scary black box until he said it.
“Sorry what are you talking about? Is that a letter?”
“Yes, it’s an Ampersand”
“What? Are you sure? Hamparsa?”
“Ampersand!!!!! A like Alpha, M like Mike, P like Papa...”
“OK. Not sure what you are talking about. What does it look like?”
“Can you look at your keyboard? It is the thing above the seven.”
And so, that was her name. Almost Nordic in sound, with accompanying blonde hair and blue eyes, and yet Latin derived (and per se and), with dark Mediterranean skin, and perfectly fitting for anything so far apart like Peace & Love and Shock & Awe.
We were listening to Rock & Roll while sipping some Gin & Tonic when the DJ switched to Rhythm & Blues. Ampersand looked annoyed, stood up, and dragged me swiftly to a Food & Wine party on the other side of the river. While crossing the bridge, a sudden Lights & Sound event burst into the air from the river banks, which was almost as impressing as the Fire & Water show we had the previous year. The party was at Goldman & Sachs Fine Food Purveyors Inc and was packed with all sorts of people dressed with the likes of Dolce & Gabbana, but we could still grab some Fish & Chips and some nicely toasted Ham & Cheese sandwiches. The music was a bit Stop & Start and they even dared play some old Hue & Cry song long forgotten well before anything from Hall & Oates. It was almost like a Sweet & Sour experience but Ampersand was now fully at ease and started raving about how she loved the Look & Feel of the place, and how she felt her lines starting to relax.
She was now openly talking about her life since she was first created in the ancient times. She was supposed to be the 27th letter of the alphabet, but she did not have a sound. She was silent, like a beautiful creature waiting to be used, and she was used. Her sinuous shape had always attracted the best minds of their age, and in the global capitalist society of our times she was now a clear symbol of commercial success, like any & Co. of this world. But she did not look happy. This is what she told me that night, just before leaving for some remote island in the Pacific Ocean.
“I was the most beautiful letter of the alphabet, and S&M were after me. They are very powerful letters as they are used a lot. You think vowels count? They are just there to fill, as S&M used to say, and they will never gain enough support among consonants. And then there was me. The most beautiful and the most unique letter of the alphabet. But, was I a vowel or a consonant?”
“You would think they wanted me to become a consonant and support their side, but their devious mind was on another trip. They started talking about S&M and they even made me think at some stage that S&M was standing for some sexual revolution about to happen in the world. But soon their game was out. S&M was just Sales & Marketing and I became more famous for Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble than Sex & Drugs. It was too much for me. My sinuous shape started losing elegance and my strength vanished, and from a beautiful & I became just an _. What you are seeing now is a clone, something that cannot think and speak and just sits there, beaming confidence and opening wallets.”
Ampersand was now a flat line, but her blonde hair and blue eyes and dark skin were as beautiful as ever. Was she a vowel or a consonant? She did not know and I did not know, but I liked her.
Peace and love