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"I mean, aside from the fact that we plan to visit Japan someday," I said, tracing my finger along the character that looks like a horseshoe. "I want to learn Japanese because it's a cool thing to do."

"Me too," said David.

Coolness was a factor not to be underestimated, but my real reasons remained unarticulated. Like David, I am taken by the language's grace and formality, and a part of me believes that learning to speak it will help me to obtain these traits. But it was more than that. I needed something like this. I needed a project in which I could immerse myself, and not just any project, but one that required some level of isolation.

Language is the tool that brings people together, but in learning Japanese, I finally saw that language could also be used to distance oneself. I have these phases during which I just want to get away -- shut off my phone, drive somewhere far and simply be .

Now, instead of hopping in my car and disappearing, I can virtually escape to a far-off land. I can process my thoughts in a foreign tongue and watch simple objects around me transform into something exotic and new -- a chair is not just a chair anymore, it is also an isu. My hand is also a te, and my eye is one of two meh .

"I can't really explain it right now," I said to David, who was bent over, balancing himself on the counter with his elbows and flipping through the katakana workbook. When he glanced up at me I chided myself for assuming he had any way to know what I'd been thinking. That happens when you spend as much time with someone as I spend with David -- you begin to assume he can see your thoughts. "But I'm really happy we're doing this," I continued. "And it's going to be so much easier and a lot more fun because we're doing it together."

" So desu ," David said softly, and I thought perhaps he had heard the inner workings of my mind after all. "It means, 'that's right.'"

"Yeah," I agreed. "So it is. I mean, so desu ."

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