my friend the russian

well i encourage this tall Russian to dance with me and this is what happened afterward. we take a walk--it's maybe three thirty in the morning, and he can't speak any English. but he does point to himself and say 'Igor'

he tries to teach me words like 'rain' and 'swan' (because it was raining, and there were swans on the pond). i wondered how he might be feeling without his translator, as a forty or thirty something year old in a foreign country with a foreign girl, at a foreign conference at a foreign social gathering. but for the past 6 days he still walked this path around campus every night before retiring to bed. he liked to look at the swans, he said. and he just liked the peace and quiet. i learn this all through broken English, of course, and from pointing at things. i wondered if he walked every night in Russia as well, and if there were swans in the water there.

the next day the gold has worn off and so has his sans-translator. before we all leave the week-long seminar he approaches me with the woman who can speak English and i tell him it was nice to meet him. i don't remember how he replied but it looked like his translator was a bigger barrier than the entire country of America versus the Russian language.