Tuesday, July 20, 2010

In which a headline is avoided

Tonight, for reasons beyond even my comprehension, I decided to go chainsmoke in the dimly lit park outside the zoo near my apartment around 1am. I sat down and pulled my hair over the SACHEM NORTH HS VARSITY TRACK t-shirt I was wearing to cover the Latin letters. A cigarette and a half in, a drunk middle-aged man came up to me and asked for a cigarette and a light, and I obliged. He said something I didn't understand, and I asked him to excuse me, as I spoke Russian poorly.

"Ah... English?"

"Da, da." I continued to speak in Russian throughout the entire conversation, and he in English, as is apparently typical.

"Ah... where you from?"

"Iz New Yorka." He laughed.

"Is very different... from... Petersburg?"

I explained that, first of all, cigarettes were much more expensive. He laughed again, and asked how many years I'd been studying here. I told him only four weeks. He seemed impressed. He asked if I was ever going to return to the US, and I told him I might go back and work in international relations. He told me he'd lived in Europe for a while, though he grew up in Petersburg, but had never been to the US.

"Would you like... maybe... go... around the Neva, with me? On boat?"

"Nyet, nyet," I said, smiling, not wanting to offend him, for a variety of reasons. I didn't look around to see if anyone else was in the park, lest he do the same and note its emptiness. He asked if there was somewhere I would prefer to go; I responded the same way. He looked at me strangely, threw his cigarette down, and walked off.

"Excuse me."

I walked off in the other direction, though it was farther away from my apartment, and lit another cigarette, as all the streetlamps were broken.

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