Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Mystery of Sergei's Fight

When I woke up this morning, Saturday 27 February, I found Luba, her son Vitaly and his wife Natasha hovering over a sleeping Sergei. When I saw Sergei's face, I understood.

He looked like a battered boxer in the 9th round of a brutal fight. His eyes were black and blue and swollen shut, his lip was swollen and cut. His handsome face was bruised blue and yellow and covered with scratches and wounds. One of his hands was bruised, maybe with broken fingers. He was a sight, and I immediately felt bad for him. When he saw me he managed a grin and a weak wave, and mimicked a boxer punching it out.

What happened? I asked in Russian. I didn't get much of an answer, and I didn't understand in any case. I could tell Luba was upset, with a steadied calm that bespoke a mother's worry. Later the worry turned to mild anger, her body language indicating some displeasure with her son's behavior.

I surmised Sergei was in a fight, maybe a bar room brawl. but why, where, when, I do not know. Here's something I really want to know, I really want to understand, now, but I can't get the details. I want to ask if he gave as good as he got, too, but it'll have to wait. It's a mystery.

This is one of the most frustrating things about the language gap. If there has to be a new script to communicate a new situation, forget it. My Russian is inadequate to the task.

I have to live with the mystery until things become clear. I believe that in time, everything is illuminated. But by then the crisis is past, the heat of the moment has subsided, and you get in on the denouement, if that. When I really want to be in the now, I can't be there.

When google and the dictionary and writing out sentences in Russian fail, I usually turn to Natalia, my English-teaching friend at the university. I want to know what happened, I plead. Will you please call Luba and ask her what happened to Sergei, and will he be okay? And Natalia will do it and I'll know a little more.

At least I'll know enough to go back to the dictionary and google translate and up the communications a notch. It's a frustrating process, and more frustrating still because I don't think I'll ever be fluent enough to communicate on a truly meaningful level. Our feelings are strong, we know we care, it's just that words fail us.

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