The Same in Russian

She is here tonight, sleeping at a terminal. It's comfortable in the lab tonight, warm even, but she is cold. In addition to a sweatshirt, she wears a knitted hat, scarf, and gloves - a matching set. Her ever-present iPod is oddly missing tonight.

So is Ag Boy. As I suspected, they've split up.

He had really tried. She was beautiful, smart, and really excited about him, so he had tried to be excited about her. After about the third week, he knew she was much more interested in him than he was in her. His previous romantic experience had consisted of 6 months of sexless dating in high school and one frantic evening in a dorm room his sophomore year, so he was in no shape to handle what she had to offer. The knowledge of what it meant to be loved by her came into focus side-by-side with his own inadequacies. Fear won the day, and he withdrew. After week five, he began to envision the end. He planned how he'd tell her, when, and where.

He wanted to be classy about it. He had pondered flowers and a well-written letter explaining his reasons for letting her go, including a rational argument that proved he was acting in her best interest - but he knew he was no writer, and the desire to end it was a protective measure for himself anyway. The semester dragged on - week nine, week eleven.

He thought about starting a fight with her. Her English wasn't all that good so he figured it would be easy - he'd win the fight and break it off at the same time, and if he played it right she'd even walk away hating him, so there was no chance of attempts at reconciliation. The problem was, she gave him no reason to fight. She was sweet, kind, and attentive in a way that was dead in American girls. Week twelve.

In the end, he decided to just sit down and talk with her. His older sister had even been in favor of this plan and she never approved of anything he did, so he thought he must be on the right track. He tried to choose the day carefully, so as to not interfere with any of her tests or big assignments - after all, he was just a coward, not a complete jerk. A Wednesday was chosen, when they would meet for dinner as usual.

He hadn't counted on the Russian. He was prepared for tears, or maybe even angry accusations, but not the steady stream of Russian that fell from her lips. It didn't seem like curses, nor was it the sweet purring of their intimate moments; more like the self-talk of the homeless, the addicted, the broken.

"We need to talk." He cringed as the lame words hit the floor between them. She knew immediately - apparently that's how break-up speeches start in Russia, too. She nodded that she understood, and started to stuff things into her backpack. He stopped her, sat her back down. Somehow, it seemed wrong for her to let him off that easily. Some part of him wanted the misery of talking it through, to purge him and punish him for being too weak to be with her.

She listened as he explained. At some point she had been nodding - the distance between them made sense now - and a few murmered Russian words of acknowledgement had escaped her lips.
"да, я понимаю." (Yes, I understand.)

He hadn't heard. She removed his blue sweater, mussing her hair in the process.
"Вы ломаете вверх с мной." (You are breaking up with me.)

He couldn't have understood, of course. He was still talking, about graduation, and grad school, and long distance relationships, and cultural differences, and how he couldn't live overseas.
"Вы до конца с мной." (You are through with me.)

He heard her. "What was that?"
"Вы не полюбите меня больше." (You don't love me anymore.)

"Мы не находимся в влюбленности." (We are not in love.)

"I don't understand."
"Да, но я сделайте." (Yes, but I do.)

It went like this for several more minutes. She folded the sweater and placed it before him on the table like an offering, all the while telling him in Russian that she had enjoyed wearing it, that it needed to be dry cleaned, and that it needed to be repaired on the right sleeve.

By the end, he was stammering. She slowly packed her bag, then touched his face while saying "Я должен пойти классифицировать" (I have to go to class).

Without the blue sweater, the wind was sharper as she crossed campus. She fished out her gloves, scarf, and hat. She forgot about class, and came to the lab instead. She's still here. I'm glad to watch over her, and happy she's able to sleep.


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