Monday, October 25, 2010

The Words Gift

I am teaching myself Russian. Because, as with poker, I have tried to learn it about seven separate times and have stopped paying attention halfway into the alphabet. Because I learned French and can therefore figure out Spanish and Italian and I want a real, cry-yourself-to-sleep-in-a-physics-book challenge. Because my dad knows it and I feel left out.

But the real reason is because I want to and I can. I know I can because it's words. And I like words.

I like words the way other people like bendy straws or porcelain gnomes. I have notebooks full of quotes from books, movies and song lyrics. A collection dedicated to the science of the turn of a phrase. These notebooks are currently in storage, as part of the streamlining process I will share with you all soon. But the lifeblood of those sentences was too much a part of my consciousness to throw out.

This collection dates back to high school, when I started my first notebook of quotes. They track from the lamely familiar to the embarrassingly angst-riddled. They morph from novel excerpts to Nike advertisements to dialog from Friends episodes. And somewhere along the line they informed an entirely new subset of language created by my best friend, K, and I. Not that we spoke with words unintelligible to the entire public, but we had a set of words to describe people and things the full meaning of which was entirely un-discernible.

For Christmas one year in high school, I made a photo collage of the two of us. This is a highly non-original gift idea for a high schooler. (Let's be honest - high school students will turn anything into a collage. One time I even collage-d a trash can. But that is a gift for another time.) For this collage, I bought a frame that had a wide mat. Using a purple, glitter, gel pen (give me a break, I was 15,) I wrote all over the mat:


Just words. But to the two of us, they are how we communicated, how we connected, how we made sense of being 15. They are the basis for the language of friendship. Of best friendship. And for whatever reason, we still both talk like this to each other. Seriously.

In the past few months of upheaval, the language of friendship has become paramount for me. I am extraordinarily lucky to have not only purely lovely friends, but ones who are eloquent on top of their awesomeness. I'm going to feature a sampling of these here in the next few posts. Just know that they are each written by someone I know and hold dear which makes each golden drop of thought that much more brilliant. Like an enormous vat of glittery purple ink.

But in the meantime, I am teaching myself Russian.

I am two hours in to my self-study. I am at Borders, accompanied by a latte and a soft-cover book. I am sounding out the letters and can now successfully read celebrity names written in Cyrillic characters. I am, however, doing this aloud for no particular reason other than I want to feel the sounds in my throat.


I look up to see the 300 pound man behind me staring with his mouth open. He has at least thirty cookbooks spread over his table like a fort of yummy pictures. Some of them have papers sticking out and others are waiting for their turn to dive off of a column and into the wreckage of the middle of the table. I wonder if he is a chef. And then I wonder if you are allowed to take recipes out of books if you are a chef. And then I realize that I am staring back.

Managing a half-smile, I turn around and continue to practice being a three-year-old Russian child.


The illegal chef surely heard this. Maybe he wouldn't understand. Maybe he doesn't know that instead of being a mildly illiterate psycho, I actually just read Shakespeare in Russian. And Shakespeare loves words too.

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