I liked floor_mice’s post so much I thought I’d translate it for the non-Russophones among us:
Not long ago we discovered a neighborhood… park? Well, a well-kept area under high-voltage wires, anyway, much like similar places in Russia where dog-lovers and pets walk their leashes. The difference is that throughout the “park” winds an asphalt path, the grass is mowed, the blackberry bushes are thoughtfully trimmed into little round islands so that you can pick the berries just by strolling around, without having to push through the brambles.
As you enter the park there’s a plywood board with simple rules: no alcoholic beverages, no fires, don’t let your dog off the leash, and be sure to pick up the… products of metabolic activity. And there’s a little roll of clean new black plastic bags, and all through the park are placed bins where the bags can be deposited when full.
All this is just setting the stage; the story follows.
So today I’m walking my basset hound; she’s as timid and shy as a
gazellegirl from the Smolny Institute, so as soon as we catch sight of another dog with its master, we want to know whether they’re friendly.
Coming towards us is a short, elderly gentleman, in a snow-white, ironed silk shirt, pants with a sharp crease, and Italian shoes. (Those who live in the States will understand why I stress these details of his clothing.) He’s walking a huge, magnificent, almost black Alsatian. Ears – THIS big! Muzzle – THIS big! Tail – Budyonny‘s shaggy saber.
Naturally, I want to find out from a distance whether they are friendly to sausage-dogs and other representatives of the animal kingdom, so I inquire. To which I immediately get the question: “What’s your native language?” Without a moment’s hesitation, I brazenly respond: “Russian, what’s yours?”
“You know,” the gentleman says politely, “I was born in Manchester and my wife is French, and at home we speak only French, so my dog doesn’t understand English words.”
“Oh, how well I understand,” I say. “My dog doesn’t have a clue about English, but in Russian she even gets the intonation.”
“What city in Russia would you be from?”
“I’d be from Leningrad,” I answer.
“Ah, so you too are from Europe!”
“Yes,” I say intelligently, “we’re practically neighbors on the map of Europe.”
“Do you know the word nostalgie?” he suddenly asks me.
“And do you like America? – you can say what you think, it won’t offend me either way.”
“I’m quite comfortable here, thanks,” I say.
“You know, I don’t care for it. I’ve lived here 45 years. Before it was all right, but now I’m always dreaming about Manchester. Nostalgie…
“Maybe it’s not America? Maybe you’re longing for the time when you were young?”
“You know,” he says, “my children have grown up here and graduated from college, I have a nice house, a beautiful car, money… but my wife speaks French in her dreams… she’s French, you know… and I dream of Manchester, I play children’s games there…”
“Nostalgie,” I say.
“Yes, my dog doesn’t understand a word of English,” he says, and his eyes swim away to Manchester.
“Mine too,” I say.
“Language is our nostalgie,” he says.
He takes my hand and presses it in his weak old-man’s handshake, like the touch of a child, and says something to his dog in French, and they go out by the path along which we’d just arrived.
“Well, let’s go home,” I tell my little sausage in Russian, and we leave the park without looking back.
Thanks to Tatyana for the link and for her help with Russian, and to Bonnie for her help with English.