Sunday, September 16, 2018


Not a word of English was spoken from when I got off the subway outside my aunt’s place to when I got back on the subway after the burial to catch my train back to DC. The service itself was in Russian; the funeral home workers addressed us in Russian from the second we walked in; and the directions to the cemetery and other instructions were in Russian as well.

I was the only person there who functioned more fully in English than Russian, but I didn’t stand out in any way and nobody would have guessed. When I got back to Manhattan,  got in line at Cinnamon Snail outside Penn Station, and ordered a beastmode burger, nobody would have guessed that I’d come from another world. There was probably at least one other person in the same line and countless others in other lines that might have come from another world that morning; they didn’t necessarily show it (and maybe some of the ones who looked like they might have been immigrants, weren’t).

At the office the next day, my coworker asked me if I’d met one of the new interns, who speaks Russian. People had been directing her to him, because he once spoke Russian (passably, in his own words). It didn’t cross the minds of those people, some of whom know me well,  to send her to me (he suggested it) because I code-switch so thoroughly that they can’t see me as Russian. I don’t fit the image, which is how I prefer it. But it never ceases to fascinate me how even good friends of mine (even those who are aware of my heritage) can’t get their heads around how fresh-off-the-boat I am. Code-switching can be exhausting, but it’s quite the magic trick when you pull it off.

No comments: