I Speaks Russian--Does You Speaks Russian?


Metro It was just after five o’clock. I stood in the aisle of the crowded Metro train, clutching the steel bar overhead, trying to sway with the motion of the bus's stops and starts. We emerged from a tunnel--en route to Vienna--and afternoon sunlight poured through the windows, warming the passengers, who were warm enough without it on this day that had reached 100 degrees.

You wouldn't have known he was tall if he'd stayed sitting. But the man rose from his aisle seat and shuffled his way toward the exit, near where I stood. He wore bright blue shorts that barely reached halfway down his thighs. A fanny pack hung around his waist, and a yellow hat struggled to contain tufts of gray hair.

"I speaks Russian--does you speaks Russian?" I didn't realize he was addressing me at first. It was quiet on the Metro, everyone withdrawn into his or her own world of headphones or books. I pulled myself out of my daze enough to shake my head.

The man in the blue shorts directed the question to someone else standing nearby. "I speaks Russian--does you speaks Russian?" Another negative response. The man took small steps down the aisle, repeating his question to anyone who didn't avoid meeting his eyes--his eyes which revealed a quiet, un-named desperation.

And then the Metro did what it does--it lurched. The man in the shorts--still ambling down the aisle, now without a handhold--never had a chance. He fell backwards, landing on his backside with a thud. We all stared. But he didn't move. Instead, he leaned forward, resting his forehead on his knees, taking deep breaths.


Comments:

Maybe keep a card w/ info on this church to give him in case you see him again: http://www.stjohndc.org/.
That's interesting. I never considered that maybe all he wanted to do was talk. I guess I assumed he needed something, like directions. When, really, it seems no less tragic either way.
As a witness of this incident, it was quite sad and I know exactly how you feel Devin. I felt so bad for this man, especially when he fell. As I peered down the rickety cart carrying what seemed to be nothing but insensitive people, I kept murmuring, “Oh no. Is he okay? Somebody help him up. Please help him up.” Finally, he either got up on his own or somebody decided that they could stop being preoccupied with doing absolutely nothing to help him. I just kept wishing over and over again that somebody, anybody, even if it came from the complete other side of the cart, would say they spoke Russian. Goodness, I wanted to speak Russian just to make him feel better, comforted and not alone. I kept hoping that he wasn’t lost and needed directions; especially when he decided to suddenly get off the metro know sooner then we came to a stop. However, seeing him hobble off the metro only heightened my desperation for him to find somebody to talk to because after reading your post and replaying the scene over in my head, I think that’s all he really wanted to do. Talk.
Great post, Devin. I was actually on the Orange Line a couple months ago and was asked the same question by (I'm fairly certain) the same strange subway traveler. My prayer for him was similar to yours. I'm not sure what he thinks he's looking for, but I hope that he finds what he really needs.




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