You see a sentence
written in cyrillic. Some of the letters are familiar. You see the
meaning shimmering underneath the surface. You almost grasp it, but it slips away. The letters on the page mock you silently.
You know this Czech word. You’ve already learnt it in Polish. It is not the same word. It is a grave insult. Your slavic friends are shocked and embarassed for you when they hear you speak it.
There is a sentence in
Croatian. There is a sentence in Serbian. There is a sentence in
Bosnian. They are all the same sentence.
You have to write about your day in Slovak. You spend the night polishing the draft. You fail your assigment. It’s written in Czech. You don’t know Czech.
P is not what it seems. You have to remember that.
The Croatian sentence
does not mean what the Bosnian sentence means. They both mean the same in Serbian.
That word has a diminutive. The diminutive has its own diminutive. The diminutive of the diminutive also has a diminutive. Nobody knows what the final diminutive of a word is. Some say the knowledge had been lost in centuries past and matrioshkas are the echo, the tangible warning left for us to remember. No living creature should hold the means of diminishing something into nonexistence. Others say you may still find some of them in old soviet textbooks, if you dare to look in abandoned schools of Chernobyl.
Someone is speaking to you. Is that a he or a she? You aren’t sure. It’s an abstract concept. Why does it have gender.
You see a word in a
dictionary. It has seventeen letters and only one vowel. You close the dictionary very carefully not
looking at the phonetic transcription. The shape of it haunts you in
your sleep. You wake
up face damp with tears, a bitter taste on your tongue. The clock blinks 3:03AM. You do not dare look up that word again.
This word means the
same thing in the five slavic languages you’re familiar with. You use
it in the sixth one. That word does not exist in this language. It never
did. There is now a word-shaped void in the fabric of this language.
The natives look at you uneasily. There is a new quality to the silence and your palms start to sweat.
H is not H. H is not H. H is not H. H is not H.
One day you flip through your dictionary. A page is missing. What was the word? You can’t remember. There is pressure building at the back of your head. The clock blinks 3:03AM.
You write my name
is in cyrillic. There are shadows dancing on the walls. They grow
longer with each letter you write down. It is not cyrillic you’re
using. You keep writing my name is. The shadows now bleed from
the tip of your pen. It’s irrelevant. You need to remember the right
N is not N is not N is
not N is not N is not N is not N is not N is not N is not N is not N
is not… If only you could remember the letters. The letters are important. What was it, that wasn’t N?
There are nine different prefixes
you can add to a verb to change its meaning. There are fifty three different suffixes you have to add to a verb to make it
work. In the end the only thing left of the original is a vague shape
of one of its middle consonants.
You can feel the anguish radiating from the verb’s mutialted form. A desperate sob escapes through your clenched teeth.
You’re so, so sorry, you didn’t meant to. You didn’t. It doesn’t matter.
You now read a text in
Russian. You’ve never learnt Russian. Why are you reading that text? The words burn your eyes,
the meaning searing your mind.
There’s a shot of vodka in front of
you. You don’t drink alcohol. You don’t care. All existence is
meaningless, your soul’s in eternal pain. A broken matrioshka lays at your feet. There is no salvation, she says boring into your eyes. You open your mouth to answer, but there is only a burst of harsh rustle. It dies in whispering echoes a moment later. Your glass is empty again.
Yuuri barely has time to grab his jacket when he runs out the door, much less brush his hair or find a hat. Unfortunately, he’s sure that that means that his hair is an absolute mess. It’s been getting long again, but in between classes and helping Yura out with his routine on the weekends, he hasn’t had much time for things like haircuts. Besides, Victor doesn’t seem to mind it, and Yura likes to experiment hairstyles on Yuuri “so that if it looks stupid, I don’t have to see it on myself.”
It’s not that big a deal, except on days like this, when he sleeps in (thanks a lot Vitya) and doesn’t have the time to really get it under control. He usually meets up with his friends before class, and he doesn’t doubt that they’ll notice, and probably tease him about it.
“Yuuri!” Estephania gasps, sounding too scandalized for her words to be anything but teasing. “What on earth happened to your hair?”
Yuuri flushes. “I was running late,” he mumbles.
Richard snorts. “You sure? Because that looks more like sex hair to me, man.”
“Ooh, he’s right,” Estephania coos before Yuuri can protest.
He wonders if it’s possible to die of embarrassment (especially since they’re not entirely wrong). “No, really I–”
“We know, sweetie.” She reaches up and moves his hair around a bit, trying to make it look presentable. “You’re just too easy to tease.”
“You sure you’re really twenty seven?” Richard raises an eyebrow.
Yuuri just smiles at the ground in fond humiliation (apparently it’s not a common emotion, but it’s a little hard not to be used to the feeling when he’s married to the world’s biggest drama queen) and nods. “I am.”
His friends are too much sometimes, he admits. Richard is the embodiment of America in a lot of ways: loud, completely lacking a sense of social norms, a walking personification of testosterone. Estephania is less… everything… than Richard, but she’s very touchy and affectionate in an entirely platonic way that reminds Yuuri a lot of Christophe, only without all of the innuendo. But they’re both loyal down to their very core, and they’re not bad people.
His phone starts ringing, Stammi Vicino playing loudly. Yuuri picks up, keeping his phone away from Estephania’s hands. “Да, Vitya?”
“Dude! You speak Russian too?” Richard looks like Yuuri just smacked him in the face. The school year just started, so they’re all still learning about each other.
Yuuri just smiles, since Victor is in the middle of one of his usual mid-morning crises. “Vitya, calm down,” he says in Russian. “Makkachin is probably out with Yura. You know he takes her for walks sometimes. Have you seen him today?”
He manages to get Victor off the phone just before class starts, flipping his phone to airplane mode since he’s sure that this isn’t the last he’ll be hearing from his lovable trainwreck of a husband.