Ekatarina thought I wanted to have an affair with her when I said I wanted her to help me meet a naughty Russian girl. Indeed, it’s a strange world of language when skating on thin ice will get you into hot water…

Ekatarina is getting to be a pain in the derriere.

Now I already know I am. But I am an acquired taste. In fact, when some folks notify me I am being a pain in the butt I tell them: Well, roll over!

Hmm…I wonder what I mean by that?

Anyway, Ekatarina is a different story.

With her and me there is something lost in translation. You see, Ekatarina thought I wanted to have an affair with her. It took me a while to figure this out. Because I wanted to have an affair. But not with her. But with a naughty Russian girl I wanted her to introduce me to.

Are you following me here?

Ekatarina is from St. Petersburg. Not Florida, but Russia. Her English is 100 times better than my Russian. But when we speak it seems that out of the 4,076 known languages on the planet, we aren’t participating in a common one.

I am thinking it definitely has to do with the nuances and idioms and subtleties that make truly understanding English nearly traumatizing. Either that or my English is as bad as my Russian.

Hmm….to tell you how bad, in previous days in Russia, my translator often felt the need to translate my Russian into Russian.

Anyway, Ekatarina who is six feet and all woman is reinventing herself.

She has a husband and two teenagers. But she is also a survivor. She had a rare cancer that seems only to strike Eastern European Jews — better known as Ashkenazim. And after undergoing some dramatic treatment in Russia and America for her ovarian cancer she made some life changing decisions in the past three years.

She wants to live…really live. She wants to jump both feet into the adventure pool of life.

“I want to be an independent woman,” she explained about two conversations after our awkward initial verbal parlay.


I wasn’t quite following the fog light here. But I learned her husband was a decent man. He did come through being all supportive in the hard times during the mortal combat in the cancer wars. Nevertheless her feelings for him have turned tepid.

Now she has other calls of the wild and yearning escapades tugging at her. She struggles against the suffocation that tyrannizes many survivors when they sense the Big Elephant, the vastness between their being and nothingness.

Suddenly there is never enough oxygen in the room to satisfy the demanding desire of reinvigorated lungs.

And after her kids are grown she wants out. She needs her independence.


Which is how we first engaged in conversation. I had met her briefly in a Salsa dancing class. And then more than six months later we bumped coffee cups in a café. And during our flirtatious interlude she told me of the start-up difficulties she was undergoing with her new medical research company in St. Petersburg. It has to do with stem cell research and cancer cells.

So I connected her with some lawyers and business folks. And she wondered how she was ever going to repay me. I said: “You’ve got to buy all the bourbon I can drink in an afternoon and get me a naughty Russian girl.”

Sounds simple enough.

But she found me unamusing. That’s the trouble with bright women with advanced scientific degrees. Then again, humor is the first of the gifts to perish in a foreign tongue. When I tell Ekatarina a joke or a funny pun I have to sit back and wait for the long-delayed laughter. Kind of the same reason you never tell a WASP a joke on Saturday night: because he suddenly starts laughing during the Sunday morning sermon.

Okay, wasn’t I being quite clear and straightforward with Ekatarina ?

Yet, my first clue that things weren’t as they seemed was when I ended up paying for that afternoon of bourbon.

Maybe I was too drunk to know that there are times and occasions when you are not required to be a gentleman – in any culture.

Later I would receive e-mails on her progress in St. Petersburg. I would offer my two-cents of advice. She would send me change. Once I even reminded her of the debt.

A few weeks after she returned to Philadelphia she sent me an e-mail stating that shortly she was going on a vacation to Goa. That’s a seaside resort in India where many Brits and Russians vacation. And would I like to join her there.


Of course it was tempting. We probably would never have discovered there was an ocean outside our door.

But I’ve been there. Done that. I don’t do that with married women no more. When the affair’s over – and it always has to end – they go back to their husbands, and I go back to empty memories.  Which, I must admit, the memories of empty sex are often better than living with them. Which, come to think of it… now why is it I didn’t go to Goa?

Anyway, I messaged her my angst and annoyance. And she wrote me back that she didn’t understand. Or that she misunderstood. Perhaps I could meet her girlfriend in St. Petersburg. (Oh, now there’s a G-U.)  But other than that she simply didn’t know how to go about introducing me to a ‘naughty” Russian woman. And maybe I should…

Heck, girlfriend, I said, I don’t care much if they even have arms and legs. I just want to sleep with someone I don’t have to inflate. I mean I am just trying to meet some other women who are vetted, already, by people who may have a better idea of my naughty taste than a taxidermist.

Geez…. Do a favor, put in some time, pay for your own bourbon and get more bad TV. Actually I don’t do favors expecting much in return. Besides what do you get a man who has everything? Except perhaps a shot of penicillin?  That is ‘before’ you introduce me to your sister.

And in hindsight, I am not really annoyed with Ekatarina . I really find the whole matter humorous. What it reminds me of is something learned long ago about even a common language being a common barrier to communication.

It’s no secret in America that English is hardly spoken here. Hell, they speak better English in Scandinavia than we do.

Folks from the Northeast don’t understand the folks from Wyoming where dogs don’t bark at parked cars. And nobody understands Texas where it’s never anyone’s first rodeo. And toothpicks are turned into lumberyards.

We are misunderstood because we are sloppy. We are inconsiderate. We don’t speaka no gooda English. We don’t speak distinctly. And we’re too damn lazy and self indulgent to understand that to love your neighbor you’ve got to speak his language so he doesn’t think you want to do unnatural acts with his sheep.

Knowing Ekatarina has made me more human. And speak more humanly. She reminds me I am not alone. We are both survivors from different wars seeking the world’s jubilees.

And because of her, not only is my Russian better, but she forces me to speak better English—English that is better framed with words and shorter sentences so it can be better understood, not misunderstood.

Indeed, it’s a strange world of language when skating on thin ice can get you into hot water.

And dats yDrewIS on DIS penal colony

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