Friday, July 15, 2016


coming up this August is the 20th anniversary of my arrival to the United States. i'm giving myself a gift and a challenge of posting some about 1996, in Russian and English.

here's one image I'm working with. Rochester, New York. a dorm hallway. September, a month after classes started. it's late afternoon, lots of kids are at home, doors thrown open, music pouring from each room and clashing. most of the kids in this dorm are men and most of the men are programmers. in each room there's a computer or two. some computers are without their cases, wires exposed, boards flashing. many kids have TVs. the microwave is in the hallway, and from it emanates the smell of popcorn. many kids are on the telephone. many are simply hanging out in the hallway, talking to each other in their brand of English that might as well be Martian for how little I understand it. nobody appears to be studying. in any case, there are lots of people to ask for help. I'm moving in, and I'm lost. the longer I'm walking back and forth, the more attention I attract to myself. 

I'm looking for a staircase to the second floor. the building clearly has a second floor, my instructions clearly state that my room is on the second floor. where is the staircase?

in one end of the hallway, a tall man with long purple hair and wearing a gown of a 19th century grande dame is going on about something to his entourage. I've never seen cross dressers before; I'm not familiar with the idea of gender-fluidity, and so I interpret each of his gestures is a miniature drama. he is a beacon--I recognize this guy, which means I've gone the wrong way again.

(though I'm only now moving into the dorm, I've been at the school since August and have already had the traumatic experience of walking through a closed door marked "Exit" and setting off a terribly shrieking siren. for the moment being, I've decided to assume, incorrectly, that all doors marked "Exit" are armed. generally I prefer to walk only through doors that somebody else has already opened.)

I try not to attract too much attention, but I've got a lot of stuff and I'm making plenty of noise. i'm conscious that the guys are staring at me. I'm 17 years old, hair down below my waist, dressed in a polyester summer dress, black with bright paisley print. (the dress also has shoulder pads--it's 1996.) I'm carrying a large duffel bag over one shoulder, a guitar over the other, and I'm dragging a suitcase (it does NOT have wheels).

one of the kids approaches: hey, I'm Wesley. Do you need help? and then, after I try to explain, what's your accent? where are you from?

he then leads me down the hall and around the corner, where another guy asks if I need help. his name is Dave. apparently my room is just above his.

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