Tim. The Russian.

It was time to venture out without the kids and be footloose and fancy-free. At least as footloose as flip-flops, a sarong, and white t-shirt allows.

I never know whether to sit in the front as the passenger or in the back like a child with a safety seat. Since it was just me I chose the front, not wanting the driver to feel like I didn’t think he was good enough to sit next to.

His name was Tim and he was Russian, a nice addition to the accents I’d quickly grown accustomed to. As the car pulled away from the villa I knew we’d hit small talk because my next location was thirty minutes away.

After we introduced ourselves I asked him where he was born, and when he told me it was Russia I asked him why he left. After I heard myself say it, it was clear how insulting it may have come across so I changed it to ask what interested him in coming to the village we were in.

He was extremely soft spoken and the roads were loud so I had to lean in to hear him, which of course broke the personal space rule. He was wearing a black suit, something a limo chauffeur would wear, minus the hat. His hair had been recently cut and he wore a full beard manicured to excellence. He smelled like something I should have been able to name but never did. He was decidedly charming with little effort.

My head went places it shouldn’t have as he began telling me about how difficult it was to live in Russia and how he was only there a short while before he’d be transiting to the US. I kept asking questions, fascinated with the courage it must have taken him to leave home where his parents, sisters, brothers, cousins, and friends had lived all their lives. He planned to take his imagination and use it as a lasso for the American dream.

After about fifteen minutes of listening to him I realized he was a baby, half my age in fact. The thoughts I’d initially had came from sexual energy he exhuded to the tenth degree and I had to tell myself it wasn’t for me, that it was just a sensation that some people emanate from within until the buildup falls from skin cells arousing anyone nearby that allows a snowflake of yearning to melt on their tongue.

Snapping myself out of it I then asked how long he planned to stay and what would be required for immigration not to send him back home. He said there were education and work visa’s he planned to use, but that it would be simpler to find a woman and get married. Turns out the only reason he’s admittedly single is because he works around the clock, feeding into the idea that hard work requires a complete sacrifice of self to be successful.

I asked some questions about that, not in an attempt to sway him but to put out the energy of reconsideration. What was he really hoping to obtain from the American dream? What did it look and feel like? Who was he wanting to experience it with? How closely aligned was his hard work in relation to his visions?

He didn’t speak English well and neither do I, so between my trying to help him find the words for his expressions, he found humor in the way I spoke too. I told him he should make time for friends and relationships with girls. He tells me his Mom calls him pretty and I think he means to use the word good-looking but he says no, it’s a Russian joke when a Mom calls her son pretty. He said his Mom said he is too soft, too sweet, and that American girls want a strong stoic man, someone who speaks with more command and confidence in language.

I told him American girls love soft and sweet men, and shared that one of my sons who is soft and sweet is in a relationship with a girl who loves that about him. We laugh. He tells me Russian jokes I don’t understand but I laugh anyway because his English is so bad and he’s laughing before the punch line is said.

Thirty minutes passed quickly and he tried quite awkwardly to tell me he enjoyed the ride with me before coming over to open my door before I had a chance to jump out. We stood there, complete strangers unsure how to say goodbye. I reached out my hand to shake his and wished him well on his journey, and much success with the girl he finds that loves him just for he who is, and with a wave, my soft-spoken friend was gone.

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