Monday, August 31, 2009

70: The English Experiment

I don't know if it was all that turkey or what, but when I slept on Thursday night, it was like the sleep of the dead. If I dreamt, I don't remember about what. I don't even think I rolled over once, because I woke up in exactly the same position I fell asleep in.

After waking up on Friday, I proceeded through my day groggily and on autopilot. I hated working on Black Friday. It's not like I wanted to go shopping at the stores or anything like that; it's just that I didn't understand the point of enjoying a Thursday off, going back to work for one stupid day, and then having the weekend off. It seemed so asinine.

As soon as I got into work, the first thing I did was head to the coffee pot and start brewing a strong cup. I was simply not awake.

Steve strolled in around nine, and he regaled us with stories of his disastrous Thanksgiving. His holidays were always catastrophic because he hated his mother-in-law. When he finished his nightmarish tale, he asked me, "How was your Turkey Day?"

"Oh, good," I said, still not clearheaded enough to process everything. "You know how it is when you get the family together. It's loud and obnoxious."

"Didn't you tell me you were bringing Sid along? How did that go?"

"Besides from my grandfather accusing Sid of wanting to be a sperm donor before asking when he was planning on popping the question? Really well," I laughed. Steve made a face like my family was way crazier than his. "But Sid fit in just great. He knows how to make people love him, that's for sure. But he didn't get to stay late after dinner, because he had to fly out this morning for the game in New York against the Islanders."

"It must be nice to know that he fits in well with your family," Steve sighed. "Because my mother-in-law is insane. Just wait until your family meets his family. That's always fun."

I smiled at him and agreed, but I was so thankful that I still wasn't awake enough to let my mind wander where it usually would. I was downright sick of hearing about families and futures, and how that all applied to Sidney and myself. Things had happened so fast that we needed to just slow it down a bit and enjoy what we had in the present. If it worked out, then we'd deal with it when we needed to.

No one really felt like working in the office today. The boss was out of town visiting his family, which meant no one else was able to take vacation days. But, since he was out of the office, we got to goof off and didn't really need to be too productive. We ordered in from the local deli and took a long lunch break. I didn't participate much in the ongoing conversations because I didn't have a lot in common with my coworkers. They were all in their late twenties or thirties, with spouses and kids to greet them at the end of the day. I had been hired a month after my graduation and still had that party-streak left in me. They mostly talked about family portraits and birthday parties.

It's not that they weren't nice people; my coworkers were quite possibly the nicest folks on the planet. Lisa was an English major, like me, so we talked about the good books we read in our spare time and gave each other recommendations. And Steve was one of the few hockey fans I knew, so he was my main person to talk to about the game and the team. Except the boys, of course.

After work, I headed straight to Pittsburgh, which had become so routine for me. I had turned down Véro's offer to come over and watch the game with The Girlfriends because I was looking forward to a quiet night to myself for a change. No busying myself with research for my attempt to help Evgeni, no sold-out arena full of seventeen thousand like-minded hockey fans, no packed house for a hectic holiday. Just myself, a hockey game on TV, a beer, and a frozen supreme pizza.

When I got to Sid's, I let myself in and really enjoyed the feeling of doing that. I wasn't doing that because I had a reason to stop by, and Sidney didn't even know that I was doing this either. The temptation of relaxing alone in his house was too much for me to resist. The first thing I did was slip into a pair of his sweatpants and one of his old tee shirts. Then I started to preheat the oven, twisted off the crown cap of a Miller Lite, and curled up on the couch. This was going to be the perfect Friday night.

During the first intermission of the game, while the Pens were up one nothing against the Islanders, I texted back and forth with Eva to see what she was up to. She was using the school break over Thanksgiving to put in some extra hours at work and also to hammer out a paper for her psychology class. We promised that we'd get together soon, since it had been a while since we'd last seen each other. In a few weeks, her semester would be over, and although her work schedule would pick up again, we'd have more opportunities to hang out and enjoy each other's company again.

The second period began, and I screamed at the refs and linesmen between bites of slightly burnt pizza and guzzles of beer. It felt so good to do nothing, and especially to not worry about appearances. At the arena, I had to watch my language and tame my fanaticism. In the confines of these walls, I could yell and cheer as loudly as I wanted. Oh, I missed this simplicity.

Sidney gave a quick interview as he left the ice for the second intermission after a scoreless second period. He seemed so different on the ice, in his uniform, as his image was being broadcasted through the airwaves. Perhaps it was because he made playing look so effortless. Like all the training he did in the gym only served to make the ice his home; like he truly was a penguin that only was whole when he was in the Igloo. But as much as I knew how he was at peace on the ice, he never smiled for the camera. Sid gave his roundabout, politically correct answers, nodded his head and said thank you to Dan Potash, and headed for the dressing room for his twenty minutes before the third period.

Even though I had seen Sidney on television since we had begun dating, this was the first time that I had faced the juxtaposition of Sidney Crosby, Captain of the Penguins and Sid, my boyfriend. I guess it was seeing him on the screen while I was sitting in his house. It was so... weird. There was no other way to describe it. Since I had gotten to know him, he had become less of the superstar hockey player and more like a normal, everyday guy.

The Pens gave up their one-goal lead and ended up losing the game. I didn't want to watch the interviews after the loss, so I clicked the power button on the remote and headed up to Sidney's bedroom. His bed was so soft and inviting, and I crawled in and spread out, enjoying sleeping in the middle of the mattress without worrying about hogging the blankets or sleeping on his arm and ultimately making it fall asleep.

Sidney nudged me when he made it home. Immediately, I could tell he wasn't in the mood for me to playfully continue to take up the entire bed. I rolled to one side and allowed him to slide under the covers next to me.

"Hey," I whispered, afraid to mention the game for fear of his reaction.

"Hey," he said back. And that was it. No "good night," no "sweet dreams." Not even a kiss on the cheek. Sidney tossed and turned, unable to fall asleep; his restlessness prevented me from returning to my own dreamland. Which caused us both to roll out of the wrong side of the bed in the morning.

I tried to let it go; I knew that Sidney was distraught about the loss, and that all he needed was a little time to work through it. After all, I knew exactly what it was like to need space to overcome feelings of frustration and uncertainty. We were very alike that way.

Besides, I had my own anxieties eating away at my nerves. Geno was coming over to Sid's after his pregame nap for his first English lesson. I had my lesson plan and all my materials, but I was still worried that this afternoon would dissolve into disaster.

We didn't stray from the routine: morning skate, pregame meal, nap. Except I didn't join Sidney as he left for the arena, because Evgeni showed up, eager to learn. "You ready Noelle? I ready too!" he said, as I led him into the kitchen as Sid was finishing up his pregame snack. "Oh hi, Sid. You here learn English too?"

I snickered, but Sidney was off in his own world and had no time for the Russian's jokes. He left the room, and I immediately got down to business. "Okay, Evgeni, what do you say we get started?"

"You the boss," he smiled, sitting down at the table and finding my Russian-English dictionary and a blank notebook.

"You are the boss," I corrected him. Geno nodded, and we delved into what I had planned. I asked him the questions I had written as if I were a reporter, for example, "Are you surprised at how well you're playing? How do you feel about how so-and-so is playing?" I let him think of what he would like to say, so he wouldn't feel like I was putting words in his mouth, and then I just helped him round out his answers. "I can't guarantee that these will be questions you'll be asked, but they seem to be pretty standard," I explained.

After we worked on the hockey-related portion of my lesson, I gave him some homework. "Everyday, I want you to look up a new English word. I want you to write it down in your notebook, and write out the definition, too. Then, you have to use that word at least once in your conversations that day. Do you understand?"

"Yeah. You make me work every day. No fun," he laughed.

"It will be plenty of fun, I promise. Do you have any questions for me?" I asked, glancing at the time on the microwave. Evgeni really should be heading for the arena, and I was going to ride with him.

"Um, yes. You help Max? You help me, too?"

I was utterly confused, and not just because of the poor syntax. "I don't know what you're talking about, G. You have to be a little more specific."

"Max say you give girl advice. You give me, too?"

"Oh, you want me to give you advice on Oksana?" I asked, and he nodded feverishly. "I'm not sure I'm the best one to be asking, Geno."

"Why not? I see you and Sid. You can help."

I wanted to laugh at his logic. Sidney and I were far from perfect, but I guess it would appear that way to some people. "Okay, I'll do my best. What's up?"

"Okana not want me learn English. She say I dump her for American girl."

"She thinks that if you learn English, you won't want to date a Russian girl anymore?" He nodded. "That's silly. I mean, you're learning the language for your job, not because you're going on some two-week cruise to pick up chicks. And besides, no American girl is ever going to fully understand your culture and background like Oksana can."

"See, I tell her that. She not believe me. The guys say I should dump her. She not understand. She, uh. She... goal digger?"

"Um, a gold digger?"

His eyes lit up. "Yeah, that. But I don't know."

I paused and bit my lip. This wasn't what I was expecting with giving my first English lesson. "I can't tell you whether or not you should be with her. You've got to decide that on your own."

"You think she gold digger?"

I really didn't want to get wrangled into this. Oksana and I had met only once, and that was back in August. I didn't get the greatest impression from her, but first impressions shouldn't always be given much weight—I had read Pride and Prejudice enough times to know that. "I don't know her. It's not fair for me to pass judgment. The only thing I know about her is that she's divorcing her rich husband for a richer boyfriend. So, I can see why the guys think she's shady. But you're the one that knows her, Geno. You know in your heart if she loves you, and you know if you feel like you should be with her."

He nodded, but he still seemed disappointed, like he wanted me to give him a definitive answer. But I knew just how hard relationships could be, especially when everyone around you wanted to put in their two cents. Geno grabbed the blank notebook and dictionary, and we started to head out to his Jag so we could go to the Mellon.

I noticed an envelope on the table. "Yo, Evgeni, I think this is yours."

This time, he shook his head. "No. It yours. It your... Sid tell me. Uh." I watched as the gears turned in his head as he searched for the word he wanted, enunciating it very carefully. "Compensation." Geno beamed, evidently proud of himself.

"I don't want it, Evgeni. I'm not doing this for money," I explained. "And if Sidney told you to do this, I'm going to—"

"No, Noelle. I want to. You help me."

When Geno turned his back, my curiosity got the best of me, and I peeked into the envelope. I saw three crisp bills, and I gasped. I computed quickly in my head and figured that this was practically twenty times what I make per hour at my full-time job. Reaching out, I grabbed Evgeni's arm. "I absolutely, positively cannot take this from you," I stated, handing him back that amount.

"Too bad," he said with that lopsided grin. "Sid say you fight me. But I bigger than you. I make you. You take. I ask, and that much fair."

I shook my head. There's no use arguing with some people, and Evgeni is one of those guys that just doesn't take no for an answer. I felt horrible taking his money, because I didn't even know if any of what I was doing was going to help him. In the end, I decided that I'd put the money aside, vowing to return it if his English didn't begin to improve after a few more sessions.


  1. Haha she thinks he's only going to pay her once? That was awesome!

    "Too bad," he said with that lopsided grin. "Sid say you fight me. But I bigger than you. I make you. You take. I ask, and that much fair."
    ^^ Funniest line ever!

  2. Loved it, especially the English lesson and back and forth between Nelly and's a question for the all the commenters - is Oksana a gold digger?

  3. Awesome chapter, and I loved the banter between her and Geno!

    As for Oksana, I haven't been able to make up my mind. My friend loves Geno so automatically says she is a GD, but I don't wanna judge her since I don't know her.
    But if she really is divorcing a rich person for a richer guy... that does seem a little iffy...

  4. LOLOLOL ok I totally flipped out at the same line Heather's talking about... hilarious!

    And oh Geno... is there anyone that can't love you?? /sigh what a cutie!

    I loved their interactions and I really hope to see more of it in the future... wonderful update =D

  5. Hmm Seems as if Nelly and Sid are leaving the honeymoon phase??

    Like the other commenters, I loved the interaction between Nelly and Geno. But I must ask, is that true about her divorcing a rich hubby? If so, I'm going to throw in my two cents and say yes, I think she may be a GD...

  6. My opinion on Oksana is I don't trust her one bit.
    I think she is already divorced from the rich Business man.
    Very cute chapter. I also loved the interaction with Nelly & Geno!

    Keep up the good work! =-)

  7. sounds like nelly is having more fun without sid than with i smell trouble in paradise...?
    loved the english lesson also!!!

    as for Oksana i dont know her, i have only seen pictures of her. she is very brautiful, not that that makes her a gd.

    *IN THIS STORY HOWEVER*- I think that her not wanting geno to learn english is totally selfish and uncarring, so IN THIS STORY id have to say yes, she is (but i dont know about real like)

  8. AHHHH I love Geno! Great chapter Jay! Can't wait until tomorrow

  9. Geno is so cute. Loved it!

  10. I loved this chapter! It made me smile so much because Geno is adorable in this story.

    I really hope that Sid and Noelle can chat soon about him being such a bitch after losses. He can't treat her that way and he's taking her for granted if he keeps doing it!

    She should suckerpunch him ;D

  11. I loved this chapter and i loved the English lesson jay your the best

    OMG i feel stupid for asking this but isnt the post supposed to be up now maybe its my computer but now i feel really stupid and i dont no why

  12. now i feel really stupid its september god i think i lost my brain