Jack had a disastrous week. His personal world seemed to be breaking into scraps—the last thing he wanted to do was wake up early and go to work. But that was exactly what Jack had to do. Drowsy and having no enthusiasm about working on a Wednesday, he left his claustrophobic-inducing apartment, and wormed his way into a crowded, sultry bus, dozing off while leaning against a sweaty handrail. In his dream, he was lying on a river shore, unemployed, but free.
The sudden hiss of the bus door opening awoke him, and he noticed it was his stop; he hurriedly rolled out of the bus, coughing as exhaust poured over him. Not the best beginning of the day… well, nothing new, he thought.
Jack’s work day began in about 30 minutes, so he decided to take a walk around the block to try to gather his senses and adjust himself to another nettlesome day. His existence was not so decrepit as it could seem—he was a decent guy with an abundance of friends and hobbies, a tolerable job, and reasonable plans for the future. But for some reason, this August had been too harsh for him, and he felt off his rails.
While wandering, he ran into a couple: a young man and woman talking to each other in a foreign language. Jack decided the language they were speaking was Russian. Tourists, he thought, and they were going to pass by, but the woman called to him in crooked English:
“Excuze me! Could help us prease?”
Her pronunciation was horrible—just like the ones you can hear in Hollywood movies about Russian mafias.
“Yes, how can I help you?”
“We are tourist, lost. Need “Dolphin” hotel. You know where is?”
She was visibly courageous as she waded through the jungle marsh of a foreign language.
“I’m sorry, I don’t know. I beg your pardon… I’m in a hurry,” Jack said, and moved off. He wasn’t in a hurry at all, and he knew where the hotel was (a couple of blocks away, actually), but he was so delved into his problems and his bad mood that he lied mechanically. He felt sullied with guilt; after walking about 100 feet, he turned back: luckily, the couple was still there. They looked bewildered… he imagined himself being in a city as huge as New York for the first time, knowing only a couple of English words, and shivered. He walked up to them.
“I remembered where the “Dolphin” hotel is. I’m sorry, I just got confused: there are hundreds of hotels in New York. It’s not far from here: you can walk there by feet. You need to go straight to that crossroad, then turn right, and walk about 500 feet more. There you will see an old catholic church, and a Burger King. Turn to the left, cross the road, and walk down the street till you see a white-blue 5-storeyed building. That will be the hotel you’re looking for.”
The couple thanked him, and Jack left lightly this time. But when he turned his back, he saw the couple was still there, and the look on their faces was the same. Maybe I was talking too quickly, and they couldn’t understand me well enough, he thought. Or maybe they couldn’t remember everything I told them. Man, I should have simply passed by.
All of a sudden, he felt he could do something more important than sit in his office all day long. He knew he couldn’t leave these young people behind: they needed help, and their English was so poor they could possibly spend the whole day trying to get to the hotel. He walked up to them once again. They looked at him in surprise.
“You know, I have some free time as well,” Jack said. “I could guide you to the hotel, if you still need my help.”
The man and the woman looked at each other, then at Jack, and then the man smiled.
“Sink you,” he said.
For the next 40 minutes, Jack listened to the couple’s crooked English, in which they told him stories about their journeys and shared their impressions about New York with him. He found they were lively and amiable, and didn’t hesitate speaking despite their poor English. Soon enough, he could understand them as if they were talking clearly, and even learned a couple of Russian words—mostly expressions of gratitude and delight. When they finally arrived at the hotel, he felt he would like spend some more time with them, show them around, perhaps. The couple gladly agreed to his proposal to guide them through the city streets.
They exchanged contacts, and Jack hurried to work. For the first time since the beginning of August, he felt sane.
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