There were other, more revealing times. At a certain point I was rather attracted to a bilingual girl who raised intelligent questions during the morphology lecture, who spoke to me occasionally, and who wore a languid, judgmental expression in her blue Tartar eyes that often made me nervous. It was not all right to ask her what she thought of a particular point made at the lecture, no matter what language it was asked in. I already knew that speaking English to Russians could be a fatal error, that it was either like speaking to monkeys, or to psychopaths. But the problem wasn't what language you spoke at all, at least, that wasn't the most important part of the problem. I was debating with myself whether or not I should mention a particular theory I picked up and elaborated upon from the text, since she might get into a conversation with me. I was also debating whether or not I should wear my new hat, because it had gotten quite cold outside (this must have been some time ago, before an unimaginable bluish lapse clouded to opaque white my perception of time and reality within that duration) and my hat was new.
I approached her at the door, held it open for her, and held my hat in my left hand. I spoke in English, because I suddenly decided that if all I was afraid of were her judging eyes, her ability to make a quick, cutting remark, then that capability was completely determined by other forces within her, forces which I, being like her, occasionally understood. "What language are you thinking in?" I asked dubiously.
"Russian," she threw back at me in English, "why?"
"Well, in that case I won't wear my hat," I replied, with some disappointment.
"Why is that?" she persisted with a friendly smile, suddenly so obviously intrigued that even I began thinking in Russian and saw right through her. That fact disappointed me even more. Her languid detachment was gone, and suddenly I could tell that she was thinking in English.
"I might as well tell you- I was afraid of what you would think of me in Russian, but I wasn't afraid of what you would think of me in English. That's why I'm telling you this- because I know that a moment ago you started thinking in English."
Her eyes flashed back and narrowed, and I was suddenly aware of my mistake. "That made me think in Russian," she continued in my feminine language, "and your honesty was a little too late."
Could it be that any conversation with her would mean a constant switching of identities, so that everything I said, if I was not fast enough, would be incompatible, and everything she was too languid to say in time, would bore and sicken me if for a moment I was a woman like her?