I’ve made mistakes in Russian. That’s the only way to learn. I’ve learned a lot. Unable to remember the word for fruit, once I said, I love the chocolate nipple. I meant to say, I love the chocolate with juice.
Another bad day was when I needed a toothbrush. I had seen kiosks that had shaving cream, kiosks that had bird seed. I thought a kiosk attended by an attractive young woman must have had a toothbrush. I approached unprepared. When I came to her and she brightened up at my approach, I said Do you have… I had forgotten the word for brush. Teeth? I put an imaginary toothbrush in my mouth and used my tongue to push my cheek out sideways. She gasped at me, horrified, and shook her head. “No!” she said and slammed the shutter of the kiosk in closing it. Once I understood, shame sucked me to the ground. A crow there cawed and hopped around the corner as if on her way to tell other crows about my ridiculous mistake. If you still don’t understand, face a mirror, ask your reflection if they have teeth, put an imaginary toothbrush in your mouth, push your cheek out with the imaginary toothbrush, and watch.
-from Chapter Eleven of Two Big Differences