It was one of those grey winter evenings that always put English in a pensive and somewhat dejected frame of mind, making her feel as though she were very small and insignificant. The way the cold wind battered at the window panes reminded her of how harsh and unforgiving the universe could be, of how, ultimately, she too would die, and it would be as if she were never even born. She sighed, stretched, and sullenly exclaimed, “God help me, I’m in such a subjunctive mood today!”
“It is important, at times like these, that my accomplishments be remembered,” she cautioned herself, trying to boost her self-confidence. After all, if she were not around, so many great works of literature wouldn’t be either, from Shakespeare’s plays to the poetry of Charles Bukowski. If there were some alternate dimension, in which English had never come to be, it would be, literarily, a much poorer world than this one. The future was uncertain, but come what may, she would always remember the thrill of her very own vocabulary and syntax being built into subtle lines and intricate prose, strange plots and bawdy tales, fierce slogans of revolution and humble little nursery rhymes.
But today all that grandeur felt somehow hollow, and she couldn’t help but think of what her life would have been like if she were someone else. What if she were Russian, with flexible syntax and a Slavic soul, keeping Dostoyevsky company on those long cold nights he spent journeying into the heart of man? Or imagine if she were Mandarin Chinese, with that musical tonality, those whispery affricatives, and tens of thousands of vivid characters to illustrate her every word! Sometimes, she even longed for the simple, quiet life she would have had if she were some obscure language of New Guinea, spoken by a single highland tribe, instead of the sprawling global tongue that spawned ideas like ‘cyberspace’ and ‘ethnic cleansing.’
And so it went: despite her efforts to cheer up, she found herself forlornly wishing that she were someone else, anyone else. “I can only hope,” she said to herself, in a soft, sad voice, “that my mood be more indicative tomorrow.”