Sad to admit, sometimes it looks like I am slow. During a conversation, I can look very serious even while my American friends are making brilliant jokes. It can take me several seconds to respond, and the strong lines of thinking on my forehead not helping me look any wiser.

Do not judge my brainpower by my hilarious facial expressions; let me tell you what is going on inside this noggin.

First of all, I’m not a native English speaker and just recently moved to the U.S. Depending on the topic and the amount of slang, I can understand up to 99.9% of a conversation. Usually when I hear some unknown word, my brain just immediately skips it and continues listening. When the word is crucial for understanding, this is when all the fun begins. My mind grabs the word and transports it through a web of convolutions right to the place where rarely-used and thus forgotten stuff is stored. This storage is located somewhere in my deep unconscious and, with an average nerve conductance of 2 miles per second, it takes about a half of a second just to get there.

Once the word arrives to this dusty warehouse, a dilatory clerk looks it up it on a Microsoft Office database using the one finger typing method. The speed of this process is a bit slow. After all, the computer was manufactured in the ’80s when there were no Pentiums, no SSD hard drives, and no cloud storage.

Somewhere out there the conversation is still progressing, and my anxious mind hastens the clerk with colorful curse words, half in Russian and half in English. This old, reliable, and effective method changes the situation completely, and the results usually pop out in milliseconds.

There can be two types of results: the word is unknown, or the word is known and the definition can be found in section X, shelf Y, row Z. If the second scenario wins out, then mechanical elves, tiny shiny bugs with transparent wings, immediately fly to the listed destination, grab the definition and bring it to the reception table. It takes approximately seven elves to deliver ten letters of explanation and the whole process usually lasts about another half a second.

The way back to the surface of the conscious is usually ten times quicker, as by this point my mind has lost the narrative line completely and is suffering from a severe panic attack. It uses all emergency tools to accelerate the speed, including Nitrous Oxide Systems and a nuclear reaction.

With all these scientific achievements, the whole process usually lasts about 2–5 seconds. In these several tortuous shameful seconds my brain works faster than the speed of light and more selflessly than a Japanese kamikaze, but even then I still may not be able to understand you completely. Does it mean that I am slow? I think it means that I haven’t read enough English books and haven’t watched enough TV shows yet. So I’m in for the day with my Kindle and Netflix. Please, do not call me slow. My shiny mechanical elves are tiny and sensitive creatures.