dushainusa68: (Default)

                       The Confession of a Non-Villain

How I wished her to embrace me, how I wanted her to…simply embrace me.  She would nestle on my shoulder and begin to cry or even sniffle.  But she was strong.  She always was strong.  


Everything began much earlier.  But this morning, when the beep of an alarm clock pulled me out of a dream, I recollected where we needed to go today. I felt my body separated from me and really did not want to get up. My eyes did not want to open. I turned off the alarm by touch. Something cracked inside my back. Darkness was still outside the window. I put one of my legs out from under blanket carefully – cold, sat on the bed. I rubbed my eyes with my hands. The wife’s half of our bed was empty - she had to get up early, of course. I moved my legs onto the cold floor, careful touched my slippers and put them on . My wool slippers were warm and wide. But I did not feel better - the cold air from a little open window embraced me. My body shivered. It was refusing to get up, because of the cold. My body wanted to go back under the blanket, close my eyes and think about nothing…A hot shower would be the best solution – wash away the morning cold, dreams and thoughts…

The bright light in the bathroom almost blinded me. I turned on the shower and moved my face towards the hot water, closed my eyes …I would stand here and never go anywhere. My body filled with warm, slowly relaxed. I turned off the water, put the rough green towel on my head. My red baggy face looked out from the towel and reflected in the misted-over mirror like big and not fresh puffball. My lips were stark in an upside down smile from bitter tooth paste. Squinting eyes looked at the mirror with discontent. I soaped my face and started to shave. Blunt razor scraped my face and made long bare lines in the white foam, line by line. It would be better give birth one time to a child than to shave  a face every day. I cut my chin, again. Why couldn’t I find my cologne in this madhouse? I stuck tissue to the cut. Otherwise I would daub my shirt.

The wardrobe was too full. I tried to pull out my white shirt. Half of this stuff that I never wore could be thrown away. My pants were without a belt again. Where could it be?  On the floor…Of course…Socks were tight. How many times have I asked her to buy me loose socks... I chose a pale tie and tied it. I looked almost brave and ready to go.

But I did not want to go there, I was sure that all of this was a mistake. I sat in the kitchen and drank tea with a taste of soap.  At work would be a meeting that day… Sandwich was like rubber…

 I did not want to go, but my wife was already putting on her boots. She always hurried. She always was on time or a little early wherever she went. She was never late. As soon as we met, I had felt like in my childhood, when somebody pulled my arm and I would follow without understanding why I had to do it.  I tried to hang on to this arm always, tried a little to slow down this running. But this arm was strong and pulled me through time, through my childhood…

Dirty elevator smelled like yesterday’s socks. Dirty floor and blue walls with graffiti did not improve my mood either. The mail boxes on the wall were always broken. I got used to it many years ago, submitted and almost overlooked it…

The grey suburban Moscow morning was all around me.  Ice covered the road.  She was walking confidently.  It seemed it was really not slippery for her.  We hadn’t left the house together like this for a long time.  The bus was overfull. So many people were here, so we could not sit or stand normally. We had entered into one door, but I hadn’t seen her.  The bus jumped over the pits and bumps and we moved inside the bus, like grass from the wind, gloomy, sweaty, sleepy, and already tired. The bus emptied at the rail station.  It would be better to walk further.

  The electric train was full too.  People in the train, those who had been on it for a long time, had learned to disconnect from life – to pull out their power cord and freeze for a while. The train had jerked.  It was cold and stuffy.  I wanted to un-button my jacket, but my portfolio impeded me.  The annoyed woman whom I had pushed accidentally looked back. I stood in public transportation always. How cramped it was; how we bothered each other. 

Why did we buy the apartment at the end of the world?  We should have bought a smaller one in the city when it was possible.  And these stupid repairs – how much energy, how much money. And nobody wanted to work, only to drink.

My wife stood, looking out of the window and seemingly did not remember where and why we were going.  The train stopped.

 The long caterpillar of gloomy people crawled down to the metro, and then was split once by turnstiles – at the exit, then at the entrance.  Clapping doors.  Why were they here? Why were there doors in the metro?  One line at the ticket booth, another - to the escalator.  Years ago, the metro was somehow more pleasant.  The air was fresher, there were fewer people, even tours, I remember, sometimes went on at the main stations.  Today nobody looked at the chandeliers or at the mosaics on the walls.  Dust and soot of oblivion covered faces and walls…One more stop and we would arrive.

She knew where to go.  We entered the big grey building; she didn’t even stop at the reception, went up the stairs.  We could have used the elevator...

Line to the doctor’s office: people sat, not looking at each other, afraid to come across as sympathetic. No one talked. Somewhere at the end of the corridor a child had begun to cry. Everyone looked there. They came alive for a second, sighed, turned away, looked down. The medical staff seemed more polite, although I had not been in a hospital for a long time. But maybe it was always like this, I was here for the first time.

 The door opened, her name was called. She didn’t even want to change her last name when we got married. She was called out of line, but nobody was surprised or indignant. Here there were no emotions, as though everyone was painted with grey. She entered the office and sat in a chair. I sat in the next.  No mistake, the medical exam had confirmed her diagnosis. The doctor’s response was: prognosis is unfavorable – one year, maximum one and a half.  She straightened a bit, squeezed her bag a little harder and said, ”This does not satisfy me.” Why did she say it like she was at the market? I was here, but it was like I was not here for her. Maybe she just didn’t want to look disturbed in public. She was strong always. We left the office. Our faces seemed frozen for those who looked at us.

“Are you going home or to work?” I asked her.


“Well, all right, I have to run too – I probably missed the meeting already.”

At home in the evening everything was normal: supper, TV - another soap opera. It seemed emotions were lost somewhere far away and everyone forgot about them. Although she tried to laugh. Why did I always wait for something from her? Carefully, I peered into her face. She should have begun to cry and turn to me with her weeping face with short curled hair over her forehead and lean on my shoulder. Why did I want this? I probably always waited for this so that she would allow me to love her.  

                Everything was as usual, maybe she forgot? I heard that people under stress sometimes reacted like this – like nothing happened. She would have to go to the hospital more often – the treatment would be hard.   Maybe I should escort her to the hospital sometimes? No, I did not want to.

 She began to knit more in the evening. She was knitting me a sweater, probably prickly again. But it would be impolite to refuse.

          “Maybe you can knit something for yourself?”

          “It might not be useful for me.”

It meant she remembered everything. I glanced at her. She was knitting so fast and watching TV. Who was I in her life? Why did she need me? How she had laughed when we just met…These dimples on her cheeks …She did not look ill. Her back was the same: straight .But she had become frozen, like ice covered her. She looked into herself often. And she knitted all the time.

  I would like to stir her somehow. May be a quarrel?  I thought shedding tears could help her or anger could melt her cold…What should I say to be spoiling for a fight with her? Tell about her over salted soup? No…About the bookcase? I wanted to talk about the bookcase for a long time. I should say it!

         “I will move the bookcase to the window, when you die…”

Why did I say this? I felt myself like a villain. She answered me nothing, even did not glanced at me, continued to watch TV.

           She went to her work rarely and sometimes stayed at home. I did not believe that she could cry. I did not believe her. Sometimes she wrote something, sometimes drew. She could read something. What interesting book could I give her? What did she generally read? I did not remember. My choice would probably be wrong, as usual. How hard it was to live in a house with a frozen woman… Even the air in the apartment became colder somehow. It would be too easy for her: turn to me and lean on my shoulder…It would be too easy…It was impossible that all her forces were spent on her illness. I did not believe that this struggle with her illness was so terrible for her.

            Suddenly I imagined if she began to cry…cry the whole day. It would be worse. I could not see this. She had so exhausted me with herself…  I even came home from work later than usual. There were the suppers, everyday soap operas on TV and the prickly sweater in her hands. I could not live the same anymore. Especially this sweater. And its color was nasty-gray. I could not. Maybe the business trip would help me? But it would be a very difficult time for her – the end of chemotherapy. And I would be here. I could support her, if she would not refuse my help. I thought, she would refuse, as usual.

 It was solved - with a business trip!

          “I planned a business trip…two or three weeks, no more…Can you stay here without me? I will call you every day.”

          “It is not necessary to call me every day, two times per week is enough.”

 And no more words and questions. She didn’t even ask where I was going…

 The weather was cold. Almost a year had passed since our visit to the doctor. How long it was continuing… An impossibly long year…


          I bought the ticket on the train for the next day, for the evening. I had to go on this foolish conference. Really, I had a week for this trip. It was enough, I thought. It was interesting for me: if I would come back earlier, was she going to be glad? Would I bring some gift for her? I always did. Sometimes, she smiled and thanked me, but I felt that she did not like it again.


            I liked riding in the train. It made me calm. The knock of the wheels, night light, glass of tea with lemon…The ticket had become more expensive and service had become better too. The bed was already done.  I had not gone on a business trip for a long time. Darkness was in the window, street lights flashed sometimes and no TV. This country seemed so big, but empty. Almost all the lights and people were in Moscow; there were too many of them. But outside Moscow were no lights, no people, only darkness.  It was late night   – maybe everybody was sleeping and the lights were off.

           In my childhood, I remembered, I came back home from winter darkness after snow battles with wet clothes, especially pants and mittens, took them off and ran into the brightly lit kitchen. The meatballs were already done and smelled wonderful. I put the meatballs on the warm rye bread with salted cucumber from a cold, misted, glass jar. I put a hot potato on the plate and began to eat. I was happy and savored each piece. I could die from happiness. The compote from dried fruits in a big jar on the window sill was not very cold. I could drink only three glasses of compote after the meatballs, not more. I pulled out a pear or an apricot from the compote with a long spoon and ate it slowly. I could not move after dinner. I was happy. It was childhood.

           Of course, I forgot to take sandwiches on the train. She could offer to make them, but she did not offer. Maybe I could buy cookies from the guard?


            I was happy in childhood even from the first snowflakes. When I became adult I started to think about morning grey slushy swill on the road when I saw snowflakes. Something changed inside a person during their life, something broken…Why? We were young, full of forces, independent: we would be doing what we wanted, received pleasure from life. But we did not. We had a habit: to think about tomorrow, forget about today. All colors of our lives became grey, sad, without warmth and brightness.  Could we change it? It was not clear…

I thought , my wife could change during her illness: would become warmer and sensual. I was wrong. I could not help her and she did not want my help. Maybe she even despised me. I had never known what she was thinking about me, especially at that time…  There was no hope that she could open her soul to me…maybe it was not necessary for me. Who knew?

            I did not remember the last time I ate these cookies, but they were pretty good with tea…  I had to sleep. The meeting would start early tomorrow morning. I fell asleep and thought, “Do not forget to give the guard a tip.”



           The sunny morning was in this small provincial town. The snow was on the ground. I had forgotten that here the weather could be different than in Moscow. And there was no slush on that day. It was a good idea to leave Moscow.   

            They were waiting for me.  I was the top banana for them. Their car was impossibly old but not antique yet. Why they did not have a good car to meet me? I sat in this crowded car and looked at the window. Young and elderly women at the rail station tied warm kerchiefs round their heads as did all provincials …

I liked provincial towns and provincial people. I felt better here than in Moscow : more self-confident, more quiet. In these towns, I could be different, with different thoughts, different behavior, and even a different face…

             I would like to go to a hotel. I had to look good during this conference. The hotel was not luxurious, of course, but had hot water. One week living here was possible. I took a shower, shaved. Put on fresh a shirt and bright tie in front the mirror. I tried to make my face more respectable, eyes - a little bit martial. They had to feel that I was the boss. Did not hurry. It would be better to be a little late to the meeting.

           The car was waiting for me. I put a portfolio with documents on the back seat. The snow was not melting. Faces in this town were different from faces in Moscow, simpler, fresher. They did not have masks of fatigue. A homeless person sat on the steps.

           The meeting was boring, not necessary for anybody – to me or them. Everybody was sitting and yawning, almost sleeping. Why did I come here? I would like to walk to the hotel after the meeting. It was not too far. Tonight in this city would be the same boredom, I thought...

          “What the hell? Be careful, lady, watch your step!”

Where did she appear from? She could have knocked me down.  Her figure was good but this wasn’t easy to see because she was dressed in a dark long fur coat…I thought, she would apologize to me for three hours.

           “I am sorry, the ground is ice-covered here,” she mumbled and hurried further. Surprisingly, her make-up was not bright. Straight nose, a little chubby mouth with pale lipstick and several blond curls that jut out from her fur hat... She had something that I had not seen in Moscow women. I felt a gentleman near her. She was a little shy and delicate. It was unusual and interesting to me.  Maybe I could catch up with her and ask about something, for example, about the location of a grocery store. She might know where the grocery store was.

             “Excuse me, lady, can I ask you where the closest grocery store is.” I asked loudly and ran down to her. She looked back. “I arrived from Moscow for the conference.” My shoulders became a little straight. “I would like to buy something for dinner.”

              “Yes, of course,” she began her explanation, almost did not look at me and did not slow her fast walking. “Look there, beside this building, you can buy wine there too,” she waved her hand. “I can show you it, I am going there too.”

 I tried to walk at the same pace as she. What the hell? I was a Moscow boss who was running around with a provincial woman, when my wife in Moscow was dying from cancer. What was I doing here? Where was I running? I stopped abruptly, lost my balance, slipped, fell on one knee. And the woman stopped and looked back at me. Her eyes were green and warm, a little damp, probably from the wind. She smiled and came up. I thought she would start to help me get up. It was not possible. I got up by myself.

           “Can I hold your hand? You could fall down again. It is not good: the boss with bruised knees…” she offered and smiled.

Her smile was very simple, without challenge or pose, of which I was so tired. A ring was on her hand, it meant she was married. Probably, it would be better.  


         Why did she come to this café for lunch when I asked her for a date? She had the same name as my wife Elena. But there was nothing more different in my life than these two women with the same name. She looked very trusting, very calm. Why did she come here? Her life was probably good: a husband, children. She did not need gifts from me, of course. I could not even give her flowers because she wouldn’t be able to explain it at home. But I wanted to see her. Her charm warmed me. Maybe I needed nothing, just looking into her green eyes. I was very glad to see her, very glad. I was afraid that she would not want to come here, was afraid to admit to myself that I had fallen in love like a boy.

          I wanted to tell her about my life. I was sure that she would listen, understand and not blame me. It was enough for me. And I spoke, spoke for a long time. We drank something, probably coffee and cakes. She bit the cake cautiously, being afraid to drop crumbs and collected them with her finger on the table, carefully cleaned her fingers over her plate. She drank the coffee from her cup very carefully, too, and was thinking about something. No one, during my life, had listened to me like her: with care and attentiveness. Her lunch time was gone, so I was afraid that she might remember it and leave. She glanced at her watch only once and did not look at it any more. She did not hurry. When was she going back to her office?

            I sat and thought about her: she had to go leave this café sometime, leave me, leave me forever…I could not think about it. I tried to make myself not think about it. It seemed if I could not see her fingers that collected crumbs on the table, I would die. Thin hands, long fingers… What did I need in her, why did I go inside her soul and open my soul for her? Why? It would be painful for us to stop later, more painful than at that time. I had to stop it immediately.  I had to go back home, to my wife, to TV and unfinished sweater. I had to go back while it was still possible, while I had not lost myself in her, in her life completely.

            But I could not. I knew that I had one week. And she knew about it and asked me nothing and demanded nothing from me.


           During this week, I was often wondering if she loved me or just felt sorry for me.  But I was afraid to ask her about it. And she had not spoken about it either. I had gotten into the habit of seeing her, cuddling her hand to my excited neck and got used to the reflection in her eyes where cold anguish had disappeared.  I knew the warmth of her body, I felt the warmth her soul. I remembered her every mole, her every hair by touch. She filled me with herself, with her warmth and light…If I would simply say I loved her, it would not be true. I lived because she existed, I lived only for her… because I wanted to see her deep emerald eyes…


 In Friday we met at the café for the last time. We sat at the table. Too many people were around us. The drops of water were trickling down the side of the misted glasses of beer, but I did not want to drink. My hand covered her hand. She flinched. I wanted to tell her too much: that I was very happy with her, with her warmth and calm,  I had never been happy like now, that I would come closer to her, but  I was afraid, afraid not of her, afraid of myself. I was afraid that I could not stop. I was afraid of destroying her life. I should leave her and never come back here. I would try to do it. I would  remember her forever.

I wanted to tell her, look into her eyes, but I couldn't. I only said quietly, “I have to go back to Moscow.” I gripped her hand; her fingers were soft and frail. A tear trickled down her cheek. She looked at me, her eyes became deeper, she licked her lips and carefully took her hand out of my hand.

          “Of course, you must go home, I understand...”

She stood up, put on her fur coat, gripped her gloves and went outside from the café, not looking back at me. And I could not stop her. I did not have the right to stop her. Why? I did not know, but I felt it …

            Later, I asked myself many times why I could not say all these words to her. Maybe my life would change and we could be happy…What prevented our happiness, prevented us from being together? The answer was very simple: we did not have enough courage. We were like two planets, rushing at full speed in the cosmos in their own orbits. We accidentally came closer to each other in one moment, impossibly closer, maybe just because it was in one very short moment in our lives. We did not have enough courage to come off our own orbits, not very cozy orbits, but habitable.

 It seemed, such a trifle – courage… But it turned out that we needed  so much to look around us and admit to ourselves that we lived alien lives, that we had sunk to our necks in this bog and we did not have enough strength to get out of it. It turned out that we would need too much courage to look her children and our own friends in the eyes. But maybe our consciences already woke up after a short and happy dream.

            You could say that a woman is always happy to hear words about love and accept proposals of marriage. Maybe. But I felt that she would not know what to do with my heart and hand .

 We did not have time to think. The force of inertia of the orbits began to take us away from each other, farther and farther, in opposite directions. And we unhooked our hands because this  force, beyond our control, could rip us to pieces.

 Maybe it was simply comfortable to think so, we did not need courage for this, we would not make any decisions, not take responsibility… It would be too easy – to unhook our hands, clench our teeth and continue to move in our orbits. And we unhooked our hands and tried to move in our own orbits,  not thinking  that our trajectories were different and we would not had a chance to hook our hands together ever again. Because in the future for a long time we would be afraid of the pain of unhooking our hands, even would be afraid of extending our hands to each other.

But in the moment when she went outside from the cafe I did not think about it yet. I just felt that I did not have a heart anymore, that she had taken it away. I untied my tie… Too stuffy was here and the music was too loud… I gulped down the beer from my glass, looked at my watch – I had time until tonight’s train to Moscow. I threw money on the table and went outside.

           The snow started falling in large flakes. I could see nothing, except the wall of snow in front me. It seemed that my life was ending, that there was nothing ahead of me, that only one gulp could satisfy my thirst, but I did not want to take the gulp and I would never take it.

            I went back to the hotel, probably gathered my things. I did not remember it. In the rail station in the store, I bought a bottle of Vodka and got on the train… Wet bed sheet… Musty air… Tomorrow I would be in Moscow… I opened the bottle, gulped down as much as I could, lay on the bed and turned to a wall. The train pulled me back, to my empty and cold life.


           My world was upside down, but at home, everything was as usual: my wife was knitting my sweater and going for chemotherapy at the hospital. It was horrible. I could not live here…I gasped… I tried to get drunk, but my health was not good enough… I could not destroy this brick wall between us. I often came back home after work later than usual and fell asleep on the sofa in the living room.

           Once I came back home drunk and told her everything: about my mistress, that I was happy with her, all my love and my hatred. I did not choose words and sentences. I felt like a villain, but I could not stop. The dirty stream of my words flowed out of me. She went away to the other room and closed the door, answering nothing. And our life continued as usual almost. I understood that I must apologize, that I offended her too much. But I could not, could not look into her eyes, cold and scornful.

When would she finally finish my sweater?

Once she came back home from the hospital with a smile on her face. Today was the last day of her chemotherapy. It was a sunny Saturday, and the living room was filled with light. And her face filled with light and became powerful too.

        “I won!” she said, “ I could live, not forever, but for a long time! You can not move the bookcase to the window after I die!” The cracks covered the ice of her struggle and big pieces of ice began to fall down from her. “Get out!” she smiled at me proudly.

            What could I say to her? Nothing…Maybe she did not need my reaction. I was even glad that she could break this circle where we had to run for an impossibly long time. I was almost happy. I felt the big stone that I held on my shoulders suddenly  fell down and I could straighten them and look her in the eyes. Her eyes became alien and I did not remember when it had happened. She was saying something else to me, but I stood in the middle of room and looked at her face. I felt that she already was afraid of her words.  I did not hear her voice anymore.

            I suddenly remembered when many years ago we had gone to a Bonsai Exhibition (at that time we sometimes had gone to places together). Rather, she had brought me there, because at that time I had known nothing about bonsai and about people who had grown these trees.


The exhibition was in the open air. The pottery bowls with small growing trees and groves that almost did not have soil and space for roots, stood on simple wooden tables. Some of them embraced pieces of rock covered with moss. We saw the trees whose trunks were partly dried or curved. They were not like flowers in the pots on the window-sill. They were real trees and would have become huge in nature. These trees needed sunlight, rain, wind, cold and snow like big trees. Their leaves became red and fell down in fall, emerged in the spring, green and sticky. The trees blossomed in summer and some of them even had fruits.

We had walked from one tree to the other and she told me history of bonsai. I listened to her, sometimes looked into her face and felt that I loved those small curls around her ears, her bit lip and slightly squinting eyes.

It seemed, she plunged into the world of bonsai that delighted and summoned her. It was her idol, better than Queen Elizabeth for British. This world was not strict, only simple, elegant and courageous.  It was even difficult to imagine - during three hundred years, day by day, each of these trees was struggling with different elements and defeated them like life sometimes defeated death. The tree did not change during this struggle: not one unnecessary sprout, not one unnecessary root. We admired self-control and endurance of these trees.

She had talked about the first bonsai that had been brought from the wild mountains to home – these bonsai rarely survived, torn away from their natural habitat. It turned out that it was easier to grow bonsai at home. Only some patience and several tools were necessary for that: scissors -  for cutting unnecessary roots and branches, pliers - to split the trunks, and hard wire – to deform or restrict growing branches and trunks. Also, it was necessary to sometimes change the soil, water them, and protect them from cold, heat, strong winds and snowfalls. These trees became very fragile and dependent on their habitat, but still seemed like an example of simplicity and courage. Sometimes, trees were sick or were cut more than necessary, sometimes they survived or died.

We did not see these people who cared for these trees their entire life, tried to create an illusion of eternity in these pottery bowls. We believed them, we believed that time stopped in these bowls, that eternity fell asleep there.

She admiringly stared at bonsai and I was suddenly afraid of her sparkling eyes. I was suddenly surprised how we could admire the courage of bonsai, admire an illusion. She did. And she did not worry that these small trees did not even imagine themselves real huge trees, real big world and strong snowfalls and winds. These trees did not imagine that they could reach the other trees with their branches or roots, reach the other bonsai, and touch the rock, covered with moss.


I stood in the room and stared at the alien face of the woman whom I had loved for a long time. I thought about bonsai being victorious over death.  She turned out to be a talented learner, very talented.  She became a good bonsai – not one unnecessary curl in her hairstyle, no carelessness in her clothes, no unnecessary words, emotions or thoughts, and, of course, tears. Strong outside and feeble inside, she was afraid of her words, but continued to tell me something else.

Her seeming courage already did not make me admire or be scared of her.  I did not want her tears anymore. I would be afraid of it. She became alien to me. Near her I still felt like the same bonsai in the pottery bowl, but her words almost cracked my bowl, so one of my roots, still fresh and weak, began to grow outside through this crack, aspired to get to the real world. I did not feel hatred against this woman, I was thankful for her words. She accidentally could wake my sleeping courage.


           I went away… I had loved her many years ago, but I didn't ever wear her prickly sweater. I have not seen her lately. I heard she is living far away and may be happy. Right now, I almost do not remember her face, her eyes, but I remember how I wished her to embrace me, that she would put her head on my shoulder and cry. But she seemed so strong, so strong…

dushainusa68: (Default)

                                               The Christmas Story.



          Tatiana Sergevna came to the boulevard later than usual. This year, the winter did not want to come, there was no snow on the ground. The cold winter wind tried to penetrate her long coat. It was not raining, but heavy purple clouds had blocked the sun. When will it snow? When snow fell, the weather felt a little warmer.  It is very sad celebrating Christmas without snow. Very sad.

         She liked the boulevard covered with snow. Snow drifts, shiny and soft, lay on the benches. Branches of trees, heavy with snow, were almost on the ground. The snow covered everything: the ground, roofs of houses, playground, monument, steps. Only dark, wet footprints were on the fresh snow. The boulevard became fresh and clear. Smiles sometimes emerged on people’s faces. They looked around and began to like their city again. But there was no snow right now. The boulevard was like an island in the city, which the dirty river of the cars and smog and noise streamed around. So many cars, so many people… They all bothered each other, always hurrying, always busy.

        She liked to come here in the late spring too, when fresh green leaves emerged on the trees. Sunlight that filtered through the leaves above her head became soft and cozy. And children on the playground were less naughty than usual during spring. She did not like children. She was tired of them. For many years she had been a teacher at a school, a strict teacher, so children were afraid of her. She did not like their crying and fussing. On the boulevard, she usually sat on the bench farther away from playground. Her grandchildren didn’t come to her apartment often; only one or two times a month. They drank tea with cake and moved their heads with the loud music coming from their headphones. She did not have a place in their world. Her interests, her problems were not important to them. And the taste of the cake that they brought with them became not as good as before. Her daughter was always busy. She helped a lot with money. But she did not remember a time when they could sit together and talk about something.

       Elderly people, who usually sat on the benches in the boulevard during good weather, greeted her, nodded their heads. She had known them for many years. They always complained about their difficult lives. Lately, she did not meet them often.  Maybe they died. Maybe the big city had pushed them out. She tried not to think about it. She did not feel good about herself. The city pressed her down too. Right now, good health meant a handful different pills  she must take every day. So heavy and dark the sky is today! Maybe it will snow. She usually fed the doves on the boulevard.  She had been drying pieces of bread crust during the week. On Saturday, she brought it to the boulevard for the doves.

          And today, she put the new newspaper on her favorite slightly wet bench. She didn’t get a chance to read the newspaper yet, so she sat on it with a little regret.  She got the pieces of bread from her bag and threw them to the doves. The birds slowly came up to the bread and lazily picked the dry pieces.

 Not too far from her, two women met like old friends. They were speaking and laughing very loudly, glancing at the small boy, who stood near them. He looked like he was six or seven years old. He did not look like a Moscow child: his clothes were not very bright and expensive. The dark jacket and hat made his lightly tanned face seem lighter. His blonde curls were visible under his dark wool hat. He stood and looked at the doves, but didn’t try to scare them. He came up to her, said,  “Hello, how are you?” She was surprised: this boy was not afraid of her. She answered, “Good, thanks. How are you?”

     “Good, thank you. How is your health? The weather is not good today.”

She was surprised again.  She liked speaking with him. She wanted to tell him all about her life. She carefully began her story, added more and more details. He listened very carefully and sometimes asked questions.  She told him her life and felt that her life was good, maybe even successful. This boy liked her more and more. She felt that he became closer to her than her daughter, than her grandchildren during these fifteen minutes. She remembered that she did not ask for his name. “What is your name, honey?” she asked him.

“David”, he answered quietly and looked at her with his big blue eyes.

“Where are you from, David?” she asked.

“From Bethlehem,” he answered and smiled, light and warm,  remembering his sunny hometown, where he came from two weeks ago to his Moscow grandmother as a guest. “From Bethlehem,” he repeated and glanced at her eyes.

Her heart stopped inside her. She understood everything. Warmth and light filled her. She sat straight and leaned back a little on the bench. Her eyes stopped on the warm pink light coming from the street lights, which just turned on. The first snowflakes were drifting in the air. But she could not see them anymore like she could not see the blonde-curled boy who stood near her.

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The Wisdom


The young boy came to the old man and asked him,

            “Teacher, I stared at the puddle, but I did not see my reflection in the puddle. Why is that?”

            “Maybe you were crying and your tears dripped in the puddle and prevented you from seeing yourself?”

            “No, teacher, I am a man. Men do not cry.”

            “Maybe the sun just came from the clouds and blinded you?”

            “No, teacher, the sun was not in the sky, it was at night and only the stars lit up me…”

            “Maybe you are a star and can show the way to the people or warm them with your heat, or even reflect in the puddle?”

            “No, teacher, I am not a star and I do not have heat or light.”

            “If this is true, why aren’t you crying?”

 Asked the old man and turned to go, but the boy stopped him,

            “But, if I cry, I will not become a star, teacher!”

            “You will not become a star if you cry, of course, but you will understand why you do not reflect in the puddle…”

He sighed and slowly began to walk up on the narrow mountain path.

            “Teacher, please stop!  Tell me, can I become a star?”

            “It possible for everyone…”

            “What do I have to do to become a star, teacher? I must work heavily?”

            “No, you have to stop staring at the stars through the puddle…”


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           Van Gogh. Two hours later.       


My husband just entered, breathing heavily, in to our apartment in his sweaty t-shirt after his evening jog. “Who is going to the pool with me?”

All members of our family were sitting at our own computers, keeping silent. Headphones plugged the children’s ears.

“Nobody is going to the pool?” my husband asked us louder.

Children put down their headphones and prepared to communicate with their parent.

“To the pool? We went yesterday.” Our daughter said him, slowly drawling her words.

“So what? We can go again.”

“We don’t want to. Why do we have to go to the pool every day?”

“Ok, if you don’t want to go to the pool, you can stay home, but practice algebra, please,” he glanced toward the son strictly.

“Ok.” Our son put headphones back into his ears and turned toward his monitor.

Our daughter put the headphone over one ear too. Her second ear stayed free, so she wouldn’t possibly miss a parent’s interesting deal. She turned toward her laptop and went back to Facebook.

My husband entered the bathroom to wash off his labor sweat, and asked me in the last moment, “Have you packed my pool bag? Do not forget to put my red pants and goggles in!” and hid behind the bathroom door.

I went to pack his pool bag. I put his black towel, red pants, goggles, lock, swimming pass and his flip-flops in. The sound of water inside the bathroom got loud, then stopped. He popped out from the bathroom wet and tousled. “Last call! Who is going to the pool with me? Nobody? Ok, I’m going alone. I’ll eat, when I come back.” He took his bag and went away, loudly slammed the door.

             Friday evening was going to be quiet. I came in to the bathroom. His wet towel and T-shirt were dumped on the floor. I picked them up and put them in the washer. I was too lazy to practice Algebra with our son.  I wanted to draw. I hoped that nobody would bother me. I was going to draw a small and cozy copy of the painting The Café Terrace on the Place du Forum, Arles, at Night, by Vincent van Gogh that hung on the kitchen wall. The canvas, prepared for this, had waited for me for almost half of a year and had become covered by dust in the corner of my bedroom.

            I grabbed the canvas, tubes of acrylic paints, brushes, bowl with water and white porcelain palette for mixing colors and dumped them on the kitchen table. I did not have a big easel for my canvas. I covered two chairs with white trash bags. One of them I used for the canvas, another for brushes, paints and water.

            I sat. This moment before beginning work usually is the most difficult. The main idea was to not think about chores and work I had to do or I might lose my drawing mood.  I had to catch colors and lights and put them on my canvas. And the world around me had to disappear in this moment. Electric light in the kitchen is not very good for drawing, but I did not have a mansard with sun light like Great Leonardo. Not everyone who has a mansard, has a desire to paint, is that right?

 I had not drawn for a long time, so my brushes in the glass were covered with dust and paints inside tubes had become almost dry. I broke several tubes and wet them with water.

            “Katia! Do you have a very soft pencil?” I asked our daughter loudly.

She put down her headphones. “What? Did you ask me something?”

             “I need a soft pencil and an art eraser.”

            “You can take the pencil on my table. I’ll try to find your eraser.”

I found the pencil 2B in the box, got the eraser and came back to the kitchen. I would plan my canvas by pencil:  right proportions of buildings and perspective.  I started to draw. I did not have a way of retreat, although I was not sure in my strength. But who knew about my weakness besides me?

The most difficult part of this painting was the nightlight reflections on wet pavement. I felt it.  So I started to paint on the top part of the canvas: dark sky with stars and black tops of the buildings. Possibly, Van Gogh had drawn it out in the open air, not from his memory. I had to find the same colors. The stars on his drawing were painted carelessly on the purple and black strokes of the sky. Maybe, he had narrowed his eyes so stars blurred a little.

            My phone began to ring hysterically somewhere in the living room. No one would bring it to me. Children had headphones in their ears with loud music, so they could not hear anything, especially my phone ringing. I am too lazy to stand up and take it.

            “ Sasha! Bring me my phone, please!” I asked our son loudly.

He ran in to the kitchen and brought me my phone, silent by now. I checked the number. It was my husband’s call. I did not want to call him back. He could call again if it was really important.

Another call.

            “Hello, I’m listening… What? … Please speak slower and quieter…What happened in the pool? Ok…Do whatever you want.” I switched off my phone. My husband joyfully told me that our pool is closed, because they did not have lifeguards tonight. He must drive to the other pool, so he would come back a little bit later. Why did I have to know this?

            Ok. Back to the painting.  Shabby blue-gray plaster was on the house, black contours of buildings, the sky over the buildings a little bit lighter from the night lights of the town.  Different tints I would put later, when the main colors dry. Van Gogh had drawn with oil and could mix the colors on his canvas. Acrylic paints dry faster and I had to mix necessary paints in the bowl.

  On the right side of the painting, there was a corner of building with lit up shop windows. I drew it a bit sloppily, because light reflections had to be visible on the black frames of the windows.

            Our daughter came in to the kitchen.

            “It looks good. But your houses need windows. On his picture everything is somehow better. I don’t know how.”

            “Go away, please, don’t bother me.”

She went out.

The frame of the left door was gray with reflections, and I added a little bit of wine color.

            “Mom! I want to eat,” our son came to me.

            “I am busy now, come later, please.”

Ok. I started to draw the marquise over terrace. I mixed yellow, white and added some orange. I had to put shadows with darker and wider strokes. Possibly, he worked with a stiff brush. I liked these brushes too, especially with long handles. I held my brush like Chinese artists after my calligraphy classes last year. It was most comfortable for me. I painted two dark orange doors on the terrace wall, and wouldn’t forget to draw a big street lamp under the marquise that radiates the light for the whole picture and the window with shutters on the back wall of the terrace. I would make the hard wood floor bright red; after that -  darker colors there, to show the planks’ texture and draw tables and people on the terrace. Although, the dark silhouette of the man in the door and the long haired waiter with a white apron on the terrace I could draw first.

            “I want to eat.” My daughter came to the kitchen.

            “You can try to find something inside the fridge. I can not get distracted from the picture. I’m trying to catch the light of the street lamp on the terrace.”

She grumbled something and dove inside the fridge, accidentally pushing my chair with her jeans butt. I glanced at her.

            “Can you not touch my chair when I am drawing?”

            “No, I can’t open the fridge. Is it my fault that you are sitting here, right in front of the fridge?”

            “Where can I sit? I would have to take this poster off the wall, hang it somewhere else and move all my stuff so that you can open the fridge. Is that OK?

            “I don’t know. Do whatever you want.” She rustled with a paper bag of bread. Maybe she made a sandwich.

            I turned back to my picture. The left shoulder of the waiter on my picture became higher than necessary. I should to fix it. The street lamp on the terrace… I could not paint the radiant light of this lamp. Maybe adding some white and yellow would help? Or some orange? The contour of the lamp looked blurred. No, I couldn’t. I would do it later.  I had to draw all the radiant windows with nuances of yellow, not forgetting the reflections of light on the walls of the houses and the light windows on the dark buildings on the other side of the street.

            “Mom, what did Katia eat? I want to eat too.” Our son came in to the kitchen again. “You drew it perfect. Very similar.”

            “Thanks a lot, dear, but I am busy now. You can cook yourself something or wait a little, when I’ll finish,” I mumbled, continuing to look at my picture.

My son opened the fridge, pushing my chair.

            “I’ll make myself a hot-dog…You’ll only have to tell me what to do. If you draw for another week, I’ll become a professional chef. Do I have to put the sausage in the microwave with bread?”

            “No, take the plate, put the sausage on it and put it in the microwave.”

            “For how long? Is one minute OK?”

            “Yes. It is enough.”

The dish rattled on the shelf and the door of the microwave slammed. I flinched.

I forgot to draw the tree on the right side of my picture, over the shop windows. His tree was not recognizable. Maybe it was a pine tree?

The microwave beeped. The sausage was done. Our son opened the fridge again, pushing my chair. He was probably getting ketchup for his hot dog.

            Ok. I added a little light color to show contrast between separate branches, so brush strokes had to be wide and careless.

The entrance door slammed. My husband came back from the pool. Time flew too fast. “How are you, great artist? Still drawing? Van Gogh’s picture is better. Where are the windows in your buildings? And you don’t have enough stars!”

            “Go away, don’t bother me! Let me draw in peace.”

            “Why? I can’t comment on it? The artist must know public opinion. Can you draw like van Gogh?”

            “No one can understand if he can draw or not, if he does not try. Don’t bother me!”

            “I want to eat!”

            “Can you wait a little? I am busy now – I’m trying to catch the light on the terrace…”

            “How long do I have to wait? Maybe you will draw all night…”

            “You can heat some food for yourself from the fridge.”

            “I don’t want to cook myself. I like it when you cook for me.”

            “Ok, I’ll do it in ten minutes.”

Ok. My painting. It was difficult to switch back every time. Tables and chairs… Van Gogh drew it carelessly. Maybe he did not have time. I would not forget reflections of lights: on the tables that stand on the terrace, reflections are yellowed, on the tables on the pavement – redder.

            “Mom, I’m still hungry.” My son emerged in the kitchen again. “I’m going to fry myself bacon.”


The fridge door slammed and the pan knocked on the stove.

            “Do I have to pour oil in the pan?”


            “How do I turn the stove on?”

            “Turn the handle on the stove and the flame will light.”

            “I did that, but I do not see flame. How long do I have to wait?”

A strong smell of gas spread in the kitchen. I stood up, went to the stove and turned off the gas. “You see, what happened?” I turned on the handle on the stove. “You have to turn it slowly so the flame lights, and turn it back a bit to stop the clicking. You see?” I put the pan over the flame, sat on my chair and turned toward my picture.

So, pavement. It would probably be better to do gray for the background of the pavement. The smell of burnt bacon touched my nose.

            “Take it off! It’s burned!” I glanced back.

            “I did that already.”

            “Put the ketchup in the fridge, please.”

            “Later, I’ll need it again.”

Van Gogh drew the pavement with a thin and stiff brush, but using strong strokes, taking a lot of paint on his brush. It was necessary to show the texture of the wet cobble-stones. I could not do this like him. At least I would try. I started with small black strokes, although it was not right. I would add more black strokes later. The colors of the pavement had to be red, brown, and light-gray strokes.

            “Will we eat today or not?” My husband emerged in the kitchen. “I can’t wait anymore. Why do you always choose the worst place and time for your drawing process, when our whole family wants to eat?”

            “Our whole family already ate. I’ll cook something especially for you right now.”

I stood up, opened the fridge door, looked.

            “Do you want macaroni and burgers?”

            Macaroni again?

            Whyagain’? I have not cooked it for a long time. This week we had potatoes and rice.”

“Ok, cook it, if you can’t make anything else.”

I dropped macaroni and burgers on the plate, added some shredded cheese and put it in the microwave for three minutes. He liked well heated food. I sliced tomato, cucumber, added salt, opened  the beeping microwave, took out the warm plate and grabbed the plate with cucumber-tomato and took it to my husband’s computer table in the living room.

            “Can you bring me something to drink?”

            “Help yourself, juice is in the fridge.”

            “What did you mix with my macaroni?” He picked up his macaroni by his fork.

            “It’s melted cheese.”

            “It’s too much for me, I can’t eat it all.”

            “Throw it away, then!”

I came back to the kitchen. So, pavement, wet cobble-stones. Would I add a little bit of light gray or not? The hard wood floor on the terrace should be darker and more textured. My husband opened the fridge to get the juice and pushed my chair.

            “Easy, please. I’m drawing.” When would they go to sleep? It was already 11p.m… “Sasha! Don’t forget to take a bath! Time to sleep!” I called to my son.

            “I’m going…”

The noise of water pouring in the bathroom emerged and disappeared. My son came to me, wet, shaggy haired.



            “I came to say ‘Good night’.”

            “Good night! You should dry your hair…”

            “Can I read before sleeping?”

            “You can, but not for long.”

So, the pavement, wet cobble-stones. How many times could I come back to this place? I could not paint it well, it looked too messy. People on the terrace. I would sit them at the tables. At the front table on the van Gogh painting sat a single woman, who looked like a cow. I did not want to draw her. Maybe it would be better to leave the terrace without patrons? I would only paint the waiter with his white apron?

            “Where are your people?” My husband came to the kitchen and put his plates on top of the mountain of dirty dishes in the sink.

            “I do not want to draw them, this crowd annoys me somewhat.”

            “Oh, it’s something new, a new trend in art: to paint a copy of famous picture with a plot development. What is the title of this picture?”

            “The café terrace at night.”

            “Your picture will have the title ‘The café terrace. Two hours later’, when all people are gone. And then you can sell it on e-bay.”

            “Would you leave me alone already?”

            “Of course, I’m going to sleep, so you can draw it all night.”

12:30 a.m. Finally, there was silence in my home. It was so good. Van Gogh probably had drawn his painting for several hours. How could he do it? I have drawn for more than four hours and could not finish it yet. I decided that the people in the picture were not necessary, so I had to draw the background of the terrace :  the back wall with a window and  shutters. I would show shadows from the second floor shutters and light through them. Light reflection on the wall on my picture, I think, was better than his. So, the terrace lamp… What could I do with this lamp? I should catch the light and put it on my canvas. But it would be difficult.

            I wanted to eat… 1:20 a.m…coffee and sandwich…I liked the evening silence of my home and this warm light over the stove, the kettle noisy. I spread cream cheese on the bread, poured the coffee with milk and added some sugar. I took a sip and a bit of my sandwich. Why did I not want people in my picture? I was not afraid to draw them. Of course, I was lazy, but that was not why I didn’t want to draw each figure. They bothered me for some reason. Another gulp of coffee… Poor van Gogh…I wondered if the café owner offered him the cup of coffee, when he finished painting. It was probably cold and wet in the evening after it rained. And all the people were warmly clothed in his painting… I should go take a bath and finish drawing tomorrow. I would clean up and wash the brushes. But before I did that, I would have to wash the mountain of dishes in the sink.

            I washed everything, dumped the colored water from the bowl, and washed the brushes. Left the kitchen, tripped over my husband’s bag, which he brought from the pool. Took all his wet stuff from the back and put it in the washer. There was a huge mess in the living room: dirty dishes, cups, bowl with leftovers of popcorn on the table. They cooked popcorn, but I didn’t even notice. I did not even smell it. I took everything to the sink and washed it. The trash would be taken out, but I should do that tomorrow…

It was 2 am. I went to the bathroom, turned the water on. The water poured with a thunder – I could wake everyone up. I took off my clothes and stepped into the bath tub.

I waited until the bathtub filled and turned off the water. How nice it was to lie in the warm water in peace and quiet. My eyes and hands were resting. Fingers were tired. Poor van Gogh. How was he out in the cold street?

            I got out of the bath tub, dried myself with the rough towel, put on pajamas. I turned the light in the bathroom off. My husband was snoring in the bedroom. A big pink crocked square of the light from the street lamp stuck on the wall. I lay down, like falling, and, it seemed that I would sleep like the dead. But I twisted and turned in my sleep – my shirt and my blanket strangled me. I woke up several times and looked at the red numbers of the alarm clock, surprised how little time had passed.

            I fell asleep near morning and I dreamed about a huge ocean wave, like a tsunami. And I was trying to get away from this wave into the town, with water-filled streets. The water was clear, deep, and slightly green, like in Venice. It was not deep on the road.  I pulled my son toward the mountains. It was so interesting to look how my feet moved in the clear green water. At the same time I knew that somewhere, on the beach, there was a huge wave looming over the town. Sounds and voices of other people surrounded me, became insistent, so I began to wake up and feel the morning light through closed eyes. I understood that it meant my son was watching TV in the living room, and the many voices of people came from there. My husband began to toss near me… and suddenly screamed impossibly loudly, “Turn off the sound! Let me sleep on the weekend!” I shuddered, too close a heart attack. My heart was throbbing, rapidly resounding somewhere in my ears.

            “Why do you scream? I am still sleeping…” I asked him sleepily and indignantly.

            “You know, I dreamed your Café, just without colors. Only black-and-white.”

            “It is not possible, this Café can not exist without colors and light. It exists because colors and light exist…You’ll let me sleep or not?”

My husband stretched himself and woke up completely, “You should have gone to sleep earlier, like all normal people…What will we have for breakfast today, great artist?”

            “For breakfast I will paint you kasha… or would fried eggs be better?” I mumbled slowly, continuing to hug the pillow and close my eyes.





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                                   The Four-leaf Clover      




I pick up my nine year old son from his school every day. He comes outside from school to his yellow school bus together with the other children,   holding his backpack, lunch-box and jacket. He always jumps outside without a wearing jacket, even in the winter. But today is spring and almost warm. He looks for me on the parking lot, finds me and smiles. His blond curls are tousled. I take his heavy backpack and hang it on my shoulder. Naughty slacker, like many children around him, he can see some things that most adults can’t see and can use these things unusually.

He comes to the cherry tree with not yet opened buds and checks the few stones that he put in the crotch of tree yesterday. Then we go through the pine trees, where clover plants are growing among the grass. He believes that the clover with four leaves bring him luck and happiness. He always bends over the grass and stares at the clover. Sometimes, if the grass is not wet, he lies on his stomach, making it more comfortable looking for lucky four-leaf clovers. Sometimes he picks up a few leaves with joy, but drops them, disappointed.

 Right now he is going down slowly on all fours on the wet grass and looking for happiness. He finds it immediately, smashing into fresh dog poop with both his palms. Laughing, he wipes his hands on the grass. I envy him – I cannot laugh about small problems as he does.

“Let’s go home - wash your hands,” I say to him.

“No, no, don’t even think about it!” he decisively answers me and continues his searching.

I don’t hurry him and try to be patient. Who knows, maybe he is right:  if I stare at the grass carefully, it is possible to find my own happiness. I stare at the grass too and pick up the clover. Four leaves, absolutely identical, but if it growing separately, it isn’t happiness. Even three off them are not happiness. For happiness I need exactly four leaves, not less, not more, all people know. I start to believe in this too, because my son believes it. I show him my lucky clover, but do not give it to him, because his hands are dirty. He pretends to be angry and grumbles at me that it is his happiness, because I pick it up on his grass. But I am sure that he is really not angry; he’ll find another happiness for himself. And my lucky leaves are still mine.

            Suddenly, he looks at me and a sly smile emerges on his face. “Would you like to see hypnosis?” he asks me. I know, he is planning something and his insidious plan reflects on his face, but I agree naively.

            He stretches out his dirty hands toward me with traces of dog poop. His face becomes serious, he comes closer to me and speaks to me slowly, “Go faster…” I’m trying to evade his hands and move away from him. We run toward our home, often changing the trajectory of our movement under “hypnosis.” On the porch he almost stops and a sly smile emerges on his face again – his older sister sits at home and knows nothing about hypnosis yet.

            I happily hold my four-leaf clover in my fist. I’ll put it between pages of my diary, accurately smooth these leaves, while they are not broken and later look for them carefully; it brings me happiness. I believe it, because my son believes it.





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                                         Leaf first


Monologue of a Slacker



Almost all of you know me very well. But for those who don’t know me, I‘ll tell: my husband nicknamed me a slacker. We are Russian. We arrived in the U.S.A. eight years ago. Since then, I am waiting. Of course, you can ask me, what I am waiting for so long. I have very important job: to wait our Green Card. I am good at this because I do not have a right to do anything else, except give birth to children. My husband can work and he does it, my children can go to school and they do it, but I can just wait...

Earlier, when my children were small, I was a hard-working mom: diapers-feeding–in-schedule-walking-with-stroller-cleaning- everything-everywhere. But right now I am a slacker – not working, higher-educated mom with children-students. I drop my children off at school in the morning and can relax or sleep… or walk to boutiques… or the fitness center. There I can wait for our Green Card too.

But first of all, I have to make sandwiches for my husband’s lunch. It is the holy of holies. After that I have to wash the floor in my apartment, dust everywhere, clean baths and toilets, stove and sink, wash dishes and clothes, put stuff in order. And cook something. Not a lot, just like lunch. Russian people like frugal food: chicken-soup-beef-cutlets-fry-potatoes-salad-with-tomato-cabbage-pie, and something for dessert. Not much, really? I forgot something else. My husband asked me to buy sunflower seeds in the Russian store. After all, I am sitting at home and doing nothing. After that I can relax, or sleep, or walk to in boutiques while my children are at school. Those are my weekdays when I rest. But my weekends are completely different.

For example, Friday, after lunch time, instead of walking in boutiques, I am tired  for some reason, so I sit at the computer to check my e-mail. My cell-phone rings. I glance at the phone to check who is calling – my Russian friend, of course.


“Hi! How are you? Are you going to the pool with the kids tonight?”

“Yeah, we’re going.”

“Us too, see you later!”

“See you.”

I go to my Classmates site on an internet to check for new messages and read my friend’s messages on Livejournal. My cell-phone rings again.


            “Hi!  We are going to the pool tonight with my children. Do you want to go?”

            “You are second to call me about that. We are already going . Lena’s family will be there too. You’ll find me in the pool – I’ll bring a Christmas gift for you.”

”Ok, see you.”

I have never spoken on the phone for a long time. I do not have time for that so my friends often reproach me. I take a sip of coffee with milk. I read that my friends in Russia bought a new Mercedes, congratulate them, close my laptop. I have to run to the Russian store to buy sunflower seeds for my husband. I put on my jeans. The phone rings again.


            “Hi! We want to swim today. How about you?”

Why they can’t remember that we always go to the pool every Friday, even if the sky will fall down on the earth.

            “Us too. And Lena’s and Marina’s family will be there. “You are third to call me about swimming.”

            “Good. Give me directions to the pool. I do not remember where it is.”

            “Check your e-mail. I sent them to you yesterday.”

            “Do you know that an Italian violin player is playing Saturday at Strathmore ? We want to go. If you want to listen to her too, give me your student ID. I’m going to buy tickets tomorrow morning, and I can get a discount with a student ID.”

            “I don’t know. We are going ski on Saturday, but I have to check a quality of the snow there. If the snow melts, we can go to the violin concert.  I can bring my student ID to the pool. Buy two tickets for me, please”

I already do not have time to buy sunflower seeds. I have to pick up my children from school, feed them- wash dishes- clean- ketchup- off- the- table- and- floor-help- with- homework-feed- my- husband- wash- dishes- again- put towels- and- swimming- suits- in- the- bag. We are ready to go to the pool. My husband, when he drives a car, likes to talk about something smart, math, for example. The swimming pool is not too far and I usually sit and nod my head, agreeing with him. To agree with him is the holy of holies too, except my daughter, who is still at home today. She has to finish her school project.

            We arrive at the pool, put on swim suits, close lockers.

            “Hi! Did you see our French girl?”

I glance back. My friends are here, of course.

A Russian old lady from our neighborhood wants to find our French friends who had run away to Paris five years ago and had run back two weeks ago.

            “Maybe she is at the sauna?”

            “How I can recognize her? I have not seen her for five years!”

            “When you come in the sauna, look around you. If you find a white girl with a good figure in the bikini, try to speak with her in Russian. She will answer you. Did you see my children? Where? OK. I try to find them. I want to go to the hot tub after that. Come there, please, if you like it.”

             I had time to relax in the hot tub while my husband was swimming his 50 laps and my children went on the slides and diving boards. They have a lot of fun today -- seven Russian children in one pool at the same time. I had to swim laps too. I lost my good health and figure while I sat at home and ran around boutiques.

            I like the hot tub. A Chinese middle-aged man near me reads a Chinese library book. The back massage is a very good thing, but the water is very hot and smells like chlorine… and there are too many people…and men like to massage their front, …and children yell everywhere.  All the same, it’s good here…

 “Hi! Did you see my son?”

Many Russian families are in the pool today.

            “He was here right now. I brought a Christmas gift for you. When you are going home, find me, please, I will give it you. It has been under my Christmas tree for two weeks. I have to throw away my Christmas tree next week.”

            “OK, I’m going to swim. See you later.”

Do not forget to bring them the Christmas gift from the locker. I close my eyes. Strong jets of hot water move up and down along my spine. I have to come out before I get overheated. I am going to the water falls to massage my shoulders.

            “Boo!!! Did I scare you?”

I open my eyes. My son is hopping near me and smiling, “Did you see Petika?”

            “He was probably here. But my eyes were closed.”

My son does not listen to my words. He runs away to catch his friend. Maybe it’s more quiet in the sauna? The sauna is not open for children.

My husband is swimming laps and his goggles have misted. The other man with misted goggles is swimming towards him. I want to yell to them, but they cannot hear me in this noise. Oops. Fender-bender. The other man tries to catch air with his open mouth. My husband corrects his goggles and continues swimming. What can happen with him? He can fight guns with sticks.

It’s too hot in the sauna. The old Russian lady found the French girl and recognized her. They sit and bla-bla-bla about something. The only other person in the sauna is a Chinese man who does not look like a French girl, so the process of recognizing was not difficult.

“Hi, girls! You are friends again? I cannot sit here for a long time: I don’t like heat. And you, be careful, don’t get overheated. I brought my student ID. I’ll give it to you when you are going home. I’m going to swim.” Too hot. How can they sit here for hours?

“Hi, Tetia-La! May I come to your house for a sleepover?

“I don’t know… Maybe…Ask your father!”

Petika, the friend of my son, seven years old, will come to our home for a sleepover. My son will be happy, and I’ll try to be happy too.

‘Yay! Daddy, Tetia-La asked me for a sleepover tonight! Please say yes! Teti-La, is this true that I can come to your house for a sleepover?”


“Daddy! Say yes! Please! Tetia-La invited me! Just call mom to tell her.”

 Where’s my son? I saw him: he’s running, trying to catch his friend. I catch my son’s arm.

            “Stop running! Would you like to swim with me?”

            “I don’t want to, Mommy… Today Dan is here, and Petika, and Alenka. May I play with my friends for once in my life?”

            “Ok, 10-minutes of swimming and you can continue your monkey business.”

            “5 minutes!”

            “Ok, 5-minutes free-style swimming, without a kickboard…”



We’re swimming near each other on the lap.

            “Mom, tell me a story about your childhood while we’re swimming. Swimming here is too boring while my friends are waiting me.”

            “Ok, listen. Once upon a time an old man and an old woman lived in a north country. Each year, in the summer, they waited for their grandchildren, who would come from far far away. Their grandchildren had to fly on the airplane…”

            “No, Mom…Don’t tell me a story about my childhood, tell me about yours.”

            “ Why do I have to tell you a story? You must swim freestyle for 5 minutes, did you forget? Go ahead!”

I’m swimming. My son went ahead. I try to breathe rhythmically, deep breaths through my nose and short outward breaths through my mouth. The swimming pacifies me, determines a pace for my thoughts. Breathe in and breathe out, breathe in and breathe out…

            “Mom, five minutes are over. I’m going to the slides.”


Ok, I ‘m done swimming too. My husband will finish his 50 laps soon. I have to bring the Christmas gift from the locker room. I open my locker, take the gift wrapped in a little bit of flabby paper, go to the pool, find my friend, give the gift.

            “Take it. Merry Christmas, congratulate your wife! I’ll wait for your son tonight for the sleepover.”

I have to give the Paris-girl my student ID. Where is she? Maybe old Russian lady knows?

            “Did you see Sasha?”

            “She was here a minute ago…”

Ok. I have to find my children and take them home. I catch my running son’s arm.

            “Stop, please. We are going home right now.”

            “Mom… Why do we always have to go home so early? Dan is here and Alenka too…Maybe I can stay with them and they can drive me home later?”

            “Ok, I‘ll ask their moms.”

I asked. They can drive my son later. I take a shower, dry my hair with a towel, put on jeans-T-shirt- sweater, shake my head in front of the mirror. I do not have time to dry it. I pick up my husband from the training bicycle. He has gone one mile already. When did he take a shower?

I have to give my student ID to the Paris girl. Where is she? Her husband sits here  reading his book while his family is inside the pool, because his wife can not remember how to drive a car after life in Paris. I’ll give him my ID.

            “Hi. Take it. This is for your wife. I couldn’t find her.”

            “Hi. What is it?”

            “This is my ID for tomorrow’s violin concert.”

            “What concert?”

            “Ask your wife later! I have to go. Bye-bye.”

The air is fresh and cold on the street, especially with a wet head. My husband does not like to wait for me. He smiles at me sourly. A heavy bag with wet towels and swimsuits hangs on his shoulder.

            “Take out the car key!”

            “It’s in your bag!”

            “I do not know what pocket it’s in.”

I find the key. We sit in the car, ride. My husband turns on music and tries to tell me something important through loud Shakira’s voice. I nod, agreeing.

            “No, you do not understand. Why do you nod at me all the time? I tell you, there are no new thoughts. All you think about, other people have thought about already one hundred times ... “

            “Yeah, and there are no new words, all of them are made from the same old letters…”

            “You always distort everything I say. What did I say that is so funny?”

            “Please, hold the wheel carefully!”

            “Everything is under control. Sometimes I like to drive in the opposite lane!”

Too many times I have told to myself : listen to him, keep silence, don’t discuss in the car. But sometimes it’s difficult.

             We arrive at home, thank God. I get the bag with the towels from the car.

            “Turn off the headlights! You forgot it again. Tomorrow morning you would have to charge the battery.”

            “This is my car. I do what I like.”

Where is the key to our apartment? I find it, unlock the door. My daughter is sitting on the computer as usual. I put wet towels in the washer, turn on the electric tea kettle, open the fridge. What do we have that’s fast to cook and that they like? My phone rings.


            “Hi! Petika hangs on my hand and tells me that you invited him on a sleepover. We’ll bring him right now?”

            “Yeah, I’m waiting for him.”

Where’s my son? Why are they swimming so long? I open the fridge again. What can I cook fast? Knock at the door. I close the fridge and open the door. Petika and his father arrive.

            “Hi, come in. Would you like some tea? No? Ok. You pick him up in the morning? Good. Call me. Say hi to your wife. Bye.”

I close the door. Petika walks through the rooms: tries to watch TV – boring (my husband blocked the cartoons channel); tries to play on the computer – he doesn’t know how to play. Thunder at the door. The door opens. On the threshold emerges my contented son.

            “Petika is already here? Good!”

            “Do you want a hot dog?”

I go to the kitchen, put sausages in the microwave, slice some bread and pour ketchup on it.

            “Guys! Come here! Hot dogs are done!”

            Where can they sleep at night? I’ll put them in sleeping bags on the floor in the living room.

            “Petika! You want to sleep on the floor?”

            “No, I want to sleep on the sofa!”

Ok. I put his sleeping bag on the sofa and my son’s on the floor near him. I hope Petika will not fall down on my son at night.

            “Guys! I put your bags here. Do not play on the computer for too long. Go to sleep at eleven. Not later. Ok? I put the gingerbread house kit on the kitchen table for you. In the morning, if you wake up early, you can make it with instructions. Don’t eat all the candy at once – you’ll get sick. You can wake me up only at ten, not earlier. Ok? Do you understand me? I want to read some before falling asleep. And you go sleep soon. Ok?”

I put towels in the dryer, and turn it on. My husband sits at the computer in the living room.

            “Turn it off, when it beeps! Ok?”

That’s all. This day is ending. The window in the bedroom is open a little. I like cold winter air in the bedroom. I lie on the bed under two warm blankets, turn on the Chinese paper lamp near my bed, open my favorite book by Anna Gavalda. But letters blur in front of me. I turn off the light, put my hand under my pillow, close my eyes. Tomorrow will be Saturday. I can sleep in…Through my dream I hear a loud yell from my husband to my children in the living room.

            “Go to sleep! Are you listening to me?”

My bedroom door opens with a bang. On the threshold emerges my son.

            “Goodnight, Mom!


Through my dream I hear the dryer beeping, the drying is finished. It beeps one more time, and again. I get up, turn it off. I’ll fold and put away dry towels tomorrow. My son sleeps. Petika narrows his eyes, pretends to sleep. My husband continues to sit at the computer.

            “I go to sleep…”

I lie in bed under two warm blankets, put my hand under my pillow, close my eyes. Sleep. I wake up. Somebody tugs my blankets off me. My husband is in the bedroom. He turns on his table lamp and starts reading his math book. 1:00 a.m.

            “You woke me up! Could you read in the living room and come here to sleep?”

            “I read where and when I want to read!”

I wrap myself in the blanket. Sleep…


            “Mom, I don’t want to wake you up. I just want to ask you, how do you set the microwave to high mode?  It’s written in the instructions for  the gingerbread house. I want to warm the icing.”

I lift my head off the pillow. I have difficulty opening my eyes. It is dark. 6:05. My son is standing near my bed. I try to concentrate on his question.

            “Please, speak Russian. I don’t understand English too early.”

            “Ok, Mom. How about high mode?” he continues to speak English.

“High mode?  Push the button quick and that will be high mode.”

I put my head on the pillow, close my eyes and try to sleep…

            “Mom, the icing is too hot. Do I have to wait?”

I lift my head off the pillow. Open my eyes. It’s dark. 6:12. My son is standing here. I try to focus on his question.

            “Yes, you do…”

I put my head on the pillow, close my eyes, try to sleep…

            “Mom, the instruction says I have to cut off the corner of the icing bag. Is that enough?”

I lift my head off the pillow, open my eyes. It is dark. 6:22. I can barely think.

            “What bag?”

            “The bag with icing!”

            “Dah” I fall on the pillow.

            “What ‘Dah’? Do I have to cut just one corner or the entire thing?”

            “One corner…” I close my eyes and try to sleep…

            “Mom, the icing doesn’t want to stick to the gingerbread house.”

            “I’m sleeping.” I turn on the other side…

            “Mom, the candy does not want to stick to the icing!”

            “R-o-a-h.” Sleep.

            “Mom, the roof of gingerbread house slid off the table , fell on the floor and broke into seven pieces. How can I glue them together?”

            “Go away...” I’m going to crush the gingerbread house into a million pieces with my feet and kill the boys…Sleep…


I hear loud and fast steps in the hall through my dream. The door in my bedroom opens and somebody rushes into the closet. B-u-h-h. Something falls down, I hear a loud yell.

            “I’m ready! You can search for me!”

            “Go away!”

Sleep... Through my dream I hear the scream in the living room.

            “I shot you first, when you poked your head out from under the bikes!”

B-a-h-r-s-g-r. I think the bikes are falling.

            “No, I was first!”

I get up and come to the living room.

            “Can you play quietly? Everybody is still sleeping! Please, play on the Wii.”

I went back to the bedroom, lie in my bed, put my head on the pillow, put my hand under pillow, pull the blanket off my husband onto myself. Try to sleep. My husband is wriggling.

            “Close the window! The idiot neighbor is smoking again under our window!”

I get up, close the window. Our neighbor that lives below us doesn’t want to sleep and went outside to smoke. Why doesn’t he want to sleep? I lie in the bed. The children are arguing loudly about something in the living room and maybe start to fight right now. My husband turns to the other side.

            “Close the door! It isn’t possible to sleep in this madhouse!”

I get up, close the door, lie in the bed. I do not want to sleep anymore, no apparent. I get up, come into the kitchen, take towels out of the dryer, put them in order. Children run around me and shoot each other with guns. My daughter is still sleeping , husband too. I turn on the electric teapot, try to clean the kitchen floor from fragments of the gingerbread house.

            “Why are you screaming too loudly? Can’t you shout quieter?”

            “No, we can’t! He cheated!”

            “Petika! How did you sleep? Didn’t fall on the floor?”

            “No, I did not fall.  I was sleeping very well, but your father did not go to sleep for a long time, and I could not sleep with the light. After that, I wanted to drink. I found a juice, drank it and threw away the empty box. After that, I slept. Then I went to bathroom, then we woke up and began to build the gingerbread house...”

            “Ok, thank you, I know the rest of this story.”

I put the children’s bed sheets in the washer, turn it on.

            “What do you want for breakfast?”

            “Nothing. We ate a lot of candy. We want to play more...”

They run away. Two minutes later I hear yell in the children’s bedroom. What can happen there? I go to watch. Both of them sit on the upper bunk of the bed in dirty yesterday’s jeans and try to hide under the blanket.

            “Do you know that it is not good to sit in the bed in dirty clothes?”

            “We know, but we forgot about it. We won’t do it again .”

They get down from the bed and go to the living room. I climb on the second bunk of the bed and take off the dirty bed sheets, get down, come to the kitchen and put this stuff near the washer to wait when first wash will finish.

            I have to cook sandwiches for breakfast. I slice the bread, put cheese on it and pepperoni.

            “Guys! The breakfast is done!”

I pour coffee with milk in my cup, take a sip, trying to save my cup from the running and shooting kids.

            “Are you going to eat or not?”

Maybe it’s better to bring them outside to the playground before they completely destroy our home? My sleepy daughter comes into the kitchen. 10:00 a.m.  I was going to wake up at this time. How long ago it was? My sleepy husband comes to the living room.

            “What happened here? Why is all this stuff all over the place? Why do I have to trip over the toys and guns?”

            “This isn’t me.”

            “We‘ll clean it right now.”

I walk around and pick this stuff up: swords, guns, sticks, binoculars in the bathroom. I try to untangle the rope tied around chairs.

            “Let go walk on the playground! Finish your breakfast fast!”

My husband sits at the computer, “Maybe I can eat something?”

            “What do you want?”

.           “What can you cook?”

            “Almost everything!”

            “Ok, You can cook me kasha, if you can not cook something else.”

I cook the kasha, taking sips of my cold coffee. The kasha is very watery, so I put here a little more lure. Shit! It’s too thick. I pour a little water. If it burns I will put it in the trash. I add some butter, bring it to my husband sitting at the computer.

            “Your kasha has lot of lumps… Is it especially for me? I can’t eat it .”

            “Of course, especially for you. I am sorry. Later I’ll cook a different kasha for you. Right now I’m going to take the kids to the playground. Guys! Are you ready to go? Let’s go! Why do I have to carry your stuff?”

We are going outside, I push their backs. I carry about a metal detector, dragonfly with remote control, two boxes of juice and a yellow scoop. I drop the scoop sometimes. We come to the playground near our apartments. I sit on the bench. The weather is warm today. I open my jacket. Not so far away three teenagers are fighting with long metal poles. My children come closer to them,  it is an interesting show. I come running up to the fight, drive them away.

            “You have a dragonfly. Play with it!”

I sit on the bench, turn my face toward the sun, close my eyes…

            “Mom, my dragonfly is stuck in the tree, help me get it down, please.”

I stand, find a stick, throw it at dragonfly several times. I hit it. The dragonfly falls down, but loses the tail.

            “Search for treasure with the metal detector!”

My children take the metal detector.

            “I’ll go first, and you – after me!”

            “No, I’ll go first, and after that I’ll go too, because it’s mine. When I get bored, you can try.”

I sit on the bench. The teenager come closer to my children, take their metal detector and search all together, dig something with long metal poles. I close my eyes and turn my face toward the sun…

            “Mom, we found a toy car in the ground.”

My son stands near me and cleans the small car with his finger. I smile at him, close my eyes and turn my face toward the sun…My phone rings. I dig my cell phone from my jeans pocket, “Hi.”

            “Hi!  Are you going to the children’s party in the Russian school tomorrow?”

            “No, I think. It is too expensive.”

            “This show is free for actors. Your children have to sing.”

            “I don’t know. We don’t have time. My daughter’s project’s deadline is Monday.”

I put my cell phone in my jeans pocket, close my eyes, turn my face toward the sun...

            “Mom, we found a knife.”

I open my eyes.

            “This is a nail file.”

I close my eyes and turn my face toward the sun…My cell phone rings. Shit! I dig my phone from my jeans pocket. “Hi.”

            “We bought only one ticket on the violin concert for you. Is it Ok?

            “ Thanks, a lot. My husband will bring my daughter to your home tonight. Take her with you, Ok? What time?”

I close my eyes almost without hope of sitting quietly for two minutes. I hold my phone with my hand, don’t put it in the pocket. 

            “Mom, we found something unrecognizable.”

I open my eyes. This is a grate from shower. I close my eyes, turn my face toward the sun…My phone rings and I hold it with my hand. I am smart. “Hi!”

            “Hi! Do you want to play tennis?”

            “Yeah, theoretically. Where you are going to  play? I have to drive to your court? I’ll think and recall you.”

It would be better to play here near our apartments. I call my friend.

            “Hi! Do you want to play tennis in our court today? You have to drive your daughter to my neighbors for the children’s party? This is good. What time? Can you drop her the party and play tennis with me? No? Why? Why do you speak too quietly? You will be Santa at this party? Ok. No. I do not want to be Snegurochka, or even Rudolf. I don’t have a special mood for that. I am tired. But I can come to your party for some tea, of course. But not for a long time. We have a violin concert tonight.  No, we are not performing, we sing, rather listening. Bye. Thanks for the invitation. But you bring your tennis a racket, maybe we can find time to play.”

I have to call to refuse the far tennis game. I call, close my eyes, turn my face toward the sun. My phone rings. My friends are calling, I hope they want to pick their son up.

            “Hi! Yeah, you can pick him up right now. They are well done. When?  Only in half in hour? Not early? Ok. I‘ll try to withstand a siege, I think…”

I close my eyes, turn my face toward the sun. I have to withstand this siege. Only one more day. And Monday is not so far. My children will go to school  on Monday morning and  I can relax, or sleep, or walk to boutiques and the fitness center. But first, I have to cook sandwiches for my husband’s lunch. It is the holy of holies. After that I have to wash the floor in my apartment, wipe dust everywhere, clean baths, toilets, stove and sink, wash dishes and clothes, put stuff in order. And cook something. Not much. Just like lunch. Russian people like frugal food: soup-cutlets-potatoes-salad-pie and something for dessert. Not much, really? Oh yes, I must buy sunflower seeds in the Russian store. After all, I am sitting at home and doing nothing. After that I can relax, or sleep, or walk to the fitness center while I wait for our Green Card

I tell you, I am a slacker. My husband thinks so…








dushainusa68: (Default)

                                                         Leaf second

                                              Be Happy (Letter to myself)

“Pretend you’re happy when you’re blue.

 It isn’t very hard to do”.

King Nut Cole, jazz singer.


Walk out to the beach, on the dry, flying sand, turn toward the sun

 that is trying to hide beyond the dunes.

The wind is already not as strong and hot as during the day,

 but not cold yet like at night.

Raise your hands behind your head,

making your tanned body straighter, slender, lissome and slight.

Tender wind moves your faded slightly sticky curls,

penetrates under your thin yellow T-shirt, and caresses your bosom.

Your nipples become harder, touching your t-shirt, quivering in the wind.

Close your eyes and listen to the rhythmical breathing of the ocean:

deep breaths and short exhalations.

The water licks the sand and reflects sunset.

The white foam of the waves becomes pink and delicate.

 The sea shells are washed ashore by the wave, strong and powerful.

 The sand streams under the wave, coming back to the ocean.

Stand, breathe and listen …and be like a kite that connects with earth

 just with a thin string, vibrating from the tension.

His lips, warm and dry, touch your neck.

 His strong, warm hands touch your stomach under your T-shirt,

 up to your nipples and down under your shorts.

And a shiver of eagerness suddenly overfills you,

desire to be held by these hands and not to be set free.

 And quiet rustle of his words in your ear.

And suddenly break loose from his grip and run toward the sunset.

And fall on the sand, wet and keeping the warmth of the long day.

And stare at your children, running after you,

and at the man, squinting his eyes from the sun.

And stand up and walk along the surf line with the man’s sweater,

 wrapped around your back. 

And feel his smell. And walk just toward the sun.

And watch the sun, sinking slowly in the wet and shining red sand,

like scarlet paint flows out off it , and spreads around the beach ,

and streams like a small river, so the sun becomes darker and smaller.

And look at the small grey birds,

running from the already dark waves and still white foam.

And go back at darkness and catch by flashlight small crabs on the beach

which look like small stones with feet. Crabs shuffle away if you move your flashlight.

And dig a hole in the sand and make there a fire .When the flame starts to lick the wood,

whiten and polished by the salt water and dried by the sun,

wind carries away the sparks from the fire.

Then spread the live coals in the fire with a long and twisted stick.

And broil the meat. And eat it, holding it with your hands, burning,

 tearing away big juicy pieces and chewing it with gritty sand on your teeth.

And sit quietly near the fire, put more firewood in the flame

and stare at the glare of flame on your children’s faces, tanned and smiling,

and at the warm eyes of your man.

And wake up in the morning on the wrinkled sheets

from his warm lips touching your shoulder

and from the wind that became dry and soft inflating the curtain,

smoothing all wrinkles on the turquoise ocean.

Stretch yourself, go outside on the balcony and breathe in this salt air

and look at the dunes with seashells, at fresh green pines

and dry grass, like wave under wind…

Happiness is possible without the man….

And without the ocean…

And without the small crying kids,

whom you would drag to the daycare early dark mornings

 through dampness and dank.

And stand in the stuffy and dusty coach in the subway,

rushing with thundering into the dark tunnel under the ground,

breathe in strong smells of men’s sweat and women’s perfume.

Hold the hand rail, close your eyes and imagine the warm and tender ocean,

breathing rhythmically and calmly.

Imagine tanned and laughing people, who can not be in a hurry.

Who can walk along the surf line, barefoot on the wet sand for their whole life

and leave clear footprints, which the waves lick away at once…


dushainusa68: (Default)

                                   Leaf third



            Of course, I don’t want to tell you about tomatoes in general, but just about toma                                                  

toes that I like. You may think that it is too easy to buy good tomatoes. But you are wrong.

You can go to the nearest Giant, of course. You come closer to the table with tomatoes, stare at them, everything identical, with the same stickers with numbers on their sides. If you do not like these tomatoes, you can take the other: vine tomatoes, like the twins on the small green twigs. They have other numbers, but they are identical too. But I want to tell you how I like to buy tomatoes. Maybe it is boring for you, but I do it with pleasure.

            First -- start your day right.  It has to be Saturday, the end of August or beginning of September – when the weather is not as hot as in the summer. This day has to be absolutely free, when your head is happily empty and you do not have anything urgent or routine to do. You have to sleep in, of course, wake up and open your eyes slowly, close them again, stretch yourself with pleasure and settle on your pillow more comfortably. At this moment your first thought has to be, “How would I like to have a good time today?” You have to stretch and feel again that you have no work today: you do not have to clean your house or cook, and pull your children to different activities. Nothing. Good empty day.

At that moment you can suddenly think, “Maybe today is the best day to buy good tomatoes?” Then you have to imagine the smell of them, colored red and a little yellow on the top. They hang on the tomato plants, a little faded in the still hot weather. It is like the tomatoes are filled by sunlight inside and are a little dusty outside. These tomatoes are big, bumpy and, of course, without the white stickers on their sides.

            You can drive to a farm and walk around tomato plants, holding the bag with your hand, selecting the best tomatoes and worrying about fallen down and rotten tomatoes. And think about the money that you have to pay for them.

            But better, sit in your car, turn on the air conditioner and MP3-player with your favorite Russian song “...узелок завяжется, узелок развяжется, а любовь она и есть только то, что кажется...” (“… the small knot ties  and unties, but love is just what it seems…”). Stretch yourself and click your seatbelt, of course, and drive on route 28. In the beginning of your tomato way you see so many cars around you on the road. All these people inside their cars do not know how beautiful a day you will have today.

 The road becomes narrower, the traffic lights disappear.  You rush on the empty road up and down through the hills with white and red houses and white fences. And horses are slowly walking on the drying grass. Slim poplars are standing along the road somewhere and rustle with their silver leaves. The farm sheds, painted dark red, with white doors and windows appear for a moment. The fields with dry corn, orange spots of pumpkins, apple gardens are flashing around you. And again, houses near the road with mailboxes that look like wide rabbit burrows with small red flags rush by, farther and farther. Only sound you hear is the rustle of your car tires. Cold wind of the air conditioner is in your face. The shadows of the trees on the road are not dark, as it was in the summer. The sun seeps through little dry leaves and light sun spots slide under your tires…

Look at right. You see the big white board with advertising of the farmer’s market. A lot of yellow flowers grow along the road. Drive slower and park near low and wide house, where the parking lots are usually full of cars. If you are lucky, you can find empty lot near the table with pots with chrysanthemums. Their buds slightly open, some still green, some white, some wine colored, or yellow with a dark brown edge.

            You immediately have to get outside of your car, to the hot air, close the door and bend closer over the flowers, almost touching them with your nose, and breathe in their smells of the hot summer, dust and wormwood…You have to choose one  pot with chrysanthemums, but better - two, because it is easier to choose two than one. Put them in the shopping cart and wonder where you will put the vegetables?

 Take a second cart and drive it closer to the table near the white board with cue “SECOND”. Big boxes with tomatoes, peppers, apples and peaches are here. This cue does not mean that somebody has eaten these tomatoes or they are rotten. No, of course not. These tomatoes are big with non-typical shapes and different ripeness. Sometimes they have dark scratches on their sides, but all of these are alive. The big brown boxes with tomatoes are heavy, maybe 25 pounds. It is enough to eat until you are full and a treat your friends, if you have friends, of course.  Pick up this box and put it on the bottom of your cart. You can take the box with apples and the box with white peaches – they are sweeter. But you have to put it in the other cart.

Overfilled with greed, you drive your cart to the table with corn. Take twelve, but do not peel them because the corn becomes sweeter and juicier if you cook it in its green husk on the barbeque. Take two or three purple onions, five green-red peppers and ten or twelve cucumbers. Not big, not long, not dark-green cucumbers with big seeds inside, but small, little bitter and pimpled cucumbers with dried yellow flowers on their tips. Look around. Did you see grey balls in the box? They are cantaloupes. You can take it too, but only for smell, strong smell, from which your head will spin. Push your cart with all your stuff to the cashier and pay for it. Then push it to your car and put it in the trunk. Do not forget to put the boxes around pots with chrysanthemums; otherwise the pots can fall on their sides while you are driving home. Close your trunk and sit on your seat in the car. Close the door. Breathe in deep. Do you feel something special? The world around you has become completely different, more bright and colorful, because your car is filled by smells, the smells of the summer, hot and restful. The scents of cantaloupe, warmed by the sun, slightly unripe peaches and tomatoes are mixing, so your head starts to spin a little.

You hurry home like a pregnant woman, who caresses her stomach with pleasure. Your car is heavy and more than usually jumps on the road’s bumps. The sound of Argentine’s guitar from your player and the rustle of the tires weave together, becoming laces on the road, laces from the shadows and sunlight. You are rushing on the road at home.

             But you can kill everything, trying to put these vegetables in the fridge. But you, of course, don't do it, because you know very well that the fridge kills all smells. You put these boxes on the floor in the kitchen or living room. The scents of the veggies weak in the cold conditioning air. But do not worry about it.

            You have to prepare a wood cutting board, not new, but your favorite one, two different knives with heavy handles and a big clay bowl.

            You have to choose three tomatoes in the box: big ripe tomatoes. Better, if one of them is yellow. Chinese people say that all vegetables in your salad have to be the same color, but I think, they really do not make it that way themselves. And you too do not make it. One-color salad looks like a one-color green summer.

            Choose one pepper, two pickles and purple onion, wash them, just as much as you would wash the veggies, that you grew yourself in the small garden near your own house.

            You don’t chop the veggies into small pieces, just slice them. The onion has to be in separated rings. Be careful with tomatoes, don’t press them. Put all these veggies in the bowl carefully, add some dill that you have bought before, black olives, salt, fresh ground black pepper, dark green virgin olive oil. You have to wait a little – tomatoes have to release their juice.

             At this time you put in the microwave two peeled corncobs, sprinkled with a little olive oil and salt, in the glass bowl with lid. You do not have time to cook it in the barbeque, you can do it later.

.           Some potatoes? Exactly. Two or three pink potatoes cut in half, don’t peel them, only wash, put them in the glass bowl with lid, sprinkle with olive oil too, your favorite seasoning and a little salt. Pull the cooked corn out of the microwave and put potatoes in the microwave. You have several minutes to slice rye bread, spread it with butter a little and put on smoked salt salmon. Don’t put the salmon in your mouth immediately, because the salmon can kill all of the veggies scents. Better to start with salad.

            Prepare the big plate. You are very hungry as a wolf. Don’t hurry. Put food on your plate slowly, because it is the most delicious salad in your life.  Don’t forget to use the fork, don’t take it with hands.

            Sit at the table. In the middle of your table is the pot with white chrysanthemums.  Outside your window are pines, lazily moving their branches under the hot sun. Close your eyes. Breathe deeper. Try to feel each scent separately, like the sound of each instrument in the orchestra, where the tomatoes perform a solo. Then mix all these scents together and don’t worry about your slightly spinning head. Do you feel that the summer embraces you? You have never had so beautiful a summer: spicy, hot, slightly bitter and salty. Open your eyes – you are ready to start eating.

            Why do you bolt it, getting burned and not chewing? Don’t hurry. Enjoy each piece, because right now you suddenly feel pain in your heart and understand that the summer has ended and who knows when you can buy good tomatoes…



dushainusa68: (Default)

                         Leaf four (fall)


Play slowly and quite

5:40. The radio inside my alarm clock starts to mumble. I open my eyes with difficulty, reach and press the button of the radio. It falls silent.  When I bought it two months ago I hoped that the music would live inside my radio in the morning. But I was wrong.

I fall on my pillow. Darkness is still. I feel pain in my head, so I close my eyes again. It seemed that I woke up several times during the night, looked at the clock and wondered if I could continue sleeping. My thoughts prevented my dreams, disturbing me like my words, already written and not yet written, like red shining numbers of my alarm clock. They floated inside my head like red spots when I had closed my eyes, so I could not understand what time it was.

            I have to get up. My family is still sleeping. It seems whole world around me is sleeping too, although I hear the sound of the running water in the neighbor’s apartment. I try to open my eyes one by one. The pink street light outside the window lights my bedroom a little. I have to get up. I don’t turn the light on, walk into the bathroom, lit by the dim blue nightlight, close the door and turn on the bright white light. My eyes screw up, trying to protect themselves. Almost not opening my eyes, I reach for the faucet and turn on the water. I have a habit to wake up finally from the sound and touch of a warm shower. Today I try to wake up earlier than usual and my body can’t understand that I really must wake up right now.

            I need to go to the hospital today. I have to be there on time at 6:45. I pour some shampoo on my head, wash it away with the remains of my dreams. I turn off the water, take the heavy, dark yellow towel, and dry my head. Someone looks at me from the misty mirror, someone with tousled hair and a baggy face. I try to smooth my face making several grimaces, shaking my head. My face becomes alive, but my eyes are still lifeless. I take my toothbrush and start brushing my teeth, which have become sensitive. I wash my mouth and put on some hair gel with my hands. I turn on the noisy fan, so the mirror and my hair are drying from the hot air. I try to style my hair with the purple brush and my hand, but not thoroughly, casually. I turn off the light, open the door and go outside of the bathroom.

My children are still sleeping and rooms keep silent. It is still dark outside of the window.  I am going into the kitchen and turn on the light. I do not want to eat. I’ll eat something when I come back from the hospital. I usually do not cook breakfast. My children eat in the morning what they can find in the fridge: fruit and yogurt.

6:10. I come back to the children’s bedroom, find my daughter’s leg in the big red downy blanket from IKEA, touch it and whisper to her, “Get up, it is time to go to school.” My daughter wakes up quickly and goes into the kitchen in her tiger pajamas, sleepy, silently and almost does not open her eyes. She opens the fridge, takes a yogurt, closes the fridge and tries to find a spoon among dry dishes near the sink by touch. She sits in the chair, folding her leg under herself because it is cold. The air conditioner is working. She opens the yogurt, almost not opening her eyes, takes some yogurt with her spoon and puts it in her mouth. Her eyes slowly open, when she feels the cold peach taste of the yogurt.

6:20. I have to go. I run to my bedroom, put on my jeans and T-shirt and wake up my husband. He has to drive me to the hospital, come back home and drive our daughter in her school. The awakening of my husband usually is very painful for our family. He always wakes up in the bad mood, angry at the whole world around him which prevents his last morning dreams. I remind him that he has five minutes until we go to the hospital, and then I go out of the bedroom.  My daughter finishes her breakfast and walks to the bathroom, sleepy, falling over. “Do not forget to wake up Sashka later.” She nods me with her head, goes inside the bathroom and closes the door.

            At this moment my husband, mad and still sleeping, runs to the closed bathroom door with a loud “Bam!” He is one second late, so he starts to grumble loudly. I remind him that we have two bathrooms in our apartment. He runs to children’s bathroom for just a second, jumps out, runs to our bedroom, puts on shorts and a T-shirt that he put down on the floor at night. He is running in the corridor, loudly stomping his feet on the floor. He jumps to the computer, looks at the news, jumps back, running outside the apartment. I hear his hurried words “I’m ready!” The door slams loudly.

6:30. I pull on my sneakers, take my bag and go outside. The car’s door is closed on my side. I pull the handle one more time. The door’s lock clicks. I open the door, sit on my seat and click my seat belt. My husband is listening the Russian singer who sings about Cuba and Cuban sand in her shoes. I hear his words through the song that he always has to wait for me. I’m not surprised really and keep silent, no answer; it is the best, I know. We drive away from our parking lot. Our car is almost empty, so have to turn into the gas station. It is starting to become lighter, but here the night lights are still turn on. We get gas. Why have I not listened before to this Cuban concert? We drive down to the road. A black guy stands near the corner and waits for a bus. He is cold and wraps his hands around himself – the mornings are cold already.

            Too many cars are around us on the road. We drive near the lake where mist lies on the water like big and light pieces of wool, and birds start to wake up noisily. The grey coming morning promises a hot day. My husband suddenly stops at a red stoplight so I hang in my belt. One more turn and we arrive.

            6:45. The parking lots in front of the hospital are almost empty, only few cars. I get out from the car. “I’ll call when you should pick me up.” I slam the car door. The car drives away, with a screeching of brakes.  The main doors of the hospital open automatically. I go into the brightly lit lobby, find the necessary door, open it. The young sleepy girl with bright make up sits at the reception desk, “Hi, how are you?” Her smiling face looks like a freshly-ironed shirt – she is very glad to see me, but she wants to sleep, a little. A young red-haired doctor is typing something on the computer near her.

            “Hello. Good. Thanks.” I find my ID and medical insurance card in my bag and put them on the desk. The girl takes them, copies and gives me them back. “Please, sit here and wait a little.” My eyes stare at the door with its symbol of radioactivity. It opens and red-haired doctor in his white uniform calls my name, says to me, “Hello. How are you?” In this moment I wake up completely and answer him, “Fine, thanks.”  My family doctor did not tell me that this medical research would use radioactive material, but I understand it now. The red haired doctor escorts me into the dim room, close to the monitor. “Please sit in the green chair.” He tells me something else that usually doctors tell their patients. Something friendly and unimportant. But I hear and understand right now only his few separated words, which seems to me important. These words stick to my brain and sound inside me like an echo. This feeling comes to me always when I’m excited. Maybe my brain tries to protect itself from the overheating and useless information. But visually I’m still calm and little bit thoughtful. I sit. He explains to me that I have to take one pill right now. It is not dangerous to me. I have to come back today to this office four hours later for testing, and then tomorrow morning at 9.a.m. He takes a lead box with my name on the sticker and the pill inside, pours some water in the white plastic cup. I take the pill out of the box and put it in my mouth, take some water and gulp. The water in the cup is too cold, so I feel pain in my teeth.  I can not take more. I am getting cold. He smiles at me. “See you later, please come to this room at 11 a.m.” He opens the door for me. I go out of the room and find myself in the long corridor with light colored walls and many doors. Which door is mine?  I don’t remember. I open one. It’s wrong – this door is to the stairs. I come back to the red-haired doctor’s room. The doctor smiles at me, shows me the exit, says, “Bye-bye, see you later.” I smile at him too. I like that people smile at me. “See you later”, I echo.

            7:00 a.m. I go outside through the automatic doors. It became light, although dark-purple shadows of the night lie under the bushes, reflecting in the big windows of the hospital building. I find my cell phone in my pocket and call my husband, “Hi, I am free, you can pick me up.” My husband grumbles at me, “Why you didn’t tell me that it was so fast. I could have waited for you…”  I sit in the wood bench on the right side from the entrance door. “Don’t worry, I can wait.” I put my cell phone in my pocket and take a book by Murakami from my bag. I like Murakami. I can re-read his books many times and I always find something new inside his texts that resonate with my mood. It is amazing. I don’t read the book immediately. I close my eyes and stretch myself, trying to absorb all the sounds of an awaken town. I open my eyes. There are no people, except three children of different ages with backpacks and lunchboxes, sleepily walking from their green minivan toward the main entrance of the hospital. Their mom, plump and slow, is trying to correct something inside the car, maybe car seats.  In this time, the sleepy children are slowly going back from the main entrance and walk closer to their car with the same distance - one step - between them. They sit in the car one by one. Their mom loudly asks them, “Are you ready to go?” The door slams and car slowly goes away. I like sleepy people and people who are not shy to look sleepy. Their faces seem open and sincere.

            Carved leaves of tree, looks like rowan tree, bending under the road, seem darker on the light sky. The small spider moves near my foot. His legs are long and seem broken; he is creeping over the ground.  I think it is too difficult to move with his legs.  The sun rises between the trees and birds awaken, then natural sounds, town noises and movement emerge around me. The black cricket slowly moves on the path and suddenly jumps away fast and far when I move my foot.

            7:07. I open my book, The Shadows of the Lengsington by Murakami. I dive in this book like in the ocean.  The book pulls me in the different world, where I have never been before and possible will have not been – far-far Japan. In this book the boy and the girl walk around Tokyo and talk to each other. I read and feel that I have lived inside this story before, but there were different details. I remember it clearly. It seems that Murakami and I have lived at the common place in our childhood, and right now each of us remembers it with own details. This boy from the book has a friend, who has died inside his garage. He finished the pool game, went to his garage, closed the door, tightly sealed it with scotch tape and turned on the engine...

            “The death is not the opposite thing of our life,” tells me Murakami, “ but a necessary part. It sounds simple, but at the time, after his death, I felt it no through words, I felt it like the elastic ball inside me. I saw the death everywhere: inside the papier-mâché, inside pool balls on the table… And we live and breathe death in like fine dust. I had felt before that life is separated from the death. Life is on this side, death – on the other side. After his death, I could not feel it too simply. Death ceased to be separated from life. The death has lived inside me always and slipping away from it is not possible.”

            I feel at this moment that death is like a small radioactive pill inside me, like the smile of the red-haired doctor. His words seemed me brave, “See you later”. Of course I will see you later, of course…

            I hear the beeping sound of my car – my husband drives closer to me, smiling, he already is completely awake. I sit in the car. A big truck that drives ahead of us catches and tears away several rowan tree leaves, and they fly following the track, curled by a swift whirlwind. See you later…

7:40. We arrive at home. I can take my son to school – I have five minutes. I find my key and open the door in my apartment. “Hi! I am at home! Let’s pack up your stuff and go to school! Where are you?” Nobody answers me. He is gone, did not wait me. I don’t know what I have to do. I go outside on the porch, breath in deeply morning smell of pine trees and chirrs of cicadas. Early dew begins to dry on the windows of cars on the parking lots. This day will be hot. “See you later,” It echoes in my head. See you… See you…And I smile.

It seems I went outside of a dark stuffy maze. 

 I breathe deep and freely. I know that I can pick up my son from school today and walk with him slowly, toward our home, holding his hand.  And he would stare at the grass and search for the happy four-leaf clover again.

It turns out, that happiness has lived inside me on thin and fragile sheet between life and death, but I could not feel it. Right now everything is too close to me - each smell, each sound, each movement. The fuss of birds and imperceptible smell of sadness, brought by the wind, everything is filled by thirst for life. Thoughts emerge inside my brain like fragments of mist, seeming like big and light pieces of wool, a little lit by the first rays of the sun on the sparkling water. The world stuck inside my throat like a lump.  Seems, I’m slowly  disappearing in this world: sharp, huge and alive; and the time is running through the world around me like dry, fast and almost colorless sand, running inside a sandglass.



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            My son lies on the sofa and watches TV, as usual before school. It doesn’t matter to him what he watches. Although I understand that he needs some time after sleep to reconnect with the world around him, I hurry him. Suddenly he becomes alive and asks me, hurrying to chew his banana breakfast. “Let’s see, what is on sale! Pet’s medication! It is too necessary for Pif. Gramma told that he is walking with difficulty. Let’s buy it! Twenty dollars is not too much, really.”

I turn toward the TV. Medication, protecting the dog from arthritis, is on sale. A cheerful dog runs around on the bright green grass in the monitor. The TV dog looks like our Gramma’s dog in Moscow. His name is Pif. Each summer we made a trip to Moscow and my children liked dog’s games. My son threw apples to him that fell on the grass from the apple tree near Gramma’s house. Pif rushed to catch the apple and brought it to my son’s hands. Sometimes Gramma gave my son a chicken bone. He tied it to a long twig and raised it up. The dog stood on the back feet and walked funny, trying to reach the chicken bone. My children laughed. The dog became old and Gramma complained that Pif walked around difficulty, so she put old mittens on his feet, warming his painful bones during the cold winter. She told he slept at night with mittens on his feet and anxiously sighed, like all very old dogs without mittens.

            In the winter, when we were very far from our Gramma, I asked my son, why he wanted to fly in Moscow in the summer. He answered me, “I’m happy there because I have my Pif and my Gramma.”

            But Pif died one month ago. Gramma called us and asked me not to tell my son immediately, but later, at the right moment. I think that the moment is right now, and I say to him, “You know, Pif ran away and didn’t come back.”

My son looked at me, surprised, “Why? He always came back home after walking around. Why he didn’t come back at this time?”

            “I don’t know…Sometimes dogs run away when they feel they’re going to die. That was this case, maybe… He was very old.”

            “Yes, I know…” He turns away from me because I must not notice the tears, filled his eyes.

The advertisement ended on the TV and the History Channel continues to show us the brave military men in the black-and white old pictures. I turn off the TV. We have five minutes until we go to school. My son put on his jeans, T-shirt, sweater with hood, socks and sneakers, keeps silent. I put on my sweater and sneakers too. I take his backpack and lunch box and we go outside.

He is walking, pulls his hood down over his eyes, continuing to keep silent. I don’t know what he is thinking about. Maybe he is remembering Pif’s delicate and velvety ears; his dark, wet and cold nose, or his rough tongue like the sandpaper. May be. Maybe he is thinking about nothing and simply trying not to cry. We walk down the light grey wood steps, on to the grass with clover, wet from the morning dew. Our sneakers become wet and darker. I stroke his back “Don’t be sad. A dog’s life is shorter than people’s. It is life… I’ll ask Gramma, maybe she’ll get a small tawny-colored kitten in the summer. He’ll steal food from the table, swing on the curtains, and roll pencils on the floor. In the summer we’ll come to Gramma’s house again and you’ll play with the kitten. You’ll tie the crumpled piece of paper on the long rope and slowly wiggle it. So the kitten will jump, trying to catch the paper as if it was a mouse. The kitten will be funny and silly, scratching everything…” My son smiles through his tears, I feel it. Few tears run down on his cheeks. He wipes them away with his sleeves.

The yellow school bus is already waiting for us, flashing bright lights. We went toward the bus in the parking lot. Dark morning clouds begin lightening from first morning sun rays. My son walks behind me a little and buries his face in my back, “Mom, don’t turn toward me, please…I’ll stand near you a little and go…” I do not turn toward him, I stand, trying do not cry too. Then he comes ahead, pulls his hood down over his face – he does not want bus driver’s questions about his red eyes. He goes toward the bus, doesn’t look back, bending with his heavy backpack.  He is not crying because men must not cry. He goes inside the bus, bus doors are closed and bus starts moving. The smell of gasoline is following the bus.

 I turn back and walk slowly toward our home on wet grass with happy clover leaves. I’m walking and thinking that unhappy people do not look for their happiness amongst clover leaves. They simply do not remember about it.

dushainusa68: (Default)
                                       My Grand Father and his Cat

           In the fall, when trees begin to lose their yellow leaves and nature is ready to fall asleep, I remember my grandfather who passed away many years ago. I remember his last years, not bright and full of events, when he closed inside his own world that was not open to others.

         “The cat needs vitamins,” says my grandpa Ivan, as he begins to cut an onion into small pieces using his shaking hands. He is throwing them on the floor for his cat. Grandpa is very old. Many years ago, he started moving back inside the long tunnel of his life, when different events and people were gradually being wiped away by time. Only his childhood, happy and light, is still bright and clear at the end of his tunnel. He almost does not remember his children and grandchildren. But often, the words from his childhood come to him. He knows his old house by touch because his eyes are almost blind. He has lived here alone many years. He walks inside his house, touches the walls with his hands and leaves dark stripes on the walls. His feet that wear old wool boots slowly move on the hard wood and feel each plank. His old cat Pushok is almost blind too, but he always finds my grandfather and the hand, which usually strokes his ear. The cat is almost ready to believe that this onion with vitamins is necessary for him. He is coming up to grandfather, who is sitting at a round table in the kitchen. The cat usually smells the food that falls down from his owner’s hands. He lost his teeth many years ago and cannot gnaw anything, especially an onion. He has a habit of testing each piece of food on the floor: maybe he can find something good. Sometimes, the cat jumps up on the fire place shelf, closer to the warm chimney. He lies there and looks around. He looks proud. Sometimes, he falls asleep on the shelf in the warm kitchen and drops down on the floor. He has little time to wake up during this fall.  Afterwards, he still shakes his head to break out of his dream. He likes, sometimes, to bend his back and scratch his claws on grandfather’s wool boots. Sometimes, he escapes from his age and apathy, when he feels that in the pan on the stove are fresh juicy and fried meatballs. He cannot get them from under the lid of the pan. He smells the air, jumps up, touches the pan handle and falls down with the pan and meatballs. He eats them very quickly with loud meowing and purring until grandpa comes into the kitchen. At the last second, he jumps through the open window as quickly as possible and throws a sad glance at the meatballs on the floor. He walks around the house on paths in the snow for a long time. He hopes that the people will forget about his behavior and the meatballs. He comes back to the kitchen, light and warm, from the snowy dark. Snowflakes melt on his back. He finds grandfather and rubs on his old boots for a long time. He meows, sweetly and unapologetically, ” I am not guilty. I will be nice next time.”

         The old broken clock on the wall always shows the same time. Nobody can move the hands of a clock when time is stuck inside.  Grandfather, as usual, comes into the kitchen when he wants to eat. He mixes on his plate different kinds of food: soup, meat and bread. It does not matter to him whether it is day or night. He falls asleep in different rooms when he wants to sleep. Maybe, he is looking for the place where his childhood sleeps. Maybe sleeplessness lives in his old wool boots, and he moves it from one room to another.  Grandfather’s cat finds him everywhere and lies under his hand. Their lifestyle has not changed for many years. Often, they sit together near the window on the antique sofa with a torn cover. So many years ago, the old dark wood and the silk cover of the sofa would shine under the sunlight.  Grandfather tries to write about something important for him in old notebook pages. His cat lies near him on old newspapers on the table, near a box with broken eyeglasses. The cat warms himself under sunlight. One of his eyes is open and sometimes looks at what grandfather is doing. Maybe, he is checking grandfather’s grammar like a strict teacher. The sea in the painting on the wall has become yellow in color. The painting’s frame has almost lost its golden color.  A spider lives under the painting’s glass. Old newspapers are everywhere. Nobody has read them for a long time. Time, silly and crazy, is preserved inside these newspapers. Old calendars that hang on the walls cannot return my grandfather to the present. The old Singer sewing machine covered by an old shawl with red flowers stays in the corner. The old small TV cannot show anything new about life to him. Only cacti are growing up, without water and care, on the window.

          Each spring, grandfather digs his small garden near his house with a shovel. Nothing is growing up there. Only big, old apple trees with dry and rough branches stand there. My grandfather buries his life and his present, and his cat sits near him to check how he is working.

dushainusa68: (Default)
Her Father

She was sitting on the stool in the dark kitchen. The wall she was leaning on with her back was cold. She was throwing back her head and looking out window. The lights of the big house in front of her were bright and blurred. Her eyes were tear-filled. She did not like the dark. But she did not think about it. She waited for her father to wake up. It was two days before Christmas. Only two days. Time was running so fast. Usually around this time they bought the Christmas tree and set it up in the home. Her father liked the house full of guests: many children, gifts, voices, laughs. Those were the best days in their life.

She did not remember her mom – she was so small when her mom died while her father was fighting in the war. She remembered almost nothing about this time, only feelings of hunger and being cold, and several birds inside a cage, and the kind eyes of the old doctor.
The first very clear and bright memory was a moment when her father found her. It was spring. The sun light was bright and caressing. He lifted her up with his strong hands and clasped her to his bosom. His eyes were deep. The bristle on his cheek pricked her neck. And her head was spinning a little from the smell of his cigarette. She was very small and light with her thin neck, hands and bare scratched knees, but very proud that she had a father. He held her in his arms and she told everybody, ” Look, he is my dad !”, and embraced him again and again. And everybody smiled at her. She was very happy.
Their life after the war was difficult. They lived in a small and dirty room in province town. Her father was working every day and came back home late when it was dark. She sat at home alone and waited for him without light. Shadows moved in the corners, so she almost stopped breathing. When she heard his knock at the door, she took a stool, moved it closer to door, stood up on it and opened the hook that closed the door. He usually brought her some food: a piece of bread or mug of milk. She did not know that food could be hot. He lit the oil lamp and shadows hid under her bed. She usually lay on the bed near him at night and watched on the flame of the lamp. He covered her with a big quilt blanket – it was warmer. She listened to his quiet voice, the rustle of his words when he told her long fairy tales. She got warm and fell asleep slowly.
Saturday usually was a bath day for them. They combed lice out of each other. Father washed her hair with ashes in a big trough with warm water in the middle of the room. The dirty pools formed on the floor, so they had to dry it with a big prickly floor-cloth. They became dirty again and laughed, and began to wash themselves a second time.
Her documents were lost during the war .Her father picked her up and went to the office to make a new documents. After the war there were so many orphans everywhere, so only one father’s word was enough to make a new birth certificate for a child. She could not read her father’s name yet in the document but she already knew a date of birth and she could celebrate it. But she did not know that it could be celebrated.
She often thought about her mom. She did not remember her and even did not have her picture. Once on the summer day an unknown woman knocked in their door and told her that she came from the other town where they had lived before. She said that she remembered her dead mother. She gave her a small picture of her mother and went away. It was a beautiful picture, and she could sit near the small window and stare at the picture and imagine her mom, her eyes, voice and hands. When her father came home after work, he wondered about the portrait, of course, but a smile emerged on his face.
Fall came. She started going to school. She was the smallest child in her class. The teacher, an old kind woman, was liked a mother of fifteen different children who did not have warm clothes and shoes for winter. The teacher brought wool shoes to class but not enough for all, only for orphans. The teacher said, “Please! All orphans, stand up”. She did not stand up – she was not an orphan, she had a father. The teacher looked into her eyes and gave her a pair of wool shoes too.
A few years later, when her father got married, they bought her a long heavy dark woolen coat. On the first night when she put it on and went outside, the neighbor’s big dog attacked her and tore her new coat. She was afraid and covered her head with her hands from the dog. When she came home, the father did not scold her, only examined her hands, leg and back, her wounds. After that, he took his gun from the wall, loaded it and went outside. She never saw this dog again.
Sometimes, she and her friends put on a show for adults outside. They hung a sheet on the rope for drying clothes between houses and she danced there without music. Only her friends sang a sad song with their thin voices behind the sheet, “The swan is dying. The swan is dying”, they repeated it again and again. The adults who came to the show: old men in dirty shirts, tired women with rough hands and her father with smiling eyes, were drying teary eyes with their sleeves. Some put some pennies inside the old hat. Sometimes they put apples or bread, rarely – candy. It was enough to buy ice-cream: a small cylinder of watery white ice between two circular waffles. She held it with two fingers and licked carefully, when it began to melt.
Sometimes children went free to the movie. They lied on the floor on the other side of the screen and watched the same movie again and again. But her father during this time nervously looked out the window every five minutes.
She and her father, together, built a new house and planted grape vines and apricot trees outside. Her father’s wife left them and nobody helped them.
After school she became a student in college, got married and gave birth to two beautiful daughters. Her father was happy. He fed them, walked with them, told stories to them.
One month ago suddenly something happened with him: he stopped recognizing his daughter, his grandchildren and his house, “Where I can wash my hands?”
Once she was visiting her friends in the other town and left him alone at home. When she came back, her house was filled with coal. Coal was everywhere: inside pots and pans, cabinets, on the floor. And her father walked among it with his mad eyes. She cried. Doctors could not help him. She never left him alone again.

It was two days before Christmas. Her daughters and husband would be home soon. She sat into dark kitchen alone and looked out the window at the bright lights of the neighbor’s house. Tears filled her eyes. She always loved him, her father, the best in the world, and never had doubts that he was really her father. Never. But he could not tell her that he was not her father or he did not have a time to say it.
She sighed, stood up, turned on the light in the kitchen, filled a kettle with water and put it on the stove. She waited until her father woke up. She should feed him. It was two days before Christmas. Maybe nevertheless would buy the Christmas tree tomorrow?
dushainusa68: (Default)

                                                            The Grief



           It suddenly became quiet. The silence in the room where the children are is usually suspicious and even more dangerous. I came into the room. My daughter was sitting at the computer and pretending to do homework.

“What happened?” I asked her.


“Are you sure?”


I did not find my son immediately.  He lay on the loveseat under a mountain of pillows.

“What are you doing here, darling?” I asked him. He kept silent. I sat on the edge of the loveseat and tried to take pillows from him. He held them and did not let me try to dig him up. I found his leg and touched it, but he bent his leg under himself. I tried to stroke his back. He loked like a hedgehog.

        “ You have to understand…” , I started carefully, trying  to begin  conversation with him because I did not  know what happened, “ life is  a complicated thing and we do not always get what we want. Don’t worry, don’t cry. You are a man. Men do not cry…When I was a girl I fought with my brother too. Once I threw a stool at him…”

        “Mom, we heard this story two hundreds times. How many times  can you repeat the same story?”  my daughter asked loudly.

But  my son’s  wall of silence  crashed down. The pillows on the loveseat fell down on the floor and my son emerged from them with red  and angry eyes. Tears gushed from his eyes. He cried and his grief flooded me like water of a big river, “ You don’t understand anything! You never understand anything! Maybe you fought with your brother over stuff! May be  he didn’t give you candy or broke your doll… All of that was crap! Why  do you not understand it?!  In your time there were no computers…”  The tears gushed from his eyes more intensely. His grief was very deep. His shoulders moved up and down. His face became red and non-angry. “…No computers… Why did you fight? Why?” He jumped up and rushed to attack his sister, tried to pull her with her chair away from the computer. She stood up to the enemy. He scream loudly, “You understand? She promised to let me play the new PC game “The Pirates of the Caribbean” but she wont let me play!”

          I sighed, looked outside the window at the sun that seeped through pine branches with long green needles. Really, why did we fight with my brother in childhood all the time? We really did not have a computer…



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