Lost all my pictures, almost single handedly burnt down the dorms and had a delicious slice of cake

That’s right. No pictures this week, i accidentally deleted them all. I also set my favorite scarf on fire. Must remember to not become to attached to material things.

I accidentally went on a date. Salle (Sall-AY) is from Algeria. He’s cute in an awkward foreign sort of way. His Russian is terrible, but better than his English and my French AND my Arabian put together, so we speak in Russian. We take the metro to a park on the outer limits of St. Petersburg. I can be kind and patient on two conditions. First condition, that there is no one else I’d rather be on a date with, unfortunately for him there is. (Perhaps I have not introduced you to the clever and affable Sasha?) This condition is negotiable if you are an otherwise entertaining, engaging, or interesting person. My second condition however is nonnegotiable and not, under any terms, will I budge. Do not touch me or put the moves on me. Period. You make that mistake buddy, and you’re toast. At that point I won’t even feel guilty for being annoyed. Unfortunately for me, Salle is an opportunist and street traffic and metro lines are open invitations to “steer” me around by the shoulders or the waist. Admittedly it is a subtle and otherwise harmless gesture. But his terrible Russian is a constant reminder I’m not with the person I want to be with. (I check my phone for the umpteenth time. Why hasn’t Sasha called me already?!) And he’s persistent, to the left, to the right, to the left again, it was all I could do not to turn around and shove him down to the ground. If I want to walk into oncoming traffic Dammit it’s my right and don’t even try to stop me or so help me I’ll…I’LL…smile and pretend nothing is wrong.

My trip to Vishni Volochoke was quite the adventure – highlight of which was having to jump/be pulled onto a moving train. Most of you have already heard my dramatization, but I recommend everyone give this a try at least once in life.

Instead of being in the city we actually were driven half an hour into the country side where there is an artist’s retreat, surrounded by dachas. Sarafim’s brother Berry put it this way; in “town” there are two little corner markets directly across the street from each other, in a town of five people, “And it takes two people to run each store, so basically you have one guy who just goes back and forth all day buying vodka.”

Pretty accurate description, he only forgot to mention the two stray dogs that loomed outside and would take turns escorting us on our mile and half walk back to the art studio where we were staying.

Sarafim is the serious painter though, he’s studied before in Russia and in Georgia (not the state). He gives me a quick literacy of Russian painters, the famous and the ones he loves. My favorite story is about Mikhail Vrubel. He was rumored to have stood by an open window intentionally catching his death of the cold. After the death of his son at the turn of the century he became increasingly mentally unstable and was committed to a mental hospital. His work became increasingly dark and he frequently painted demons (obsessed with Lermontov’s Demon). One painting is called, “Demon Downcast” and is hanging in a museum in Moscow. After it first went on display, Vrubel continued to come in night after night, after the crowds had left to repaint the face. He eventually gave up painting after losing his vision. I haven’t looked online to see the painting yet, I’m planning a trip to Moscow and I want to see it for the first time in person.

I feel like I’ve finally crested my initial culture shock. The indicators are I’m no longer intimidated in the mornings by the thought of having to face another day of bus travel and unkind faces. I have given into my love for buckwheat and oatmeal and I hardly notice the things I used to gawk at, the metro, the high heels, the Mullets.

Have you ever felt like you spent 23 years in solitary confinement and then it’s augmented by the sudden denial of visitor privileges and you don’t even know what you’re in for and you just keep waiting for someone to come unlock your cell and tell you you’re free, you’ve served your time – but then it occurs to you that perhaps with the help of a blunt force weapon and an impressive surge of adrenaline and muscle you might be able to burst through the bars, rent the walls and just waltz out into the sun never looking back?

Have you ever chased down a train and just when you thought it had overtaken you and all hope was lost, there, just a few feet ahead, taking a cigarette break…
“GIRL!” wide-eyed “Where are you going?!?!”

“WAGON FIVE! FIIIIIVE!!!”

He rolls his eyes and moves to pull out a hand-held two way radio transceiver to alert the conductor to at least slow down.

Wait, no. That’s not what he’s doing. He’s holding his hand out to me. “No,” he shrugs, “Come on!!!”

“I CAN’T, I CAN’T!!!”

“You Have to!!!”

I heave my back pack up, tuck my water bottle under my free arm, he grabs my other at my wrist and above my elbow, braces himself

1…

2…

3…

waiting by the phone,
Marla.

 

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