вторник, сентября 29, 2009

I must to England, you know that (literary non-fiction for S.U.)

The year before I came to Moscow, Steve San Francisco had already been there. The memory was still fresh, and the wound.
If his own testimony was to be believed, he was a good teacher, though tough economic times had left him without the means to pay for his own passage to Russia. Our boss was a trusting type. He told crazy stories about his time in Vietnam, in a Saudi prison camp as an American special agent, of the Yom Kippur War, and no one believed him. As a sort of revenge, perhaps, he believed anything anyone told him without question. So when Steve asked for airplane money up-front on the promise of good teaching our boss agreed immediately.
Steve arrived in Moscow on a bitterly cold day. He had no baggage and looked as if he had just been ransomed from a pirate ship. Even so, all were hopeful he would justify the boss’s belief in everyone.
On the first day of class the administrator waited in the hallway. The paint patiently gripped the walls of the ageing school, peeling, but not without regret and a will to resist. Time passed. The class was finished, at first only just, and then eventually - a long time ago. No one came out of the classroom. Had they slipped out of the windows? Had they fallen asleep in the face of the nature of the English tense system? The administrator moved towards the door and opened it. To be sure, studies were taking place, but of a more anatomical nature. Somehow during the course of the lesson the teacher and young female had managed to lose their clothing and were now studying the nature of a passionate kiss. The administrator chased the two out into the street and phoned the central school.
‘Maybe it just seemed to you they were naked?’ the boss asked. ‘Maybe they were really studying?’
Hope was not abandoned. On the next day Steve failed to show up at all. When they called his flat he answered the phone, surprisingly.
‘Well,’ he explained, ‘I was on my way to class. I made it to the bus stop, but no further. For there at the bus stop I was presented with a moral dilemma. There I was presented with two Croatian refugees, homeless and without documents and on the run from the mafia. They turned to me for help and my first thoughts were of my duties to the school. I explained to them my dilemma, and in the face of my dilemma, their dilemma seemed greater and more dire. So I had no choice but to bring the two young ladies home and offer them asylum in my apartment.’
In the background there was dance music and the sound of happy young female voices.
‘Yes,’ Steve concurred, ‘they are joyful at finding salvation.’
And he hung up.
‘But what’s his teaching like?’ The boss asked. ‘Is he a good teacher?’
‘It would appear he is a fine teacher, but he doesn’t show up for class.’
It was decided that he would be given a last chance.
And he didn’t show up.
So another plane ticket was purchased and he was taken to the airport. From the airport he phoned the boss.
‘I hear there’s an opening in Ekaterinburg? If so I would like to be considered for the position.’
The boss’s countenance was one more of sorrow than anger – he was inclined to accept, but the office staff let him know that should he do so, it would not be without consequences – that he could sit there and run the school all by himself.
So Steve returned whence he had come.
The next year I arrived along with another San Francisco. He was academically more reliable, though not without his own particular character traits. The first was a propensity to be completely drunk all the time, though his teaching suffered not at all for this fact. The second was his great love for the American Declaration of Independence. Neither did this affect his classroom performance. He managed to teach with a bottle of beer in one hand and the declaration in another, and became wildly popular with students. He became less popular with teachers from Britain and other commonwealth countries because whenever he would see one of them, he would try and force them to kiss the Declaration. As a result of his enormous size he would sometimes succeed. And fights would break out in the teacher’s room. I became friends with him. But only on the agreement he would not try to force me to kiss the most beautiful document in the history of the world.
On my second day he took me to Red Square and attracted the attention of the already watchful local police. They refused to kiss the document. But not without demanding us to follow them on foot to the nearest station. And then asking us to wait outside. My friend was calm. He was more than that, he was so relaxed he threatened to slide right out of his clothes.
‘A little bit of money and we’ll be on our way, they just want a bribe.’
I suppose I should have guessed from the fact that they asked us to wait outside. The police officer returned with a friend who spoke a few words of wonderful if antiquated Shakespearean English, standard soviet textbook fare.
‘Mark me,’ he said.
‘I will.’ I was mortified. It was like talking to Hamlet’s ghost. He proceeded to tell me how I would be doomed for a time to walk the earth on Russian soil and not be allowed to depart till the foul crime of my corrupt documents were purged from my soul. I believed him. My father new all the city cops and mounties from his work and I trusted them all. Meanwhile Hamlet continued to describe the prison cell that Russia is and how his good will could aid, but only for a price. I had no money. My friend opened his wallet and pulled out an enormous blue 1000 ruble bill.
I was most grateful for the officer’s indulgence, and I bowed obsequiously in thanks, ‘Most humbly do I take my leave my lord.’
As we walked away my friend turned and said in more modern parley – ‘Looks like we bailed your country out again.’
I never bothered addressing the swirling tornado of emotions I felt inside me. Life goes on. A week later I returned to Red Square, this time with a representative of the Commonwealth, and the same police officer demanded duty. I quoth the few lines that sprang immediately into my beanbag, ‘it beckons you to go away with it as if it some impartment did desire to you alone.’ But it would appear he didn’t recognize me and when I refused to go with him he gave me my passport back and told me he would take his leave of me. I approved of his offer, ‘Thou cannot take from me anything I will more willingly part withal.’
Eventually our big pal from San Francisco got himself a girl and forgot about the American Declaration of Independence. I guess he found something more beautiful.
The whole time I was there a subject of the Queen, a certain Londoner, was despairing quietly, unbeknownst to all. In his youth he had been a big fan of rock and roll, meaning he had done a lot of drugs. And at one moment they all came back and ganged up on his brain. The academic meeting began much like every other academic meeting before. And then right in the middle of his thoughts on language acquisition in relation to a certain problem class in one of the outlying schools, he started to talk about Hitler, and what the world would have been saved if Hitler had been killed as a child.
‘And not only Hitler,’ he said, earnestly, ‘look at Stalin, sheesh.’ Then he excused himself, and left for his 4 o’clock children’s class. Everyone shook their heads and carried on with the meeting. The next day the school principle was having lunch with the fellow, and asked him to elaborate on what he was saying yesterday. He elaborated. In detail.
It would appear that he had visited Israel for the preceding summer holiday, and had met there with an archangel who had told him of the birth of some children who would be doing nothing good for humanity by remaining alive. ‘On the contrary they would be doing bad,’ he said. And perhaps it would be better if they didn’t and if someone did something about it.
‘But did he say he was going to do something about it himself?’ The boss asked. ‘Has it affected his classroom performance?’
It was decided that madness must not unwatched go, and his children’s classes were quietly taken away from him. At that time his Russian wife left him, and he was moved to a company flat with another teacher. That teacher came home one evening and found him lying on the floor saying things about fishmongers and maggots in a dead dog and kissing carrion. It was decided to put him on a plane to the United Kingdom. He was escorted off the plane by four police officers though, and handed over to the care of the British Consulate. What became of him after that is unclear.

another try, after some time away, at banking trouble

It’s so rare I get to show up a smart guy who’s my friend too, that I jumped at the opportunity from heaven when buddy said he didn’t get out and vote in the election last week.
‘So what’s all this about being so smart then?’ I said to his face.
‘Yeah, damn it,’ he said, ‘I was really aching to get out and get my word in, but geez if the last couple of days haven’t been hazardous enough.’
So I asked him to tell me the deal.
The whole affair hinged on a couple of complete unforeseeables that, added up, fell down into place like sheer stupid luck, unconnected, but by the power of mathematics, wearisome.
‘Happy New Year!’ he said, ‘this is my story.’
First he was sitting around one day, reading a book, probably, and out of the blue the phone rang.
‘Just a fluke of nature,’ he said, ‘and not foreseeable in the least. My mother’s only friend went down with a case of coming undone at the seams and they took her away to the hospital. Poor lady has a twelve year old daughter, and though my ma offered and asked to take care of the girl, the services came and took her away. But she also has a cat and nowhere to put it into, so I took it on, as mother has the fear of animals and viruses. So I got the cat, and you know, the thing is just adorable, but I must admit I know nothing of how to care for animals, the sphere of my knowledges being limited to politics, and I felt obliged to keep it entertained like any old guest. So after they brought it by, I was spending my time rolling around with it on the floor; I went to the store and bought a ball of yarn, and I’ve been rolling around throwing the ball of yarn at it, and basically we’ve been having a grand old time. Despite the wounds on my face and arms, we have bonded famously and I call him little cat face, and it’s great. Eventually I had to go to work and do my thing there though, and poor cat face, as any guest could be expected to, got bored. So when I got home I found he had eaten everything made of material, and scratched the walls up to boot, and I had a long night stitching up my business suits and making the place liveable again.’
‘That’s all interesting and good,’ I said, impatient to be right after all, ‘but I don’t see how it kept you away from the polling booths.’
‘Well,’ he said, ‘seeing as your culture is one inclined to impatience and punch lines I can forgive you, but if you just let me go, I’ll lead you on to the end.’
‘Ok,’ I said, ‘I’m sorry.’
‘A couple of days later another thing happened that was just a complete fluke too, and not an everyday occurrence. While I was snoring in my bed for the night, dreaming of all the slurpees my modest wages bring me after the loan payments have gone through, I found myself awoken by the telephone with another urgent bad call from my mother. This time a robber had cracked in and broken the window by her backdoor, and made haste with her purse. She had no documents and didn’t know how she would recover her peace of mind, or convince other people she was who she said. I managed to calm her down enough to make out her words and promised to stop by and help her talk to the police. I did just that, and said “thank you” to the officer, and was about to leave when my mother asked me to give her the cat for company and to feel protected.
‘“The usual collocation is guard dog, mother,” I said, ‘but if it will help with the tears, I guess you can have him.”
‘So shattered as I was at losing my new companion who understood me so well, I took the cat over to my mother’s and said farewell.
‘I have to admit I was feeling a little down, but I still had all my destroyed furniture to look at and remember him by, and there’s no use getting down every day.
‘Then the coup de grace struck me right off. You know I’m really in love with the modern world, I’m not a student any more, and I see no point in protesting against the new technologies; I love spaceships and TVs and online banking, but I couldn’t get into my account to pay my rent check yet again, by accident. So I ran in to the bank and asked them what the problem was and they told me they had sealed my account on account of my suspicious activities.
‘“And what’s so suspicious about loving the modern world?!” I said.
‘“Well,” they said, “it’s the way you gave all your money to a stranger by email.”
‘I hadn’t been able to anticipate that, it being completely unforeseeable, like every other variable in my personal life that others can’t see, and so it fairly struck me a blow to my ability to breathe in my chest.
‘When I recovered enough to stand up straight and look at the bank clerk in her pretty batting eyelashes, I had lost my ability to perform. False accusations do that to me. The words lose their meaning and dance naked without form before my vocal chords.
‘I left the money bank and walked down the street towards a place I might call home. I wouldn’t want to bore you with everyday details that are not political and vital in their strength, but without the means to pay my rent, the polling booth slipped my brain.’
I must admit I was unconvinced and not impressed.
‘And has it occurred to you that a tolling booth is a good place to call home, so to speak, ideologically? That one might rest their political head there and become so refreshed they wake for three or four years?’
‘Truly – yes, it had occurred and come to me that I could hide in the back for the night, while the old-fashioned counted their votes. But when I tried to put my plan into action I was suspected of irregularities and chased into the street with a broom and severe words. Once again, put upon and beset by accusations, I found the dance of the naked words leaving me without defence. At the risk of being melodramatic, it became quite clear to me that I was doomed to walk the earth, a prisoner of unrequited love for the modern era.’
‘Yes,’ I said, ‘that would be quite melodramatic, and as you see, we are neither wandering, nor be pining away from love and surrounded by roses, though to be sure, melancholy abounds. What are you doing about your plight and situation?’
‘I’ve moved in with mommy again and I spend my free time playing with cat face, though the small period of our absence has grown it fonder of my mother. I bear no grudges. I have my job, as little satisfying as it may be, and I have my health, for which I am visiting the doctor tomorrow. A little cough like the one that shakes to my very core surely mustn’t be of great concern. And in the end the bank returned the money, a slight portion too behind the schedule for saving my shaky relationship with the landlord, but at the end of the day honourable.’
What could I say? A victor ought to be gracious in victory, ideological or otherwise, so I merely shrugged my shoulders and tried to transmit as much sympathy as a narrow heart can to my friend, after all, that is what friends are for, perhaps.

суббота, сентября 12, 2009

нервные люди и москва

Где только не жил я в москве.
Везде, кажется, и от этого заразился этой болезненой любовью к Москве.
На Южной были страшные, отчаянные тараканы, готовые на очень храбрые поступки. Я их встречал по всей квартире и не только на кухне, где вроде и должны быть, и они меня как бы дразнили. Когда я на них набрасывался им как будто по фигу было, они не пытались даже спастись. Странные были и немного страшные. Еще были там собаки бездомные, но они более или менее нормально себя вели, лаяли, будь здоров, и на меня нападали.
На Перовско-Разумовской тараканов было множество, но менее смелые. Там главная проблема была соседка сверху. Поздно ночью включала музыку и начинала прыгать верх и вниз. Один раз я не выдержал, поднялся и позвонил в дверь. Открыла дверь старая бабушка, вся потевшая. Я сконфузился, извинился и ушел не жалуясь.
На Преобпраженской площади было очень вкусно из-за близости рынка, но и смертельно страшно из-за того что не было фонарей, и соседи ненавидели иностранцев. Каждую ночь чья-то сигналиазция во дворе сработывала и когда видел я кого из соседок утром – там были одни дамы средных лет – то и дело непременно мне говорила, - ну, гад, опять твоя американская сигнализация.
Я пытался им обяснить что у меня нет машины но они не хотели слушать. Вообще-то очень сложные были отношеные там, фиг помешь.
В то время я работал в Химках и приходил поздно. Нужно было пройти по темной аллее и в подъезде свет тоже никогда не работал. А дом был большой, всегда с кем-то столкнешься в темноте. В нашем корридоре 4 квартиры заселены дамами. Одна обшая дверь в наш корридор на замок. Замок плохо работал, надо было поменять. Я всем говорил, но никто не хотел платить. Ты, - говорят, - плати. Это для тебя баксы родная валюта.
Наконец надоело их слушать. Я – говорю – заплачу, только вы не путайте меня с богачом, а то я сам размечтусь и забуду что простой трудяший.
Я купил замок и оставил у управдома. Меняйте, - говорю – на здоровья.
Когда я пришел вечером замок уже поменяли, но ключа мне не оставили, и меня не хотели пустить.
Не знаем – говорят – кто ты таков, и как дела делают у вас там на чужбине, но здесь хальявшиков не любят. Ты иди купи себе ключ и себя пусти.
Честно говоря, мне это показалось немножко неадекватным. Но говорили же мне не раз – ты, - говорят – истерик и шпион. - Так что может я не прав был растроиваться. Я сделал себе ключ. На следующий день услышал как соседки разговаривают между собой, дескать, замок классный, пойдет, молоток.
После этого на время все шло нормально, американская сигнализация вроде затихла, девки как будто про меня забыли. Со мною начали даже здороваться в корридоре, типа – здраствуй шпиончик. То есть все было на мази и я немного начал раслабиться. Но увы, раслабиться в жизни нельзя, я бы сказал даже что это всегда роковая ощибка. Когда что происходит, то этот что всегда кажется более обидным.
Вот значится так – просыпаюсь утром после хорошего, долгого сна и думаю – как хорошо теперь стало здесь: сигнализация меня разбудила всего два раза ночью и соседки ко мне хорошо относятся и называют своим шпиончиком. Кров есть и еда и в кармане пачка сигарет. Все не так уж плохо. И встал я с постели, оделся и на работу. Только вот на работу не попал. Да и вообще из квартиры не мог выйти. Потому что дверь не мог открыть. Потому что кто-то поставил свою мебель перед моей дверью. Приходили и уходили и я не знал что делать, ведь, стеснялся, да просто напросто кричать – не вежливо.
Извините, - говорю – пожалуйста. Помогите и все такое,- но никто не обращал на меня внимания. Наконец почувствовал что так дальше не может продолжаться и когда соседка которая напротив живет – у нее же и была привычка оставлять свои вещи в корридоре и сильно возмущатьсь когда делали замечания по этому поводу – пришла, я ее остановил своим неловким голосом – стоять гражданка, - говорю – то есть, почему это я оказался узником?
Она же сразу поняла к чему идет, то есть к драке, и взорвалась, будь здоров, блин.
Ты – говорит, - агент иносраных, не наших государств! Козел ты, и все такое, и наглый! Как ты смеешь! Приперся сюда и коммандуешь! Я поставлю свои не твои вещи куда мне захочется, и ты не имеешь право что-либо говорит вообще в жизни! Это же общий наш корридор! Ты по нему ходишь и меня запрешаешь поставить свои русские вещи в нем! Лицемер!
Потом она до того разозлилась что начала кричать во весь голос – убивают, - кричит, - помогите! Прибежал народ. Милицию даже вызвали. Я в ужасе был, конечно. Никого я не убиваю. Я пытался обяснить. Но все заикался и чуствовал что на место помру со стыда. Некоторые из жильцов стояли и снимали все на своих мобильных, типа, развлеченые по американский.
Выяснилось что никого не убивают и что у женщины нервы немножко рапущены из-за жизны вообще. Разошлись. Осталось только переехать,что я и сделал. Очень вкусный район, но это не всегда к лучшему.