It started in 2002 in one Siberian city. I was finishing my studies at a local university but still didn’t have a girlfriend. Although I had many friends and even obtained some authority among them, I still desperately needed to become someone’s property and to make someone my property in return. I wanted to get rid of my hated freedom.
Skipping dull lectures on the old slavonic language, wandering around the city I found myself on an old graveyard with a small orthodox church… Yes, love stories with graveyards and churches still happened at the beginning of the century. The Internet was rare and slow and young people still had time for aimless walking, thinking and casual encounters.
Inside the church, which rather resembled a wooden barn with a little dome attached to the roof, I have met my old friend Vladimir. After the worship we walked out together, and Vladimir invited me to his house to get acquainted with his wife Daria and her sister Anastasia. They lived together, while the mother of the sisters, a hectic and unbalanced woman, was constantly thrashing between Moscow and our city.
We all were artistic people: Vladimir wanted to become a sculptor, Daria bacame a designer, Anastasia played the piano and was composing music, I considered myself a poet; so we had good time together. At that time Anastasia didn’t study anywhere because of the last crossing and mostly stayed at home, because her mother, an expert in alternative medicine, proclaimed her to be ill.
It happens sometimes in medic families that a parent turns one of his kids into an object of an obsessive medical care and cannot let him go even after he grew up. I still do not know, whether Anastasia was really ill, or her sickness was a result of auto-suggestion. Anyway, she spent a lot of time at home, so Vladimir and Daria hired me as a teacher of French for Anastasia. My fee was home-made meals and communication with good company — best payment I’ve ever had.
Later Anastasia and I became drawn to each other. And could it happen any other way? She have not seen many people these days, and had no other candidates for the role of prince Charming. While I was still lonely and didn’t «have a relationship» or «met with a girl» for a long time.
And what does it mean «to meet» or «to have a relationship» with someone? Nowadays it means seeing each other regularly, having common leisure, kissing and sleeping together. This scheme confused me in one point: romance needed financial investments — for presents, cinema and theater tickets, restauants (even if you pay only for yourself). But I was just a hungry student, and I would never ask my mom for money for this (many families fell apart along with Soviet Union, so my generation mostly have been raised by single mothers).
I was young and idealistic and didn’t want to be loved for someone else’s earning, I wanted to get money for relationship myself but didn’t have a chance yet.
Sexual life also depends on financial sustainability and having a private apartment. I lived with my mother and brother on the outskirts of the city, Anastasia lived with Vladimir and Daria in a rented studio apartment, so we just studied French and had a brief walks hand in hand.
Then we decided to compose a musical together, and it gave a ground for our relations. Now we could talk not only about French pronunciation but discuss art and style, invent characters and storyline. Of course our story was about love, and we talked about it a lot. I titled our creation «Birds and stones», dividing the characters on romantic and spiritual «birds» and pragmatic and callous «stones».
But Anastasia insisted that there is nothing bad about being pragmatic, she needed someone to care about her, she got used to the role of her mother’s patient. Both of us had incomplete families, and we didn’t know how to behave with each other: novels of Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy, modern soap operas couldn’t fill the gap. I devoted to her dozens of of poems, she answered me with songs. On every date I brought new verses like «Warm-warm nights, kind-kind dreams, fairy-tale is what you want your life to be» and endlessly so forth.
We have created our own symbolic system, where I was a stork and she was a willow, cherry represented our love, and the crystal flower ment human soul, the inner good of a person. But could we see beyond this schemes the real us? We inspired each other, talked about books and religion, but not about our future. Deep in the Siberian forests our city was far away from wars and any big events of the starting century, when we heard about the terrorist attacks in Moscow, we just changed the TV-channel to the films of Tarkovsky or Disney cartoons.
Then I graduated my university and started to work as a journalist at local branch of the oppositional radio «Echo of Moscow» and as a teacher in a comprehensive school. But that was not enough for two, and I still lived in a small hostel room with thin walls and quite noisy neighbors. It was easier to meet in brief siberian summer, we could go to a ruined factory (every city of modern Russia has many) or to the woods which surround siberian settlements.
But as time passed Anastasia became more capricious and demanding. She entered the local musical college, started performing on local stage, made new friends and got many admirers of her musical talent and her charm. Among her fans there were better dressed and packed guys than me. Hollywood movies made Anastasia dream of glamour and more comfortable life with cars, personal houses and seaside vacations. She took living in a provincial city or moving by public transport as a personal insult.
Once during a walk she pointed me to a new high-rise apartment building with pink balconies and said: «Anyway you would never buy me a flat in such a house». I had nothing to respond on that.
The country was nearing the economic crisis of 2008, cultural life was gathering exclusively around Moscow and Saint-Petersburg, while in most of russian museums, libraries, concert halls, art-schools were closing or minimizing their activities. Most of young people were dreaming of leaving their native cities and towns to seek better fate in the capital or even abroad.
They all believed in their sort of «american dream», that could be fulfilled only in Moscow, which sucked most of Russian resources (best human resources as well) as a big parasite.
Anastasia also started to talk about moving to the capital. I was against it, but not because I considered it a wrong life strategy. I just understood that I would not be able to follow her: she will get the help of her Moscow relatives, while I even didn’t have a starting capital to hire a flat and live while seeking a new job. Local broadcasting of the «Echo of Moscow» has been banned right before the elections, and I still don’t think that it was a coincidence.
In this atmosphere of depression and uncertainty I became even more obsessed with my love. It seemed to me the only stable and true thing in the world, while Anastasia began to tire of my devotion. I was even ready to offer my hand to her but was too afraid to be rejected.
I think that our relations at that time were supported only by her compassion to me and by my resemblance to her father, an iconographer who got mad at the end of his life. I was looking for job and continued to produce romantic poems with industrial speed: «I’ve been in heaven yesterday, and there walked among the grass, and wind was hiding in my hair azure like shatters of the glass…». And so on.
What I loved about her? To tell that she was beautiful is to say nothing. It would only mean that I experienced a pleasant feeling, when I looked at her. And I think, that this feeling was ahead of my sight. When I thought of her, I felt warm inside. But what was it? Was it something to do with the way she looked? The thing was that her appearance one way or another was the manifestation of her inner self. Her personality, naive, gifted, intelligent, compassionate, was expressed in gestures, facial expressions, manner to behave. She was beautiful to me because I loved her personality, not vice versa.
How does the story ends? I live in my own flat in the high-rise apartment building with pink balconies. Sometimes I listen to «Birds and stones» audiocassette. Anastasia’s traces are lost in Moscow. Is she happy? I would love to know.
Dmitry Kosyakov. 2016.