Exactly one week after deciding to prolong my stay in Tomsk, I was in the underground rock bar kissed by the sun. My tall, mildly-hunched body and the small, sly body of clever Nastia pranced elegantly together. The innocent lead singer of "Mega Mix Blues", wearing the multi-colored shirt of a Tennessee cowboy, grimaced as he recited psychedelic 70's rock.
Fresh-smiling Nastia, who values music and maturity, knows most musicians in town. During a break, the smily, quiet, forty-something drummer with a few golden teeth spoke to Nastia. And she, then, asked me if I wouldn't excuse her (we'd come together) so she could visit a nearby friend who was apparently having some troubles. Of course, I excused her.
I saw her again at the end of the night. She introduced me to her friend, who was with her. He was, apparently, one of the best keyboard players in Tomsk. Like Nastia's boyfriend, he was ten or fifteen years older than her; he had a skinny, but not weak body, black eyes alive with tenderness, and a smile or hair like Bon Jovi. She asked me what I thought: was he going to become a wildly successful keyboardist? I wasn't sure; he looked too kind to be wildly successful.
She and he kissed lips in a very friendly, beautiful way. And then, she and I, in our warm coats, went outside. Filled with champagne, she leaned her back against my front, and we held each other in the cold. She was really happy. She said she really likes that keyboardist.
We walked down Tomsk's main street, Lenina Street, which is half-modern, half-antique, and always colorful, in its post-midnight calm. A film of new snow so thin it was only two-dimensional covered our wide sidewalk near the quiet road. Nastia flagged down a taxi.
We went to her and her boyfriend's wooden room. On their green, mini-golf carpet, she and her boyfriend on their mattress, and I on mine for the night, slept warmly.
In the morning, that of my 28th birthday, that of October the 26th, we and Tomsk awoke under a foot of soft snow. "S dnyom rozdeniya, Dzastin!" (On your birthday, Justin!) People would congratulate me all day long, wishing me happiness.
But, first, Nastia, as always, saw that we ate. There was supposed to be a Halloween party on my birthday; Nastia's green, cat eyes sprinkled, as she imagined herself wearing a sheet and being a ghost, or dressing as a witch.
She's more domestic than I'd first thought. While she would like to live in St. Petersburg - the beautiful capital of culture, theatre, music, and art in her country - at some time, and learn foreign languages, she also dreams of having two or three children; and the unknown sometimes frightens her. I'd previously imposed some of my own sky-wide dreams on her, I guess. Almost everyone is more domestic than me.
Nastia caringly gave me one of her old t-shirts. I shredded it, in order to dress as a werewolf for the party. The party was to be held in the high school where I'd once upon a time taught Dopey Vasya and Furry Pasha. I'd recently begun working there again, and the students had invited me to their party, and it seemed like a fun way to spend my birthday, and I invited my friends.
But, when I got to the school, the students were standing on the snow in the dark outside. They seemed amused by the fact that someone had broken a toilet in the boys' bathroom, causing the adults to stop the party. It'd better not have been that darned Furry Pasha, that scoundrel!
Two of my friends came, only, and not Nastia. The friends were happy to go to my apartment and cook Russian pancakes. Russian pancakes are bland, white, and about as thin as two-dimensional snow on the ground. We wrapped these pancakes around sweet, condensed milk with crushed pecans, or else around sweet curds. Mmm. It was a calm birthday.
The next day, a Saturday, after giving a private English lesson, I went to a real Russian birthday party.
It took place in a small town, in a "dacha" (a small, wooden cottage, surrounded by its own garden). We kept the "pechka" (fireplace) going all night, but we still wore our hats and coats both inside and out. It was a cold village of "dacha's".
Outside, blue nighttime snow buried the gardens, put the cottages' wooden roof-tops to sleep, and clung to the village as if pleading for silence and motionlessness. I walked the warm, lonely path between the deserted dacha's, to the dark forest at the village's end, where it seemed wolves might lurk. Little, tickling snowflakes fell. The snow fairy flew here.
In addition to the snow fairy, and some girls, the typical party guests were guys: guys wearing black, winter clothes and short hair, guys who love Russia, guys who like to appear tough. They were guys who certainly would've pressured the snow fairy into drinking vodka with them. Practically all of us guys at the party sat naked in the wooden "banya" (sauna), at some time. In the weariness of the late, late night, the guys passed out in cold and uncomfortable places while I kept the fire going; one boy was seated, upright, on a stool with no back, and he endlessly wobbled in his sleep.
Russians very frequently sleep at friends' homes. But, my blond, extraordinarily gentle friend, Anya, believes it's always better to sleep at home. I agree with both those viewpoints.
And it's good to meditate when you work. On Monday the 29th, I posed (in my clothes) for art students.
I was seated on a chair near the window. Before me, students stood at different degrees and angles and painted on canvases on wooden easels.
In the center of the large room was a table.
The floor was wooden, worn and antique, attractive.
On the table was a bottle. It was tightly wrapped in a purple, plastic bag.
I tried to be as empty and thoughtless as air. I wanted to not see the air, to only see the forms of the encircling walls.
I tried to open myself, completely, to let the forms of the room's objects impose themselves on me - rather than me SEEING them. I saw/felt the figures/movements of people: a girl at her easel; the teacher correcting a student's work.
Sounds went through me. Around me, people talked. One young man neared me to point out a line in my face, and he spoke by my ear. I just sat.
Slowly, slowly, I removed myself from the scene.
My heart and blood were beating fastly, strongly.
Wonderful ecstasy plunged upon me.
My furious blood pressure caused me to become excited, excited in a way that a man usually gets when he's with a women, or with naughty pictures of a women, but in a totally unsexual way. This was out of my control. Nature. It was dangerous. My body was on the brink of an unwanted, yet peaceful, explosion.
Oh, no. I tried to return to my everyday, sober self - but it wasn't easy.
My feeling was one of warmth and comfort, like a baby in the womb, as if I was in the cosmic place I was most meant to be in.
For a while, the feeling imposed by my surroundings wouldn't let me free. I was happy for that; if it hadn't been for the danger due to my high blood pressure, I would've wanted to sit there until the artists' paints ran out, maybe. Oh, mysterious feeling!
I finally returned to myself, to my life in Tomsk.
- Modern Oddyseus.