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Not me, her

In 1987, I found myself trying to write about a high school girlfriend that had been molested by her father when she was a child. I was 19 years old, struggling to find my way through a screenwriting assignment about delivering character. The idea was to describe messy young love between two Sid and Nancy want-to-be's. But that failed, as I could not stomach oversimplifying her complicated past, events that shaped her life as a 16 year old with a mohawk, a smart mouth, a lingering stare. I understood that I had to start at the very beginning.

No one wanted to hear the story. When it was my turn to read in class, it even came to be that some of the other students asked to stand in the hallway before they heard another description of what happened in that lonely little house in the middle of nowhere. I was trying, and failing, and trying again to get things right, to explain how this happened, how it could happen to this girl, how this man found his way to acts of selfishness and d…

a wedding


I saw a long stretch of male balsam trees. They stood, tall and straight in perfect lines along Leninsky Prospekt. They look nothing like the females I wrote about last week. No low branches for the first 50 or 60 feet of trunk, and spaced elegantly – they look down on Lenin’s hill.

Here, you can see the whole city spread out before you. A likely tourist spot, there are countless tables of Bart Simpson matroshkas, Brittney Spears matroshkas, Beatles matroshkas, and the occasional Russian matroshka.

There is a very small monastery, really just a stone-walled room with a few candles inside it. An old woman with a dark kerchief over her head sweeps a few stray pukh from the door with a bundle of twigs tied together into a makeshift broom.

Lenin’s Hill is where all wedding parties make a stop in their festive tour of the city. Some even have the whole ceremony here. There is a sort of house oompa-band, a truly random collection of musicians. A trombone, a tiny trumpet, an accordion and maybe a big drum are the regulars. The band can expand to twenty or more noise-makers on a sunny day, but today in the rain it’s down to the bare minimum. They wait for wedding parties to stop by, and for 1,000 rubles (or maybe 500) they play like madmen, even taking requests for Elvis covers.

The bride’s face is caked with makeup, her hair done into a giant curly-cued beehive. The groom is in an ill-fitted grey suit, stiff and maybe a bit tired. His young face forced into a permanent smile, he stands where he is told to.

Sweet, chemical Russian champagne pops, and the group bursts into song, dancing an odd combination of the hustle, and a polka. It’s hard to stand still, and there’s nothing better than strangers dancing with you to an odd attempt at an Elvis song. Wedding photographs flash away. Relatives with camcorders trip over the tourists and matroshka tables trying to get the perfect moment.

A magnificent stretch limo is bright pink, displaying a giant pair of gold rings on the roof. “Yes.” It announces. “This is a wedding.”

“Gorka! Gorka!” The band shouts, then joined by the guests and strangers passing by.

The bride and groom kiss, and are showered with handfuls of shiny plastic hearts, stars, and a few rubles.

Just as quickly, the party moves on. The pink limo coughs into action, spurting a foul exhaust cloud. The band nips on flasks of cognac, hunching their shoulders against the damp air. Someone is smoking a menthol cigarette.

An old man searches through the party favors on the ground for stray rubles. He kisses each one he finds, before slipping it into his pocket.

I make my way into the forest below us. Tiny birds are chirping above me, and the wet earth smells sweet.

What an oddly correct way to spend Father’s Day, I think.


Comments

Anonymous said…
I really appreciate your blog. You are able to describe Moscow in ways I have not been able to.

Thank you.
Rabbit blogger said…
what a kind thing to say! in truth, i am convinced everyone can write - don;t be scared, and don;t hold back. you need to get naked.

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