MOSCOW, September 7, 2003 -- When I heard the three short beeps from the house phone, I was just drifting off to sleep after a rhapsodic 6 a.m. sex bout with Vanya, the early-vintage Marlon-Brandon look-alike from Nizhny Novgorod. The electronic notes didn’t register for a few nano-seconds, then it hit me – Yegor! He’s back! Only Yegor’s front entrance key emitted that twirpy little signal.
Shurik was still asleep on a mattress on the floor when I hopped over the now-sleeping Vanya to get to the apartment door. I had had to make a choice the night before: 19 yr. old Shurik or Marlon Brando, Jr. I had had sex with Shurik twice the day before, and Vanya only visits once a month or so. Fair is fair, so I put Shurik on the floor and slept with Vanya.
Shurik sleeps like a log and was completely oblivious of what had just transpired.
Anyway, managed to get over the sleeping bodies and had the door open even before Yegor had finished the four-story climb. There he stood: tall, chocolate-bronzed, smiling, and glowing-fresh even after his six-hour flight from Tajikistan and his graveyard stint in the dreary Sheremetevo airport waiting for the metro to begin its daily run at 5:45.
“I was out of money,” he explained. “The flight was delayed six hours, and we didn’t land till after the metro had already shut down. I didn’t have the money for a taxi.” He was unperturbed. I would have been seething.
I remembered the summer of ’99 when 18-year-old then-boyfriend Maxim’s and my flight back from Turkey had been delayed, and how pissed and tired we had been waiting five hours for the morning subways to start running (we had been broke too). But Yegor looked so unruffled, so placid, so unflapped. What a beautiful man, I reminded myself!
“What about your mother?”
“Really good news: She’s completely okay. She got consciousness a couple of days after I got there. She’s home now and everything’s fine.”
“That’s fantastic news! I’m so happy for you!”
“But she wasn’t very nice to me,” he continued matter-of-factly.
“What do you mean?”
“She kept saying things like, ‘why did you go off and leave me? Why haven’t you sent us any money in the three years you’ve been in Moscow? Why haven’t you stayed in touch?’
“Did you ask her how she expected you to send her money when you don’t even have a job?”
“No, there was no point.”
“What about your little brother?”
“Well, he wasn’t as bad as she was, but he’s changed. What could you expect – ‘How could you go off and leave me like that? Timur would never do that, would you Timur?’
“So I’m the villain, and he doesn’t want to follow in the footsteps of a villain.”
Yegor had been distraught when he had gotten the news that his mother in Tajikistan’s capital of Dushambe had been in an automobile accident, was in a coma, and not expected to live. I had just given him 0 to start unraveling the red tape for getting his Russian citizenship. Instead he had had to use it to buy a one-way Tajikistan Airlines ticket. I had given him another 0 to buy a return ticket and a little to live on.
Miraculously, she had pulled out of the coma, but instead of being grateful and happy to see the 21-year-old son who had left their god-forsaken squalor three years earlier, she never stopped berating him. He had dreamed of finding a good job and sending lots of money home so she wouldn’t have to live in a wretched apartment and work in a textile factory 10 hours a day, six days a week for a month.
But every kid in the former Soviet Union with a speck of ambition dreams the same dream, and most end up like Yegor – without a job, without a home, without a family, without even the money to make his way back home.
So he never told her that he didn’t have work; that he had lived with a series of boyfriends, one of whom had taken the fake ID that been enabling him to hold down a waiter’s job; so he hadn’t had a job in months. He had been all but living in the streets when he chanced to drop by with Misha’s current boyfriend, Dima.
I had been pleasantly shocked to hear how remarkably well Yegor spoke English; we had chatted a little bit; he had told me how he had been involved with a protestant missionary group in Dushambe; how he had been raped twice as a child; how he never knew who his father was; how as a five-year-old, when he and his mother had gone to visit his dying grandmother, she had greeted them with “Why did you bring that little bastard with you?”
And yet he remained so cheerful, so kind, so patient, so understanding, so devoid of bitterness, hate, or anger.
I had invited him to spend the night if he had no other place to go. The first night he declined, but the next day he called: “I’d like come talk to you about your invitation.”
He had come by and watched me fix a chicken salad, then we had gone for a walk and a beer. By the time we had chatted for half an hour, I felt like I had known him forever.
That night we held each other all night long. By morning we had become inseparable soulmates.
Misha and I have been lovers for four years now -- exactly four years. We have frequent sex, and he looks after me in many ways – sees that I wear clean clothes, that I shave regularly, that bills get paid.
But I’ve often been troubled by the inexplicable disappearance of money – sometimes small amounts, sometimes as much as 0; but he absolutely denies taking money, and he denies it so sincerely. Each time, there are other possibilities – Vanya, Sasha, Tanya our cook, etc. I’ve never found the smoking gun.
But I’m still uncomfortable. I don’t want to believe that he’s a thief, but I really don’t know.
I met Misha right after Max and I had come back from Turkey. Max would repeatedly go through his mantra with me: “I love you and only you.” At the same time, he was spending most of his time at gay clubs or cruising, and I was getting fed up with his insincerity.
I was at the moment living in a transient hotel, courtesy of English Exchange, the company for which I had been teaching for a year and a half. After having sex one September Sunday afternoon, Max and I were sitting in the dingy room staring at each other. Bor-ing.
“Do you want me to go find you a soldier?” he asked.
“Why not? It would at least give us something to do.”
So we had gone to Kitai Gorod metro station, which has edged out the benches in
front of the Bolshoi Theater as Moscow’s most infamous cruising scene; but the
pickings were slim – no soldiers. In fact, no nothing.
Max had once before brought me home a soldier, a rather plain little lad from the
provinces named Sergei. Russia’s soldiers are shamefully underpaid. Former President Yeltsin once advised them to supplement their income by picking mushrooms. But many of them find orgasms more lucrative and more fun than mushrooms.
Sergei used to arrive at my apartment near Otradnaya Metro Station late at night, take a shower, and hop into bed. He had a very pretty little uncut piska and was cuddly and accommodating. At a pop, if he managed to do this three times a week, he would quadruple his monthly salary.
But I lost track of him when my landlord kicked me out of the apartment and I was
consigned to the flop-house hotel. But that’s another story.
As Max and I were sitting on a bench near the street, a tall, skinny blond kid with hay-stack blond hair hurried past.
“You like?” Max queried.
“Sure. Why not?”
He was walking so fast that Max had to practically run to catch him. About five
minutes later, they strolled back.
“This is Misha,” announced Max.
“Mikhail,” corrected Misha.
The three of us went to a cheap restaurant at Belarusskaya Station, after which Max
suddenly announced, “since you have somebody, I’m going to a gay club.”
I was furious.
Stifling my anger, I asked Misha, “Do you have any place to stay tonight?”
“Do you want to stay with me?”
So we took the metro back to my hotel, which also happened to be at Otradnoe, where I had to rent a separate room for him for , upon which we headed straight to my room, ripped off our clothes, and attacked each other. He was beautiful; his body was beautiful; his gorgeous little uncut piska was beautiful and worked very well. We snuggled all night long and had sex again when we woke up.
We lay and talked and I learned that he was an orphan whose parents had abandoned him shortly after birth in St. Petersburg. He had re-connected with his mother in his teens, but she had died when he was 17, leaving him her 3-room flat.
As an orphan, he was the ward of one of the high school counselors, who – on threat of death -- forced Misha to sign the apartment over to him. Misha had come to Moscow to try to seek some justice, but hadn’t found it, and had no place to stay and no money to live on.
"Are you a prostitute?” I asked.
“Then why did you take 300 rubles from me?”
“Max suggested it, and I don’t have any money. But I would have come with you for nothing.”
“If I take care of you, will you live with me?” I asked.
I was in 7th heaven.
I rented an apartment at Petrovska-Razumovskaya and since October 1, 1999, we have been living together.
In the first couple of years, it was just Misha and I. We each had other relationships, but it was our apartment and he had been the boss. Now there were -- in addition to us -- Anton, Yegor, and now Shurik!
And as far as his housemother’s role is concerned, he is now just one among equals. His decrees have been demoted from sacrosanct.
“This is no longer my house,” he exploded one day recently. “I can’t live here anymore.” He has begun creating embarrassing scenes.
This sudden injection of discord into my tranquil, happy existence as a 70-year-old gay ex-pat American teaching English in Moscow, and living, loving, and having sex with half a dozen beautiful Russian boys is a vexing development.
It will have to be resolved. Misha’s leaving would resolve it, but it would be like losing flesh and blood. Despite the current conflict, I love him deeply.
I’ve explained to him that I was one of seven children in an Iowa farm family, and am comfortable -- and in fact enjoy -- living with many people around, a predilection re-inforced by fraternity living at Florida Southern College and then Army living in the months before I became a counter-intelligence agent.
But this is not a life he is able to tolerate.
I love having smiling, happy people around me. What I don’t like is discord.
“Heaven is where no unkind words are spoken,” someone has said. I’ve been living in paradise, but paradise has become discordant because Misha is furious.
So furious he’s announced he’s moving to Prague.