MOSCOW, September 23, 2005 -- There comes a time when even I have to face reality! I’m afraid that time has come.
Night before last, Zhorik and I made our usual 9 p.m. foray to the local supermarket to buy a few things. I paid with a 1000-ruble note and got 700-plus in change.
As I was getting ready to go to bed, Zhorik asked for 50 rubles; there was so much noise and activity, I didn’t think I could go to sleep without a little more anesthetic, so I gave him 100 rubles instead and asked him to buy a couple of cans of Street cocktail.
There were still 600-plus rubles in my pocket.
When I left for my 8 a.m. class with Olga yesterday morning, I felt in my pocket for the money. Nothing there but a few coins!
I devised my plan. When I got back I would sit down with the three of them and ask who took it. If nobody admitted it, I would kick them all out. I figured it was impossible for Zhorik to have taken it. The most likely culprit was Sergei. How many times has he taken money – always admitting it later, but still taking it without asking.
I summoned them all to the kitchen. But Zhorik arrived first and nipped my brilliant coup in the bud: “I took the money.”
Zhorik? The one I trusted absolutely? I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “Why?” I demanded incredulously.
“I can’t tell you.”
“I just can’t. I’ll tell you tonight on the bench.”
After he returned to the bedroom, Sergei came into the kitchen. “I told Zhorik I was ashamed that my brother would steal money from you. I have taken money, but I’ve always told you. I remember what you said about Misha, who used to live here.”
“Yes. I won’t live with somebody I can’t trust. But Zhorik is young, and I won’t do anything this time, but never again….!”
When the three of us were again gathered in the kitchen, I said something to Sergei about “when you go to Stavropol.”
“I’m not going to Stavropol. Who said I was going to Stavropol?”
“Do you want me to go? If you don’t want me to live with you, I’ll leave, but I won’t go to Stavropol. I’ll find another place to live in Moscow – maybe Valera. You don’t want me to live here?”
I squirmed a little.
“Honey, I love you, but when you act like you’ve been acting, I don’t want to be around you. I don’t want to live with you.”
“Dane, I’ve been very upset lately. I haven’t been able to sleep; I haven’t been able to eat; Misha the doctor said if you don’t sleep, you become very angry, and that’s why I’ve been angry. But it’s just my nature.”
“Well, you need to change your nature,” I said.
“I’ll really try.”
I hugged and kissed him. “Of course, I want you to live with me.”
In our “bench” session that evening, I asked Zhorik why he took the money.
“I can’t tell you.”
“You said this morning you’d tell me this evening.”
“Dane, I can’t.”
“Zhorik, you and I promised we wouldn’t have any secrets from each other.”
“I really don’t want to.”
“Zhorik, please tell me. I need to know.”
He paused, looking uncomfortable. “Sergei took it. He made me promise not to tell.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Just that morning, Sergei had told me how ashamed he was that his brother would do such a thing. And here it was Sergei himself who had taken it and artfully lied – really, really artfully lied – about it.
“Don’t ever let him know I told you,” Zhorik begged.
“I think Sergei is psychologically very disturbed,” I said. “He’s not eating, he’s not sleeping, he’s doing completely irrational things. I think emotionally he’s very disturbed.
Zhorik nodded. “And Andrei, too.”
Zhorik said Sergei had asked him if he could go to St. Pete with him, but fortunately, Sergei will be staying at Oleg’s crowded apartment and there’ll be no room for Sergei.
“After I come back from Peter, I want to go to Svetlograd, and I’m going to try to get both of them to go to Stavropol with me. I’ll go on to Svetlograd alone. I need some time away from them to think.”
The previous Friday night Sergei had asked me for 500 rubles. “Why?” I had asked.
“I can’t tell you. I’ll pay you back in the morning.”
I had nothing less than a 1000-ruble note. “It’s all we have till Monday,” I said.
He was out all night. When he returned, I asked for the thousand-rubles. “Dane, I need 2,000 more for something illegal. I’ll make 10,000 rubles. I promise I’ll pay you back tomorrow.”
I reluctantly handed him the 2,000 rubles – making a total of $ 100 that he had promisd to repay the next day.
The next day came and went. “Where’s the 3000 rubles?” “I’ll get it tonight.
And the next. And the next.
On Wednesday, Yuri – whose visits are much less frequent now that he’s got a new job – asked me very loudly in the kitchen: “Dane, could you lend me 1000 rubles to go home? I’ll pay you back in three days.
“If you don’t have it, I understand.”
I retorted impatiently: “1000 rubles? It’s not that I don’t have it, but Sergei just borrowed 3,000 rubles and promised to pay me back the next day and I still don’t have it.”
He started making facial contortions and hand signs. “What the fuck are you doing?” I thought to myself. He grabbed a pen and paper and went to the bathroom. He returned with a note saying Sergei had asked him to borrow 1,000 rubles from me, after which he would give Sergei the money.
“No, I don’t have it,” I shouted angrily, and then thanked him quietly.
Yesterday morning, Zhorik returned just before I left for class at 7:30 a.m. He said he and Sergei had been walking and drinking all night. Sergei was still out on the street somewhere.
“Where’d you get the money?”
“I borrowed 200 rubles from Anton last night and told him you’d give it back this morning. I didn’t want to wake you up.”
“I appreciate that, but I don’t like for people to borrow money from somebody else and then promise that I will repay it. Besides, I don’t have anything less than a 1000-ruble note.”
“I’d like to drink some more. Would you like for me to buy some vodka for us to drink tonight? With the change, I could give Alan back the 200 rubles.”
“Okay,” I agreed. “But put the change in your pocket and don’t tell Sergei you’ve got it.”
When I returned, Anton was just leaving for work. “Did Zhorik pay you back the 200 rubles?”
“Yes, but then Sergei borrowed 200 rubles.”
When Zhorik finally woke up last night after sleeping all day I asked for the change. He handed me about 300 rubles. “What happened to the rest of it?”
He replied that Sergei had “borrowed” 300 rubles.
So what’s going on seems fairly obvious:
Sergei, the addictive gambler, is back at the slots! He just couldn’t stay away. Yesterday morning, I asked him if he got the 3,000 rubles he had ostensibly set out to get from a mysterious “somebody” the night before.
“Yes, but I don’t have it now.”
“Where is it?”
“I can’t tell you. Besides, it’s not important,” he shouted.
“It’s important to me,” I shouted back. “You’re lying to me.”
Yesterday Andrei mentioned that he really missed his mobile phone. It seems Sergei had borrowed it and hocked it. I found out that the reason Andrei left his gold necklace and bracelet in Stavropol was that he was afraid Sergei would hock them.
I fumed all day. Sergei is begging, borrowing, and stealing every ruble he can get his hands on. I can’t trust him. I’ve been hiding my money pouch in Anton’s room every night. He’s disrupting my life and destroying my peace. He’s creating the stress that I’m absolutely determined to avoid. I won’t live with that kind of stress or with somebody I can’t trust.
He’s out of here!
Last night I told him I wanted him to leave.
He shouted in reply that he was leaving today, adding “go fuck yourself.”
I finally found time Wednesday to get the power of attorney for lawyer Valera Dmitrovich so he can start tracking Tioufline and try to get the $ 30,000 bucksi the court says he owes me. I found out from our old mutual friend Ruslan that Tioufline is still alive and working as a realtor, and that he has bought a new apartment at Sokol metro station.
So last night, instead of performing the physically impossible feat Sergei had suggested, I went with Zhorik and Andrei to Valera’s apartment and signed an agreement for him to start work. I’ll pay him $ 500 by the 10th of October.
As we were heading there, Andrei said, “Dane, you think Sergei is awful; you think he’s a thief and a liar. But he’s still my brother.”
“And mine,” added Zhorik.
“Listen,” I told them both: “I still love Sergei, but I won’t live with him and I won’t take care of him. I won’t live with somebody I can’t trust.”
The three of them went out last night and again spent the night somewhere besides in my bed. As I write this at 8:15 Friday morning, Andrei is sleeping, Sergei is watching TV, and Zhorik is sending SMS messages to Oleg in Peter. He still hasn’t bought his ticket.
In the meantime, I’m nursing a new fantasy — at last! Last Saturday afternoon I tested a group of potential students for the Institute of Diplomacy. There were mostly guys and mostly students, including one stunningly beautiful smooth-faced, sensitive-eyed 20-year-old whom I couldn’t keep my eyes from undressing.
Oddly enough, he seemed equally drawn to me. He lingered after the test to ask a question I had already answered and seemed a little reluctant to go.
On Wednesday night he sat across the teacher’s desk from me – as close as he could get -- and again we found our souls entwining intimately. Again he stayed after class to ask me something. Again, he seemed reluctant to leave.
I have resolved that at our class tomorrow I will ask him if he has time for a beer afterward and we will get acquainted. There’s a vein of priceless ore there that I’m yearning to mine.
Another guy in the class is a dead ringer for Sasha. I almost feel as if Sasha is there. The whole class is very friendly and receptive. There is a remarkable chemistry. But the real prize is my fantasy, whose name is – appropriately enough – Peter!
God knows I’m ready for a loving, supportive relationship with a normal kind, gentle human being. Maybe, just maybe, this will be it.
Another hurricane – Rita, not Sergei -- is barreling toward the Texas coast, according to news reports, carrying with it the seeds of $ 5/gal. gasoline and “the near-complete destruction of an already teetering U.S. economy,” warns Michael C. Ruppert of “From the Wilderness.”
“While I had serious doubts about America’s ability to recover from Katrina,” Ruppert continues, “I am certain that – barring divine intervention – the United States is finished; not only as a superpower, but possibly even as a single, unified nation with the arrival of Hurricane Rita.”
The CIA has long been warning of the crumbling of the Russian empire, but the demise of the U.S. as “a single, unified nation”? Is this wild hyperbole from a disillusioned, brilliant, and very articulate writer?
We’ll soon see. News reports say Rita is due to hit the oil refineries of the Texas coast tomorrow morning.