PRAGUE, Czechoslovkia, Dec. 27, 2003 -- I was still angry the next morning, but decided to pour oil on troubled waters.
I woke Shurik up in time to catch breakfast before the bewitching hour of 10 a.m. Then we decided to try to find an open pharmacy to get some disinfectant and band-aids for a minor wound on his thumb.
Then we decided to find a shopping mall and try to find some things I hadn’t been able to locate in Moscow – rubbing alcohol, index cards, pocket diary for 2004.
Never found the rubbing alcohol or the pocket diary or the index cards. But Shurik saw a leather shoulder bag for that he simply had to have. And a cap. And some socks.
I bought a pair of shoes for about and some odds-and-ends. When we returned, Yegor was still sleeping from the baths, so Anton, Shurik and I decided to go shopping on Wenceslas Square. It took Anton forever to find the right gift for his boyfriend Denis. In the meantime, Shurik was finding more and more things that he had to have: A very smart long-sleeved sweat shirt and a cute matching red checked shirt.
“I want to get something for Yegor to let him know we’re thinking about him.” He had forgotten to pack extra T-shirts, so a T-shirt seemed to be the right thing. I picked out a white one.
“No, I think the black would be better,” Shurik corrected.
So I bought the black one.
When we got home, Shurik immediately began showing off what I had bought him. To Yegor I could only announced feebly that “I bought you a T-shirt, sweetheart.”
The next time I went into Yegor’s room, Anton was wearing the T-shirt. I made some comment about its not being the right size. “I gave it to Anton,” snapped Yegor.
“I don’t like black.”
I was hurt. Yegor is sensitive and caring, and unless he had deliberately wanted to hurt me, he would have simply let Anton “wear” the shirt without announcing to me in stentorian tones that he had given Anton the T-shirt.
I went back to Shurik’s and my room.
“Why are you upset?” Shurik asked.
“Yes, you are.”
So I told him the story.
He took me in his arms. “He didn’t mean to hurt or insult you.”
“Yes, he did.”
Shurik lay down on the bed in his shorts to watch TV. I lay down beside him just to snuggle, and rested my hand on his naked stomach. “Don’t touch me in the stomach. It hurts.”
“I slid my hand to his crotch.”
“Is that better?”
My lonely Christmas night was forgotten in the half hour that followed.
Yegor, Zhenya, and Anton went to Gejzee’s gay club again that night. And saw Misha – two nights after he had said he would be going back to the refugee camp. Ah, Misha, Misha. What a sad story you are.
The next day, Saturday, was our last full day – the day for last-minute souvenirs. When Zhenya at last woke up around 1, we headed back to the shopping area where we had gone the day before.
“I’m hungry,” he said. “Let’s get a quick bite to eat first.” So we headed into an arcade where a cheap Chinese kiosk was operating. We each picked out something. It came to 180 kronar. I wanted to get rid of as much change as possible, so I poured out all of it. It came to 177 kronar – three short.
Do you have any “sdacha,” one of three words meaning “change,” I asked Shurik.
“Sdacha? Sdacha for what? I don’t understand you. What do you want?” He demanded in reply.
I finally got across the idea that I needed three kronar. He tossed a 20-kronar coin on the counter and huffed back to his seat.
“What are you angry about?” I demanded when I joined him.
“It’s your fault. You did something really stupid. You should have said, “do you have any melochka or do you have three kronar? Not do you have any sdacha!”
He was so angry he was about to explode. He was practically shouting. The people next to us immediately left and the poor Chinaman was embarrassed and tried to ignore us – impossible in the 10-square-foot space.
“Why did you ask people on the metro what station it was?” He continued. “I knew where we were going. Why did you ask them? Why didn’t you ask me? Why don’t you ever believe me? You’re always doing that. You’re always arguing with me.”
In a state of shock, I replied, “I don’t want to continue this,” and looked at the ceiling while he ranted on.
I ate whatever had been served with the tasteless rice while he glowered silently, food untouched. I tossed a thousand-kronar note on the table. “Here, buy what you want. I’m leaving.”
When I got back to the supermarket near the hotel, I ran into Yegor and Anton. “Where’s Shurik?” Yegor asked.
“We had an argument and I left.”
“I hope he can find his way back.”
“Oh, he knows everything. Everything. He’ll find his way back.”
Yegor and I headed down to breakfast together alone the next morning before our flight. I told him what had happened the night before. “The way I’m feeling right now, I don’t want to live with him.
“I don’t want to live with him either, and it has nothing to do with feelings. We’ll talk more about it when I get back.”
In turn I resolved to tell Shurik when we got back that I wanted him out by Feb. 1. And no more money.
“By the way,” Yegor added; “I think I will go to my aunt’s in Sandova for New Year’s. Ours is not a happy family right now.”
“Maybe that would be best. Vanya is coming from Nizhniy Novgorod tomorrow. He and I can spend New Year’s eve together.
On our flight back to Moscow, Shurik and I sat across the aisle from each other and said nothing.
I had just spent somewhere between 00 and 00 for one of the most miserable Christmases of my life. Apparently Shurik was terminally angry because I had said the wrong word. The punishment didn’t fit the crime.
I can forgive mistakes, but I can’t forgive unkindness. I was furious with myself for wasting all that time and money on a defiant, spoiled, and unappreciative Shurik.
“I love you forever.” Right! But just what did I expect from a 19-year-old hustler?