MOSCOW, February 11, 2004 -- A 9-year-old girl from Tajikistan was stabbed to death by a gang of teenagers in St. Peterburg two nights ago.
She had dark skin.
My beloved Yegor is from Tajikistan. He has dark skin.
Vigilantism is flaring up in Russia after last Friday’s tragic bombing of a crowded metro car. Authorities admit as many as 50 were killed; and private funeral home directors say the death toll may be 100 or more. The Russian people may never know exactly how many.
I don’t understand this penchant for government under-estimating of casualties. What do they have to gain by it? Some of my students think it is to prevent panic and over reaction. But why would 100 killed create more panic and outrage than 50? It’s apparently some perverse Soviet logic that still imbues the official Russian brain.
The bombing was a random, horrible, senseless act of extreme violence, the fruit of the deep-rooted hatred that is daily fomented by Russia’s continuing vendetta against the Chechen people. It was the violence that violence begets and was begotten by violence.
Newly elected nationalist congressional leaders have called for martial law, with curfews, more sweeping police powers, etc. Some have even demanded deporting all immigrants of Caucuses origin, which would include my apartment mate and former lover Anton, from Vladikavkaz.
It’s roughly equivalent to the demands of some American rednecks half a century ago to “send all the niggers back to Africa.”
Fortunately, Putin opposes such reactive measures – not because they’re morally repugnant but because he fears a rise in nationalism would bring with it increasing support for nationalist voices like Zhirinovskiy and Sergei Glazyev, who – by tapping this vein of hatred and nationalism -- might suddenly rear up as serious political threats.
So such radical laws probably won’t be enacted. But the racist demand for them won’t go away and is only stoked by each terrorist bombing.
So I worry about Yegor if he isn’t in my sight.
Night before last he went to visit his fellow Tajik Lena. Lena is chronically depressed over her miserable and unhappy life, and they usually spend the evening getting drunk together. About midnight Lena sent him out for another bottle of vodka. He had already drunk half a bottle of vodka with nothing to eat and was staggering so obviously that the cops stopped him. He convinced them he was okay. But he was lucky. The cops didn’t find out he was from Tajikistan, and he wasn’t spotted by skinheads.
Either alternative could have ended in big problems. And in the case of the latter, even being beaten or stabbed to death.
I talked to him about it.
“I’m not going to live my life in fear,” he said.
“You shouldn’t,” I said, “but you do have to use your head and not put yourself in unnecessary danger.”
The mean Moscow streets are getting meaner.
Joy has returned to my life! It has come in the form of sweet, kind, loving, and sexy Seryozh. Yegor had gone to his ex-boyfriend Sergei’s birthday party Saturday evening and had asked me to go with him. To please him, I had agreed even though I wasn’t enthusiastic about going to the gay Russian baths with a bunch of strangers and then winding up at 4:00 in the morning in Sergei’s apartment to pass out with the same bunch of strangers – though maybe by then they wouldn’t have been strangers.
But what if they weren’t cute?
So when I called Yegor after my Saturday class at the Institute of Diplomacy, and he told me that Sergei was not happy about Yegor’s having invited me, and that maybe we should re-think it, I was not terribly disappointed. I was disappointed though, that Alexei had left because he had thought I was going to the party and hadn’t wanted to be at the apartment all night without me.
I don’t like spending the night alone.
So I was working at my computer about 10 p.m. when the house phone rang. The two Seryozhas here for a reeenactment of last Saturday night. I wound up teaching them American poker. We finally went to bed about 2 – Seryozh and I in my bed and Seryozh II – Serge – in Igor’s. Once again: beautiful, loving sex – I came four times over the course of the weekend. I even had a brief oral encounter with Serge’s huge, uncut shlang and snuggled in bed with him on Sunday morning.
He was very loving and warm, but he wasn’t turned on.
But the joy was in the interactions between Seryozh and me: The complete affection and openness between us, the fun of shopping and cooking together, the eager intertwining of our naked bodies, the rapturous orgasms.
It’s the stuff of joy!
But it doesn’t change or diminish my feelings for Yegor.
This morning we talked about colds in my 8:15 class at Moskovskiy Teleport. Russians clearly have their own ideas about colds. “Warm, warm, warm,” insisted Yuri, the 60-something veteran of Soviet Russia. Pointing to the article we had just read in the British English textbook saying that you should avoid milk and other dairy products when you have a cold, he announced:
“This method is wrong. In fact, you should drink warm milk with honey when you have a cold. That’s the best treatment.”
And it’s universally agreed that you should drink nothing cold when you have a cold. Hot milk with honey; hot tea with raspberry preserves; even room temperature vodka – the cure supra qua non, contend many Russian veterans. When Kostya comes to my apartment on Wednesday nights, he always brings beer as the proper accompaniment to the poker he, Dima, and I play in lieu of their “English lesson.” But if he has a cold he brings two cold beers – for me and Dima – and one warm one for himself. He’s had a cold that’s lasted for two weeks now, and Dima declares it is because he drank a cold beer when it first started.
My protestations that such prohibitions are “nonsense” and “old wives’ tales” ring a bit hollow when I’m coughing so hard from my own cold that I can hardly teach the lesson. Still, I persist.
Student Lyuda (pronounced like lewd-a) insists that soaking your feet in hot water will clear your head. Maybe it will.
And a stint in the Russian banya probably edges out even vodka as the cure preferred above all others. But the thing about the banya is you can have your banya and drink your vodka too, since an integral part of the banya ritual is to sit around with your buddies and drink beer, vodka, or whatever after the intolerably cold water, the intolerably hot steam, and the intolerable beatings with the birch branches.
I’ve only been to one banya – former student Andrei and one of his friends took me to the banya in Sergeev Passad, a provincial little town a couple of hours from Moscow by commuter train. There was a hot shower, then a dip in the cold pool, then a session in the suffocatingly hot sauna where you gasp for air through the steam and get beaten with the requisite birch branches. Then another cycle: the cold pool, the shower, the cold pool again, and once more the unbearable sauna.
My feigned enthusiasm was, I’m afraid, not very convincing. I would have been more upbeat about the whole adventure if the scenery had been a little bit better, but most of the habitues were fat old men whose puny little piskas were mercifully hidden in folds of their ample bellies.
However, Kostya is completing his own banya at his dacha, and we’re already planning a cold-curing session. Kostya is a very handsome 26-year-old with big bones, bit hands, big feet, big….? I think the scenery will be much better.