Russian woman story

Brooklyn Bridge to Brighton Beach

Vica VinogradovaThis is one of Vica Vinogradova's stories about a girl who misses Russia, goes to Brighton Beach, while figuring out her relationship with current (Michael) and former (Andy) american boyfriends. Vica Vinogradova, originally from St. Petersburg, is a New Yorker of 12 years, and has been writing short stories and poetry for the last decade. She currently contributes to VOGUE RUSSIA and publishes poetry online, including Stihi.Ru. Her first childrens book, in collaboration with illustrator Alexander Zakharov , will be published in 2003 by Callaway Editions . Graduate of Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, she established and taught New Media course at Hunter College. After running her own branding and Web development company Ladno.com in Moscow for several years , she returned to New York and now represents various artists in New York City.

I am so excited to see signs in Russian, I almost get run over by a cab. Brighton Beach and Brighton 2. B2. Haven't been here in five years.

MosGosFilm Store on the corner in red and neon. They sell what I want: Russian music, Russian films, Russian jokes..I want "Tabor Uxodit v Nebo" (Gipsy encampment leaves into the sky), that movie about Gipsies, and horses, and freedom. They don't have it. But I find "Staryj Novyj God" (Old New Year) instead. Will be perfect for my Russian Old New Year's party. I see Alsu, and Nasyrov, and Linda. I want "Vorona" (Crow).

"Do you have Tabor uxodit v nebo?"
"How about Linda's Vorona?"
"So tabor ushel v nebo, I vorona uletela.." (So, Gipsies left into the sky, and the crow flew away)

We are laughing our heads off.

"Is there another store that would have it?"
"Yes, there is St. Petersburg around the corner", says he, looking deep in my eyes holding in the laughter.
I am an alien in this Russian land. Manhattan is a moon to them. I like that St. Petersburg is near.

"Where do I go?.. to get the film that is.. "
"Go to the left," he says, "about three blocks."
I go to my left. His right. Wrong direction. Across the street Jews are dancing and singing. I stop and watch.

"Want some vodka?" a heavy man in a hat offers me a plastic cup matter-of-factedly.
"No, thank you"
"How about a blintz?" Kind eyes resting on me..
"Sure". I am starving.

Potato dranik is still warm. Jews are dancing and filming. Why are they here? Ah, yes, they are Jews from Eastern Europe. They speak Russian. They celebrate the last day of Hanukah.

"I am Vladimir, from L'vov. And also have never been married"
I roar in laughter.. "Also?" I've been married.
Ross i Ya - ROSSiYA. (Ross and I. Makes one word - Russia)
He is married to someone else now. No kids yet.
"I've been to L'viv. Beautiful"
"Where are you from?"
"I thought so"

He feeds me more blintzes. All home made. By his friend's wife. He introduced them. Never married himself. Came here for a woman, and left her. Ten years ago. Nobody wants him now. Same here. He is born a year of the dog too, only 12 years before me. A prominent singer and engineer in L'viv. Construction worker in New York. Works on 72nd, across the park from me. Promises to sing for me.

"So what's here?" I ask
"Nothing. Just standing on the pavement, eating blintzes with you".
Sure, that's why you came to this country.
We laugh. He gives me candies. Three. "God loves Trinity". I know. I have a cross from Ethiopia on my neck. Will bless it in Russia.

He gives me his beeper number. I will beep when this story is complete, and when friends from St. Pete want to go to Brighton. He tells me where "St. Petersburg" is. I ask him not to follow me. This is "me, alone" day. He kisses me on the cheek. He liked me.. He is funny. Same here.

I buy shproty, and borjomi, and Korovka with Grilyazh. The counter lady, dressed in Soviet looking shabby pink-gray coat, makes me coffee and says she hasn't been to Manhattan in years. Something scares her there now, even though she used to go "for walks" with her friend all the time. Dirty coat. Kind eyes. Soft voice.
"Spasibo Vam. Udachi, s novym godom" (Thank you. Good luck to yor)
"Spasibo dorogaya, tebe togo je" (You too, dear)

"St. Petersburg" in yellow and black. Finally. "Tabor Uxodit v nebo", "Osennij Marafon", "Slujebnyj Roman". New Victoria Tokareva. Small tear-page calendars like we used to have in the kitchen. "Orthodox, Astrological, Woman's, Family doctor, Culinary, Garden and Yard". Real Russkaya solyanka.

I pass shashlychnaya, and a cafe. Foggy smoke inside. Bright lights. Feels like home. Buy a white flower. My Mom's favorite. Will put it next to Alyona's red roses, my white tulips, and Michael's nothing. Call him. Answering machine. I say that I will have a Russian night with myself. He is not invited. I am sad. I buy tow round rum buns from a grandpa on the street. 2 for 1. Soft. Smells of childhood.

Andy calls. I can pick up the books. In an hour, I say. I am already on the train back to the Moon - Manhattan. Fall asleep. Read the little calendar. Tauruses are governed by Venus and influenced by Moon. We like love and people. Loyal. Sexual. Stubborn.

Change to 4 at the Atlantic. Four more stops and I am on Spring. Weird names slide by. All of a sudden I am by myself in an empty orange car. Doors closed. People look at me weird. I can't get out. We are going into the depot. Why? Did we pass Manhattan already? And why didn't they announce?

I run to the conductor. My shopping bags bang the sliding doors.
"How do I get out? Where are we? What happened to Manhattan?"
"Manhattan?" he laughs. "This is the last stop in Brooklyn. No need to get out. Just stay here, we are going back". Wrong direction again.

I sit down and read poetry on the wall. "Confusion". About love. About me. I laugh. What a joke. Will never make it to Andy's to pick up the books. A poster says:

"Find out about V (new line in orange).
I smile. Yes, all matches again. My life is written on the walls of NYC subway.

Black tall performer walks in, starts his funny routine. Sad eyes.
"Where is your partner?" I give him a dollar. "You were so good together".
"I know. But we broke up". So did we...
He doesn't get out on time. I say "More".
He sings another song making bubbly noises.
No more tipping this time.

Women across laugh. Mother and daughter.
"Do you speak Russian?" I ask.
"Where are you from?"
"I am third generation St. Petersburg". Feel proud every time I say it.
I show them calendars from St. Pete, and explain how Moscow has become New York. They haven't been in ten years. I haven't been since March. Wanna go. Tell them the depot story. Tell them to go to Russia. We are laughing to tears.

Andy's apartment is dim as always. He looks handsome. I look sexy. Tired. Plop on a leather couch. Beer. We are watching "Sex and the City". My first episode ever. And it's called "TIME AND PUNISHMENT". How appropriate. He gives me a ride to the subway in his fancy Lexus, off to Man Ray.
"You are crazy," he says.
"That's why people love me".
We kiss on the cheek. Twice. I am smiling.
This door is softly closed.

Tears. They come later. When Michael hasn't called, and I am by myself.
He said he'd come over on Saturday. And didn't. "Tomorrow", he said. And nothing again.

I am listening to Pugacheva. My heart is pounding and my tears are rolling. I am writing to the girls to save me. I can't lose people anymore. What happened this time? I can't even call them. I can't speak through tears.

Pugacheva sings ARLEKINO. that's me. a f… ng clown.. very entertaining, indeed..

"A MNOYU ZAPOLNYAUT PERERYV". (they fill intermissions with me) how true.

I think I LOVE HIM.. and I thought he loved me back.
I never pushed.. he never demanded. it was SIMPLE.
it was flowing and bringing to new heights...

and of course he is gone..

"NO SLEZ MOIX NE VIDNO NIKOMU.. NU SHTO ZHE, ARLEKIN YA VINDO NE PLOXOJ".. (But nobody sees my tears, I am probably not such a bad clown after all)
kak jit'-to '?????????????? (how am I supposed to live?)

skol'ko mojno verit', vzletat' na nepostijimuyu vysotu,
a potom - kamnem vniz, vdrebezgi.. (how many times can I trust, fly to the impossible height, and then - drop down, to pieces)

I uje ne xochetsa sobirat' oskolki.. (and I don't want to pick up the pieces)

ne xochu byt' akhmatovoj ili cvetaevoj.. xorosho pishut.. mnogo plachut..
(I don't want to be Akhmatova or Cvetaeva. They wrote well, but cried a lot)

I might disappear for a while.. I am not doing well..

I think this is IT.
I want LIVED FOR A WEEK on my burial stone.

another one.. "million million million alyx roz" (a million of red roses)
only I got them from alyona..

sorry I really don't know how to go on..

he calls as I am bursting with tears..

"nu shto?" (so what's up)
"I am crying"
"because I thought I lost you"
"lost me where?"
"somewhere there.."

I can smile now. I am not obsessing.. I just can't stand it when people disappear for no reason.
"You said you'd come over and you didn't' even call"
"I am flaky that way. Sorry".
He apologized. I told him not to apologize unless he made me cry.
He did. Twice in ten days.
But I met him crying. Nothing new. This is how we communicate.
"I am going away tomorrow. I will call you in the morning"
"So you are not coming over"
"Nu xorosho. Spokoinoj nochi" (OK, good night)

I am watching TABOR UXODIT V NEBO. Reading "Lust". I told my grandma that if she was a gipsy then my mother would have been a gipsy, and then I would have been a gipsy. I wanted steppe and horses and freedom. I cried for three hours. I was six.

Nothing changed. Still a gipsy. Still running around. Still cry. Still a little girl. Smoking. Like the cover of "Lust". Rum and coke.

Falling asleep to Alsu. "My s toboy znakomy dve nededi.. Shto je ty so mnoi delaesh, Vesna"? (we've known each other for two weeks. What are you doing with me, Spring?)

12/16/2001, New York

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