Every little town or city has their own special phallic topographic point, you know – an elevated surface where young lovers can go and kiss, maybe make out.
In Riga such a place was Bastejkalns (Bastion Hill), a small mound of dirt scattered with trees. It had some halo of history maybe because under the dirt there were remains of old Riga bulwarks.
I have always felt that rigorous sex exercise needed breaks for fresh air and culture. So one night me and Lasse took a stroll around Bastejkalns and, like any decent lovers of phallic activities – to the very top of it which didn’t take us very high, about 15 meters above the street level.
The fall leaves still on the trees were scratching the air with a dry rustle. The leaves already fallen were scraping the ground. The lights of the city winked. We kissed.
– Signe Baumane, will you marry me? – Lasse suddenly asked.
Later, much later, he said he meant it as a joke. But how would I have known it was a joke? I looked into his eyes that gleamed with the vulnerability reminiscent of a newborn rabbit – completely defenseless and needy. I knew the answer to the question was no. I didn’t want to get married again, I have done it before – it didn’t end well. Well, it actually never quite ended, a torturous bound from heaven to rebound from hell. Marriage was for women made out of steel, with mechanical reliable clocks for their hearts. I was just not made that way. Claustrophobia of marriage makes me shrink like a slug under a heap of salt.
However, here was a man in front of me with something that looked like tears in his eyes, in tremor for my answer. If I said no what if he started to cry? They didn’t teach me consolation techniques in school. The moment would turn awkward and unromantic.
Besides, I was in love with the man. I never knew how to say no to people I loved (although, I can tell you now, only true love knows to say no).
– Yes, – I said. As I pronounced the short three-sound word that would change my life for good my heart sunk but I still had a hope that marriage between a Swede and Latvian was as possible as a marriage between an ox and an eagle – we will never get permission and if we do, it would take a very long time. I could only plan two weeks in advance. There were short term advantages to saying yes. Like, having sex in 56 minutes.
We hugged and kissed and continued to walk. I thought the whole episode would be forgotten in the morning.
But Lasse got up the next day bright and early, put his best pants and sweater on, and said:
– Lets’ go!
– Where to?
– To get married.
At the Citizen Matters Office we were explained that since neither of us was registered in Riga they couldn’t marry us. Lasse then decided to take a train to the small town where I was registered. But the Citizen Matters Office in the small town asserted that a local hospital had to check the condition of our blood, genitals and teeth before the Office could issue a permission to marry.
– It might take a month, or two, – maintained the Citizen Matters aging female officer who I vaguely remembered was somehow connected with my divorce case a few years ago.
Lasse didn’t want to wait a month or two. He also found the idea that a doctor had to approve our genitals for marital fitness appalling. Apparently, Swedes were able to marry at any given moment of the day, in any weather and with any possible genital condition there was. I personally found Latvian hesitation to marry two strangers quite sensible.
There was no time for going to doctors anyway. The next day we got on a train and went to Kiev, to attend the famous (or notorious, it depends how you look at it) animation festival on a boat – Krok. The boat slowly moved down the Dnepr river to the Black Sea and, defying all the logic, at every single stop – Kiev, Cherkassy, Dnipro, Zaporizhya, Kherson, Odessa – we went to yet another local Citizen Matters Office to seek permission to marry. At each place we were denied an interview because neither of us was a citizen of Ukraine.
There was an air of despair in the act of putting one’s best clothes on to try to get married at slightest opportunity. A remarkable determination to overcome laws of gravity.
But sex was still good, kissing long and sweet like semi tropical fruit.
Then, to the despair was added urgency.
Lasse got a job.
It came through the boat’s fax machine that miraculously albeit sporadically coughed up faxes addressed to celebrated guests, and one of them marked “Extremely URGENT” was addressed to Lasse.
Derek Lamb, THE Derek Lamb, wanted Lasse to be head animator for his new project. The job was in Toronto, Canada. And it required Lasse to start in 2 weeks.
– You have to come with me, – Lasse said. – I won’t let you out of my sight.
To be honest, at that time traveling with a Latvian girlfriend was like trying to swim with three bricks tucked under your swimsuit. Latvia was freshly independent country with it’s economy in shambles and rich Western countries were concerned that sneaky Latvians might misuse visas to steal jobs from their legal citizens and offer discounts on sexual services that were rightfully highly priced. In embassies Latvian passports were regarded with suspicion and contempt. Visas were issued only after repeated interviews and paperwork harassment.
Getting married with Lasse finally started to make sense. A Swede had on his highway mostly green light. Some of that light might transfer to his wife.
My abstract romantic notion that Lasse, Swedish Prince On White Horse, might save me from my misery turned to reality that I didn’t want to get married (and what would I do in boring Sweden anyway?) only to return to a realistic assessment that crossing the Atlantic Ocean had an immense potential for unseen opportunities. Just the idea of opportunities makes me vibrate with excitement.
The festival ended and from sunny Odessa we arrived back to gloomy Kiev to observe bread lines and tragic faces. We both were in inexplicably bad mood. Some of Lasse’s odd gestures that I had found intriguing before now were irritating me. Unlike my Russian Ex, Lasse was a good person and he didn’t deserve my poisonous nagging that I am so capable of so I covered my aggravation with silence.
Maybe it was the separation anxiety, I thought. Maybe am trying to protect myself from pain of separation from the lover.
It will be all right when I see him again.
Lasse went back to Sweden. I went back to Latvia where I packed winter clothes in two cheap plastic travel bags. I heard it was cold in Canada. Then I took flimsy, Estonian-run ferry to Stockholm. It was 7 AM when the ferry tied up at the pier. Dark, gray, uncomfortable morning. I recognized Lasse’s face in the small crowd of locals. Seeing the lover didn’t make my heart leap out of the throat My mood got foul.
Two days later we were married. It was three and half weeks from the moment we met.
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