Every beginning contains also the DNA of it’s end. It took 6 months for the DNA of our relationship to reveal all it’s secrets and bring it to the decline. 6 month packed with activity worth of 2 years, a relationship crash course.
Lasse arrived. I took him to the rented room I found in an ad in a paper. It turned out it was just one big room and the babushka who rented it lived in the same space. She eyed us with an interest of a professional gossiper and closed the curtain between herself and the bed where Lasse had put his belongings.
– For more privacy,- she said.
But there was no privacy, we heard her breathing and scratching her nose right on the other side, waiting for us to do something she could tell the neighbors about with a glee.
– It is impossible, – whispered Lasse. – How we will have sex here?
– We won’t have sex, – I whispered back. – I am not staying here.
Lasse nervously run his fingers over the buckles of his knapsack, then looked up at me.
I didn’t say anything. My heart was beating in my throat.
– I really want this to work. We can make it work, – he said.
– I can’t. I don’t want to. It is over.
– But why? You have to explain why!
– I just don’t feel it anymore.
What I felt was the nausea, repulsion, aversion.
If you poured olive oil into cold water you saw the oil first spread out on the water’s surface, then quickly recoil, gather itself and stay away from the water. That’s how I felt – like a tight patch of oil trying to stay away from water, from Lasse, from the marriage.
Lasse looked at me with intensity that could burn holes in a wall.
– I don’t know why don’t you feel it anymore. Because I do. I still love you despite everything, – he said.
– My love just stopped.
– Did I do something wrong? Can I undo it?
I saw Lasse’s suffering and it pained me that I was causing it. To give in and say : – Yes, let’s give it a try, – just the thought of it made me sick with nausea and dizziness. I couldn’t do it. But Lasse didn’t deserve this pain. It was all my doing, my fault. The evil of me.
– You didn’t do anything wrong. I think I am mentally ill and can’t handle intimacy and being a wife.
Lasse opened his mouth to protest this, but at that moment the babushka drew the curtain open and with a wide welcoming smile looked at us.
– Want some Latvian peppermint tea? – she asked.
– No, – Lasse cut her off and stood up. – No tea.
Babushka didn’t seem bothered by Lasse’s obvious rudeness.
– You are such a cute couple,- she said and clasped her hands on her chest. – How did you meet?
– We are out of here, – Lasse said. He grabbed his coat from the bed. – Lets go.
I got up and passed babushka who still tried to have a small talk with her leaving boarder:
– You must marry her. You know how difficult it is to be a Latvian woman in these hard economic times…
When I saw Lasse the next evening, he told me he dumped the babushka and moved to an hotel near train station, Saulite.
The hotel’s name means Little Sun in Latvian and at that time it was a seedy place where prostitutes brought in their johns and drug dealers nourished their new clients. But it was cheap. And it was close to the train station where I arrived from my small town.
– Lets go to a nightclub, – Lasse suggested. He was not giving up the hope that eventually I’ll relent, sleep with him and things will go back where they were in the very beginning.
A nightclub in a normal country can be fun, and I guess that’s what Lasse meant when he invited me to a nightclub.
But a Latvian nightclub at that time was full of mafiosi types, drunken on vodka and sense of power that having money and owning a gun brings to some people. If a girl wasn’t careful she got a drunken bedmate, then lots of tacky gold chains and in the end she was passed on to Saulite to earn living with prostitution till her teeth fell out and hair stopped taking bleach.
For now all the girls in very short skirts piled up on nightclub couches and were attaching very hopeful price tags to their goods. That kind of nightlife seemed quite boring to me. It was more interesting to be in bed, dreaming.
Lasse didn’t seem bored, he seemed horrified. The swaggering macho men with poses that indicated threat and immediate death if you crossed their path without proper respect didn’t go well with Lasse’s gentle ways.
He turned to me:
– Let’s drink.
– I’ll go home soon.
– Please, have a drink with me.
– My last train is in an hour.
– Just one drink. A quick one.
– All right.
We sipped the nasty tasting cocktails. I got anxious. This was a good time to tell, get over with it and then run to the train.
I took a breath and said:
– You remember when I left Toronto my period was a touch late?
– I remember that.
I took a sip and blurted out as fast as I could:
– Well, I was pregnant and I did an abortion.
Then I let the breath out and prepared to duck if Lasse was going to hit me. I thought he might. I did something on my own, against his will and I deserved a punishment. A slap in a face, a punch in a jaw, a tiny neck strangling. Something.
That’s what men did when you upset them – they acted violently.
But Lasse looked startled. His eyes got big and filled with something shiny and liquid. He slowly raised his hand, not to hit me, but to gently caress my hair.
– I am sorry,- he said with a broken voice. – I am very sorry.
As if it was his fault, his doing, his own uterine pain.
I was puzzled. I had expected a punishment, and instead received undeserved sympathy. Why he didn’t throw me to pigs?
– Can’t miss my train, – I said and left Lasse alone midst young mafiosi mating scene.
The next evening we met it turned out Lasse had left Little Sun. He complained of the noise in Saulite and of people trying to enter his room, keeping him up all night. Prostitutes and drug dealers have little tolerance for other people’s privacy.
Lasse had moved to an upscale operation, Hotel Latvia, which was probably the best hotel in Latvia at that time but still pretty shabby. It was the only hotel in Soviet times that foreigners were allowed to stay and there was a rumor that KGB had secret cameras installed in each room to supervise possibly spies. With increase of sex tourism a thriving business sprang up selling the x-rated tapes from those rooms.
– Let me take you out for a nice dinner,- Lasse said. He looked haggard and depressed.
I checked with my watch. It was 6 PM. My last train home was half past midnight. Plenty of time.
– The nicest restaurant in the whole Riga is right here, in this hotel, – the receptionist told us.
We walked into an empty restaurant – it was too pricey for working people and too lit up for mafia types – and chose the most secluded table in a corner, in a shade of dusty artificial palm trees.
– We’ll start with the wine, – Lasse told the aging waitress who reminded of a worried mother.
– We have great Australian wine. The owner of the restaurant highly recommends it, – the waitress said. Women in Latvia had no authority to disperse their opinion on alcohol, it had to be done under the cover of a male point of view.
– How much is it? – I asked. My stingy soul wouldn’t want Lasse to spend anything more than a few dimes on a dinner with the evil me.
– Just bring it! – Lasse commanded the waitress ignoring my feeble mumbling about expense and reason.
The wine was excellent. In fact, it was so excellent that I don’t recall eating any food, although am sure the motherly waitress brought us some, as am sure she was worried about cooks keeping busy because we were still the only customers in the sport hall sized restaurant.
The wine softened the edges of the conversation and it was free flowing in any direction. We didn’t have anything to lose anymore – the break-up was clear and imminent – and for the first time we were having great time talking. We gossiped about animators, we talked films we’ve seen, we talked animation and techniques. There was openness and honestly that we had never allowed to enter our conversations before.
– Bring another one! – Lasse said when the first bottle was finished. I looked at the watch, It was 11 PM.
– I have one more glass and then I go, – I said.
– Yes, – generously allowed Lasse. – One more glass and then you go!
We had another glass.
– There is something I think you should know about me, – Lasse said.
– All right, – I said. – Tell me, if you feel like it. But it won’t change anything anymore.
Lasse looked at my face as if he wanted to measure my reaction and said:
– I am a cross-dresser.
That sounded vaguely sexual, but I was not sure what exactly it meant. I had done my best to get sex education in Soviet Union but my knowledge was spotty.
– What is it? – I asked.
– I like to dress as a woman from time to time.
Suddenly, the mystery that I was trying to solve for months and months was open in front of me. Every Lasse’s gesture, facial expression that was strange and puzzling before now made perfect sense. The wall obscuring the view was gone and what I saw wasn’t criminal or perverse. Wanting to dress as a woman seemed so trite compared to the evil deeds I had committed. A sharp regret entered my chest then melted into sadness of a lost opportunity.
– Why didn’t you tell me? – I asked.
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