When young, very young, I used to be a believer. Like in believing everything they were telling me. The teachers, the talking heads, the supreme leaders.

In a summer camp, deep in the Carpathians, I noticed a guy wearing skyblue trousers and some kind of shirt that seemed to have lost all but two buttons down. The summer camp — according to its designation: [national instruction camp for group leaders of the union of communist students’ associations] — was supposed to attend to a certain, rigorously appointed, category of youth. Thought I.

The guy with a bare chest thought otherwise. For him, it was just a week for free [paid by the party] partying. Away from the city, out in the wilderness, to hook up with chicks and have a glass, or two, or more, of what they deemed to be ‘strong vodka’ – водка крепкая / vodka krepkaya. At a discounted price.

Detesting the drunkard moments, I waited, like a true believer, until he invited me out, to a short trip, actually a ride, and a drive, to another mountain resort.

“We’re taking the cable car!” Nonchalant, stepping behind the sliding doors in that red box, I had no clue. Not the slightest. A minute later, grabbing his arm with all my being, experiencing all the adrenaline in the world, in my world, I realized that acrophobia is still a dormant tiny monster, back from a dark corner of my early childhood.

It dawned on me, now in my fifties, that my kindergarten, along with an entire city, were to be reached by walking over a narrow, endless and dirty gangway bridge across too many railway tracks. Wooden planks missing at random. In an era of steam locomotives. Learning about your daemons.

Hormonally hooked to him, living the instant of adrenaline, drinking his words, from Plato to Xenophon, from Hegel to the Strugatsky brothers. A different world. Of worlds. Nothing like the lame teachers, talking heads and supreme leaders. Nothing like that!

“You’re the first gal that pings to this crazy stuff,” says he. And the next summer, married already, we wished to pay another visit, to the cable car, yet the trains took us farther North. And the next year, slightly South, before an entire belief system, teachers, talking heads included, crashed in flames, supreme leaders be damned and shot, right on Christmas Day. Was this a way to tell us that he who forbids Christmas to nations, he may die on Christmas Day?

Then came, invariably, a new summer, when mountains were the same, always rocky, and the sky turned clear, so clear that our eyes may see the Archangels. And so it began.

From childhood

  1. The wood to crackle into the fire
    And to come a long night
    In the basil porch
    With smelling of ripe apples
    And to fall snow, enormous snow
    Up to on the eaves and over
    And me on a chair to fall asleep
    Like at a drug or a story.
  1. With the newspaper on my knees
    And with the fallen eyelids
    The death to dawn on the trunk
    And to kiss my eyes
    The old ones to be alive
    Peace of the world be ready
    Me, a child among the children
    And my father, young, outside.
  2. And my grandmother to take me
    Carring me slowly to the pillow
    Feeling how it comes from her
    Eternal peace of mind
    The wood to crackle into the fire
    Under a small pot of milk
    To smell of basil
    To smell of ripe apples.

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