Here I am now, forcing myself to write a page today. And if we manage a page tomorrow then it will be a bonus. And the next day will follow when it feels like it. Today I will write about what I did on Saturday.
I had heard from a friend that there is an Anglican church hidden away down lanes in the very centre of Moscow and that they have a second hand shop on a saturday afternoon. I went to find it because I am out of reading material for on the metro and for on demoralised evenings when I can't be bothered 'networking' or hustling recipients of my CV in bars. I was very glad I did because it was a lovely feeling to find a british, gothic brick church behind the grandiose facade of the mayor's building. I grabbed a paperback novel and we hoofed it away again to get up to the northern side of town by 5.
Autumn is my time. All summer I torture myself over what to wear. Nothing feels quite right and I oscillate between styles. I can never decide to shave my bare legs or not. And what about pubes? When you never know if a day will turn into a barbeque and swim in a lake then you end up feeling like you have to wear nice pants every day because just on the day when you are wearing the tattiest and baggiest pants then you have to swim in them, sit in them on the grass being soggy and play volleyball. With hairy legs to boot. This gives you low confidence for dancing about and you start to feel boring. But if you spend time shaving and washing nice underwear then you feel superficial and as if you have sold out to myths of feminine beauty. It is also too time consuming. Summer is a no-win situation. But Autumn is my time. It was the first cold day, cold enough to wear my favourite scarf. there is nothing that compares to the joy of digging out beloved old jumpers and scarfs from last year's suitcase. I dyed my hair dark and put on makeup. I am a foxy miracle of smouldering life.
Of course my chestnut autumnal fantasies end when I get into the metro because the air here is humid and hot any day of the year. In summer you don't notice as much but now there is a big contrast. On the escalator I claw off scarf and hoody. Sergei and I hoofed it up the escalators and out through the longest underpass in the world and to the Ukrainian Literature Library, where someone had hired a video room to show 'A Streetcare named Desire' for free. I had heard about it in a magazine and dragged Sergei there because I wanted to see the film and I liked the idea of slightly random events organised by strangers who may yet become friends.
There were about 10 people in the room, all female, ranging from about 18 to 60. We watched the film and I got involved in it. I was very glad I came because I read it a long time ago and had never seen the film. Afterwards the lady who had organised it put the lights on and seemed to want to chat about it. She started by asking where we had heard about the event. A girl said 'the journal le cool' and I seconded that. I elaborated, 'a free journal; you sign up and they send it by email'. A man who had come in with some flyers, evidently her partner, also started talking and stole the proceedings. He said that they would like to show a film every week and what would be the best time: 3 or 5? Then the girl seemed to want to talk to us more. She directed at Sergei, who had not said a word, 'And so you are foreigners?' Sergei bristled and shot back 'would that be good or bad?' This made me think that he was offended and wanted to leave. So soon after we left, without talking about the film at all or even getting to know the girl.
But when we were in a cafe across the road (him - lamb hotpot; me - tomato salad and 100g vodka to steady my nerves after the harrowing film) he said that he was not offended at all but just wanted to protect me, because he knows how much I hate it when people draw attention to me being a foreigner. This was good of him, but he had slightly misunderstood. I don't mind telling people where I am from and I don't mind them asking because I know that people find it strange and pleasing that I speak so well, and knowing where a person is from is an essential part of getting to know someone. It is definitely NOT the case as he says, that 'there are no countries, it does not matter where you are from, we are all from the universe, cosmic people'.
But I do get pissed off sometimes - what he was referring to - when ladies who come to visit to talk to Sergei (there are many; they think he should marry them instead) talk over me, around me and through me, then send a condescending remark my way like 'so how is steph's culture shock? has she acclimatised yet?' or even 'You probably don't know this, but the word ____ means ____.Russia is not the same as the west'. I get very angry when people don't include me in society. Especially when they are trying to make it plain that they would make a better wife.They talk about fun and interesting stuff while trying to pretend that I am not there, then they make an insulting baby question to 'include' me.
But after the film was not like that. It seemed to me that the girl wanted to speak to me but had directed her remark to Sergei out of deference because he was the only man who had sat through the film, and the film is fairly feminist in that the female characters are deep and multi-faceted whereas the male characters are one-sided, sadistic and simple. I think that she maybe wanted to big him up a bit, presuming that he would be wounded after the film. I also think that the man had bounded in and rained on her parade, stopping her discussion and handing out flyers because HE was a bit stung after the film, perhaps even provoked to some swaggering himself by Brando's big torso.
But still... the end result was that the girl did not talk to me and hardly looked at me. I sat for a while with an open, inviting and inquisitive expression (or what I assume to have been!) but she had got scared and ran away. The meeting dissolved. I confess that if I had been feeling more outgoing I would have initiated a chat myself (So why are you putting on films like this, what a good idea, what films do you like best?) but like I say I thought Sergei was itching to leave and I was a bit shaken by the film as well as being very very hungry. So we left. But these small missed opportunities haunt me. The girl probably went home confused about why no one wanted to talk to her, why had we all ran away straight after the film. I hate the way I cause offence by trying to save people from offence. Sergei says that people are attracted to me but scared of me. Scared?!?
On the way home we drank cans of Red Devil (9% alcohol in an energy drink that I swear is made of speed), talked emotionally and expansively about art and life, and fell sleep to dream savage and fantastic dreams.