(Or How To Release the Moment)
(Or I Don't Believe in Forever)
As I was walking down the road, the snow fell gloomily all around me and I ran into Ksenia.
"Hey Ksenia!" I said, "What are you doing here?"
"Who are you?" she asked and scanned me from head to toe.
"Oh, I'm a big fan of yours. I follow you on Twitter."
She wore a tight black leather jacket over a flimsy pink tutu and colorful striped socks with flip flops. I shivered just thinking about how cold her feet must be.
"You are shivering my dear. Come inside and have a drink."
She led me down the snow covered pavement and around some concrete buildings. The light snow cracked and crunched under my feet. We climbed down some stairs and came up to a small dark door.
"Here we are!" She fiddled with a thousand keys to get the door open.
Her apartment was tiny and dark with a low hanging ceiling that seemed to bear down on me with malice, seeking vengeance for some wrong I did to it in some other life. There wasn't any furniture except a small bed in a corner and a round wooden table and two wooden chairs in the middle of the kitchen area. Thankfully there was a stove with some wood burning in it and the hut, I call it a hut because it felt like a hut, was warm.
"What would you like to drink? Coffee or vodka?"
"Both it is then!" She let out a joyous laugh. She moved around swiftly inside the hut. Her tutu swayed with her hips and her flip flops slapped her heels. I sat down at the table thinking about what to say next. She put a kettle on the stove and slammed a bottle of vodka on the table along with two shot glasses.
She poured the vodka and raised her glass, "To Mother Russia!"
"I thought… you didn't… like… Russia." I floundered with the words and in that time she downed her drink and was off again.
"Look at this." She brought out a scrap book that had little cuttings of paper in it. "My fans sent this to me. I love my fans so much!"
"What is it?" I asked, sorting through the drawings which seemed like comic strips.
"It's art. Fan art. They made it for me."
At that moment I felt a sudden warmth rising from within me and since I hadn't touched the vodka, I concluded that I must be filled with love. I loved her and I had to tell her immediately. She stood close to me, sorting lovingly through her scrap book.
"Ksenia… I… I think I…"
Knock! Knock! Knock!
There was a knock on the door and she was off with a smile again.
"Who could it be?" she said with enthusiasm and excitement instead of surprise or fear. She opened the door and an old lady stood there in tattered clothes. Her back was bent almost 90 degrees.
"Hello!" Ksenia said, "May I help you?"
"Hello Ksenia. I'm a big fan of yours." The old woman stood up straight as if her bent back had found new life on meeting Ksenia.
"Well come on in then! It's cold outside."
The old woman came inside and I felt foolish for thinking that she had invited me inside for some special reason. Apparently she invited all her fans inside.
"Would you like some vodka?" she asked the old lady who sat down next to me. I smiled and nodded but the old lady didn't look at me.
"Oh no dear. I don't drink anymore, ever since my death."
"Oh ok. Looks like it's just you and me kid," Ksenia said pouring another drink for herself, "And you haven't finished yours! Drink up kid!"
"I'm sorry. What did you just say?" I asked the old woman.
"What? I said I don't drink, that's all." The old woman turned feebly towards me and smiled embarrassingly. She had no teeth.
"You don't drink since your what?"
"My death," she said.
"Death!" Both Ksenia and the old woman said in unison, which seemed rehearsed.
I was too confused to be scared yet.
"To Death!" Ksenia raised her glass and gulped the entire shot in a hurry.
Ksenia smiled at me and then snatched her scrap book from me and showed it to the old woman.
"Is this some kind of a joke?" I said and laughed nervously.
The old woman shook her head and joined my laughter and carried it on even after I had stopped. I looked at Ksenia but she was busy going through the scrap book again. If she wasn't scared, I didn't have to be scared. It must be a joke of some sort. Maybe she knew the old woman. I felt love for her again but before I could say anything there was another knock on the door.
"Ooohh! Who could it be this time?" Ksenia cooed happily and ran to the door.
"Hello Ksenia! I'm a big fan of yours. Can I come inside?" A tall muscular man stooping at the door said.
"Of course!" Ksenia said and brought him inside to the table.
"So you'll invite just about anybody in as long as they say they are your fan?" I said.
"Of course! I love my fans."
The tall man had to stoop continuously to fit inside the low ceiling of the hut.
"Get up, let him sit in your chair." Ksenia gently shoved me off the chair.
I got up heartbroken and went and stood near the stove.
"So? Are you dead too?" I asked the man.
"No. Why would you ask such a question?"
"Well because she is." I said pointing to the old woman.
"I am." The old woman nodded with her toothless grin.
"You are?" the tall man said, "Oh I'm so sorry."
"When did you die?"
"Last month. I think. I'm not sure. Everything seems like it happened a month ago. Time has stopped for me now."
"Oh that would be wonderful!" Ksenia chimed in, "If time could stop for me, I could read and write forever!"
"Well technically if there was no time there wouldn't be a 'forever'." I said trying to get back into the conversation. All three of them stared at me as if I was a dog with a cat's head playing a balalaika. "Coz forever implies the existence of time. If there's no time then there's no forever or past or future. There is just now. But even 'now' is a temporal concept so if there is no time there is no…"
I would have continued to blab, trying desperately to not seem like the geek who gets technical about everything, even though I was only making it worse, but thankfully the kettle whistled and Ksenia rushed to prepare the coffee.
The problem was that there were only two coffee mugs so she gave one to the old lady and one to me.
"Since you are not drinking vodka you can drink coffee." She offered my vodka to the tall man and he gulped it down in one go. She poured another round and both of them gulped it down together.
"That's the spirit!" she said and got up and began dancing a Russian military dance.
When she finished everybody clapped except me. I had the coffee mug in my hand and I was standing and there was no place to put down the coffee mug and her dance ended abruptly and before I could find a place for my mug, the moment was over and she had joined the other two. I drank my coffee in silence as the three of them chatted together about her books. After being ignored for a while I had had enough.
"I think I'm gonna go," I said.
"Are you sure? Wouldn't you like to stay here forever?" Ksenia said.
I thought about it but before I could reply she said, "Oh I forgot, you don't believe in forever."
I nodded and headed towards the door. Ksenia came to the door to see me off. She opened the door and I stepped out. This was the last chance I had. It was now or never. I turned around and said, "Listen, Ksenia, there's something I have to tell you."
She looked at me with a smile and big eyes.
"I… I love… I love your books."
"Thank you! I love you so much!" She hugged me and kissed me on the cheek. Then she gently pushed me out of her apartment and slammed the door.
I walked up the stairs and grumbled at myself for being such a coward. I should have told her. I was with her in a warm cozy hut. Sure there was a tall muscular guy who made me feel tiny and a dead old woman there, but it was still something. I was with Ksenia! And she wanted me to stay forever. And it was warm! Now here I was back on the street, freezing in the cold. The warmth of her lips on my cheek had been replaced by the stinging of the cold. I decided to be courageous for once in my life and go back and tell her how I felt about her.
I turned around and ran down the street and down the stairs to her door. I knocked on the door and it swung open. It was dark and cold inside. There was no stove, no table, no chairs, no bed and no Ksenia.
I went back up the stairs and found the dead old lady standing there. Her back was bent again.
"What happened? Where's Ksenia?" I asked.
"Oh she moved to America with that tall man," she said.
"About a month ago," she said.