SCENE NINETEEN (XIX)
строить замки из песка
Pronunciation: STROeet’ ZAMkee iz pisKAH Literal translation: to build sandcastles Meaning: to have highly unrealistic hopes
On Brighton Beach, Brooklyn there is a sign which says “SHE SELLS SEA SHELLS, but still is just a whore.” If one follows Brighton 6th all the way to the water you arrive at the two Tatiana’s, competing Russian restaurants on the Boardwalk, one with a blue awning, and one with a green awning. The blue one has a better reputation for food and music. The green one for gambling and bare knuckled boxing.
They meet the next day they can for a picnic in the warm fall night of Fructidor 11th. Daria collects Kawa from Blue Tatiana Cafe on Brighton 6. He carries a burgundy satchel where he’s put inside a four course home cooked partisan meal of rice and cheese and chicken and Georgian red wine. He is drinking Borjomi Georgian Mineral water when she finds him. He is drawing what looks like Brighton Beach flooding and practicing a couple Russian phrases that she’s taught by text message. They share some cigarettes and make a picnic on the beach on a big red blanket he’s found.
Sun is setting in its subtle shimmers of red-yellow tones dwindling on the abyss of horizon, but on the desolate sands of Coney Island you can watch the cosmos illuminated retreat for some time before making an abrupt departure into the blackness and glow of a goodnight moon. The sand is gritty. It is a populist sand from the untidy refuse of millions of Chornay and their summarily visitations. The innumerous high rise public housing complexes punctuate the Boardwalk as far as the eye can see. All have left it a tainted oasis, but it has an old school charm. This place has blight. It has dirty littered sand and a still; mesmerizing effect on some types of minds. The sun does not set on Brighton Beach and Coney Island; it drops off suddenly into the sea. The evening abruptly becomes night.
They lay out a burgundy picnic blanket right below the parachute drop with the steeplechase pier in sight just to the west and it seems like they are very much alone in all directions, though a couple vagabonds are late night fishing. She has just come from her boxing class at the Underground Gym she has as of lately been attending since the night a deranged man stalked her from the train to her lobby. She has no make-up, but her hair is well brushed, maintained and flowing, her gym session doing quite little to alter her fresh faced and polished appearance.
That is a Russian art form too! Being completely made up to get groceries, glamorously present oneself for buying coffee, not allowing the elements to chip the facade of womanly presentations.
Kawa Zivistan has just come from the paramedic training academy on Kings Highway and has a dark red picnicking backpack, and is dressed similar to how he was at festival, in ems ‘battle dress uniform’ blues and black boots and a scaly cap and a red bandanna tucked exposed in a back pocket, in case a woman begins to cry or a riot breaks out due a spontaneous eruption of the lumpenproletariat.
He has set up before them a three course meal of sauteed mushrooms, broccoli rob, breaded chicken, and pilaf rice accompanied by Illubadori style avocado salad and three types of cheese that he cannot pronounce and a bottle of Chilean red wine. He has brought red and white icon candles and they flicker in the spreading moonlit darkness. Picnicking is a poor man’s refuge at romance and he’s done all the cooking, though he hasn’t been on a picnic in two years. You don’t ever forget how to picnic if you were once good at it, it’s like riding a bike.
The Rabbis say that an Ivoryish man ought to be able determine if he could marry a woman in four dates, but Kawa is only half an Ivory so perhaps it takes seven or eight?
“Beg me to let you take me on a date,” she’d once said the night she nearly killed him, and he’d told her he never ever learned how to beg. But, how he’d learn with this one. She had thought about breaking plans with him, unsure if she could justify her prolonged absence after boxing class, but she ran with it in the end, as he had seemingly put all this work in. The food fared much better than she had suspected he was capable of.
‘He looks so happy!’ She thinks. He makes jokes and he’s witty for an Amerikansky. ‘Odd how he fetishizes us,’ she thinks. He cannot speak any Russian and has never been there. Curious fascination. The sun down and the candles flickering she dispenses with small talk to pry out the root of his amorous fascinations.
“What is it that you think you know about this Soviet mentality you are always referring to,” she asks, preparing well in advance to be disappointed by the answer. She already feels a certain pang of contempt when he switches out of the black suit into this blue paramilitary attire the ambulance workers wear. It was a reminder that this was not the prince in the suit and tie to carry her immediately from this coastal ghetto. It was vaguely unnerving for reasons she had yet to articulate or place why a child of solidly bourgeois parents residing in the financial district in that beautiful loft was playing hard not just at proletarian, but at a Democratic Confederalist too! It was if anything vaguely a spit in the face of all the work she’d done to flee, that he who was born with a silver spoon in the greatest city on earth might be romanticizing the cold criminal empire she had fled. But he did it so sincerely that what first might be a laughable nativity took on a charm, a quirky little juxtaposition of opposites.
But what she can’t place and what makes Sebastian Adonaev so interesting is that he is so genuinely interested in her. He seemingly truly believes in these blue collar proclamations he makes. She suspects that by the end of this picnic she will be ready to relegate him to a passing hello at the social club, a drink on his birthday. Temper down his courtship considerably. Before something happens that might get everyone in trouble. She has a full plate of suitors for a married woman anyway she thinks, ‘what will this crazy artist rebel will bring to the table but trouble.’
“Well let me attempt that then.”
“Attempt away,” she smirks, swallowing down her wine. He is aware that she is perhaps even more magnificent without her make up then when wearing it, he is aware that she is a wild eyed beauty and her coy happy smile never seems to leave her continence open to other interpretation.
“First let me say that I do not mean to casually lump some several hundred million of your former countrymen and women into a pigeon hole.”
“A rabbit hole?”
“A pigeon hole, it means a stereotype.”
“And rabbit hole is a wild goose chase to nowhere yes?”
He smirks at the deliberate nature of her word games and nods.
“Nor am I so presumptuous as to think that without speaking Russian I can mount any attempt at a psychological profile.”
“Less words man,” she smiles.
And he wonders to what extent she fully takes in any of what he will say or has said. And she takes in absolutely everything knowing the power of pretending to grasp a little less than she does in English.
“Okay then, you have no sentimentality to speak of. You have no romantic notions of rose colored thinking, you have no arbitrary beliefs. You have loyalty to no one, no country or code of law, no god, only a tight perimeter of proven personal or blood allies, and these except perhaps in the case of mothers can be severed off the minute they prove, disadvantageous.”
She grins at him and her eyes declare admiration for what she’s hearing.
“More beyond more!” She demands.
“The mentality is like a cold ongoing calculation, it weighs the merit of all actions and all alliances. Its root were I allowed to play at the idea is pre-serfdom, although that condition is history’s most long running subjugation of a people, by their own ethnic group. The only people to have completely enslaved your own people for over 600 years. And then the Soviet system generated a brutal regime of para-psychological survival of the fittest whereby education and corruption were wedded wholly into the national character. And now, the world’s first open oligarchic collectivist mafia state masquerades as the fourth estate.”
“Why do you use so many fucking words man,” she says smiling again. She does like to hear him give these little speeches she realizes. His education is the only proof of his upbringing besides the large loft he resides in. It must be that he not only likes the sound of his voice, but also he perhaps has few people ready to hear him speak on these things.
“Because I think in Russian obviously Devotchka,” he says. Which means ‘girl’.
“Don’t call me that, I’m a lady!”
“Pardon,” he says but can tell she enjoys berating him for his verbosity and his mispronounced bevy of Russian phrases.
“Alright then. But what in the world could be attractive about that mentality that so fascinates you? I consider myself a little sentimental, mind you.”
“Cultural diffusion forges the greatness of this city. The merging of ideas and the fusing of mentalities. You can learn hope and romanticism here and we can learn rigorous pragmatism and parapsychology from you.”
“We will eat you alive if these things you say are true.”
“I am not such a patriot as to assume that in the result you describe that is an impossibility. But the mentality isn’t so powerful if it is only used for pure personal gain.”
“What is good for then? Seems good only for taking care of oneself. If what you describe has truth-ness then all we are commended for is our ability to sell one another, or sell ourselves without being tricked into seeing a purpose. Here is your mentality then, you Americans see miracles in the streets. You believe in too much destiny, in God, in heroes. You are not an old nation so you’ve had no time to develop any real culture, and your world views, maybe not a liberal bourgeoisie part Ivoryish like you, but most Americans don’t have a worldview. I will now use my words in English to speak to you on things. I’m not sure you know just how little I like Russia, like Russian things, Russian food and people. Everything. I hate Brighton Beach, I hate living in a ghetto. My mentality if you find such things interesting, as evidently you do, is shaped by living in a world where no one but my mother and a small series of men have offered to protect or help me. I’m not tough as you say so many times. I have had a charmed life and around me have been enough people to help me along. My mentality is that of anyone who has been hungry, I have ambitions and dreams. Believe me that my American dream is bigger than yours ambulance man!”
“If you say so darling.” And he pours himself another glass of wine.
“What is parapsychology to you? How do you define this term?”
“Mind games. Clever manipulations via social engineering to get your way. But that’s just the beginning.”
“I have no idea what you talk about,” she says but that’s what anyone who has a bit of a game in them fronts like.
“Well you don’t have to put your cards on display at this juncture,” he says.
You’ll never see my cards, she thinks.
“How is the food then?” he asks.
“It was much better than I expected. I would not be eating it otherwise. Terrible idea to let men get false notions about their own abilities. Especially the kitchen and bedroom abilities. Followed by their bravery, and also the depth of the credit.
“I couldn’t agree more,” he says. And suddenly they are kissing yet again. ‘Woops,’ she thinks with a smile. Passionately he presses her against the sandy ground and rolling about off the picnic blanket they wrestle for dominance lips never unlocking at any moment.
He then reads her another ‘stupid poem’, which he wrote for her before the train ride. This is not that poem exactly, as she has long since hidden it away with all the others, but this once has a similar cadence. They extol her, they lament the world; they beg her to always take him back near her when the world is not looking, when the world blinks.
Dasha cannot always read the handwriting of Kawa. His handwriting is something like Arabic, something pure and crazy. She knows what he means because they text prolifically, but she asks him to read each poem in the beginning because she knows he will find the right way to explain his longing.
That night past midnight, after their meal which she appreciates, but isn’t writing home to her mother in Penza over locale; she allows him to read another.
She kisses him passionately again, for what else can she do. He is a hard worker. And then she pauses under the stars and by the coast of Breuklyn to lecture him again.
She has warned him that Mayakovsky couldn’t ever get Tatiana, his other great love and muse, to ever leave Paris for his brave new Soviet Socialist Republic. And he could never get Lily Brik to leave her husband, his best friend and editor.
“Poor Mayakovsky had to listen to them make love from their kitchen! He tortured himself you know. What if you come to hate me? I cannot ever do anything but travel home with you. You know I keep another man, my boyfriend’s bed is always warm.”
“I will never hate you.”
“You cannot possibly love me! I am selfish. I am demanding! I want to live in a huge house far from the Russian quarter and not worry about you!”
“I told you I’d never beg for a date once. I told you we’d just be associates of Rafael and the Mehanata Social Club. I’m sorry to say that I cannot be rid of you.”
“If I order you to go, will you go?”
“Why the tortures? Are my poems not true, are my lips not soft?”
“All lips are soft when the man is still alive!”
“Dasha I love you! Does your man have this much desire in him?”
“We have been together for 5 years. He is the first and mostly the last man I’ve known here. He is hardworking and good to me. He gives me things you cannot.”
What does a man say to the cold dead face of reality?
“This tryst is no real tryst. It isn’t an affair. You have tasted me, and I have nurtured your passion, and enjoyed it! But how far can this go! Please don’t beg for love that I cannot give to you. You will meet another woman in a month, I will be forgotten between the bed sheets! You have confessed to loving others before, you will again.”
He looks her dead in the eyes.
“I do not write frivolous things.”
“What are ‘frivolous things’?”
This is always the ice breaker to what will be a series of escalating fights on whether his love is real.
“I write to you from my heart which will not beat for another ever the same way.”
She kisses him again.
“What are all these kisses for when you say you will always feel nothing?” he asks.
“I didn’t tell you I feel nothing for you! I told you that we are nothing to feel anything about.”
She shoves him, then pulls him in close to her by his collar.
“I am going to tell you how to make love to me, with dripping hot wax on my back,” she says.
“I’m going to try and teach you how to seduce me with much less words.”
They stay out all night holding hands and kissing in the late night Brighton Jazz Cafes. She pours the hot wax out of a red candle and presses their hands together and bites his tongue.
When they finally part neither can stop turning around and smiling at the other, checking to make sure it really is to be over. They look, and they smile, and they walk a little more and look more, and look, and then it’s time to go home.
But finally she’s gone and he has to watch her go back to her man’s home and he just holds her memory close and boards the Q train back to the barricades near Atlantic Avenue, to make it on foot through the lines back to the heavily fortified district financial. In the whole night of course there had been no mention of the Siege in Brownsville, or the state of emergency over all of New York. There was no talk of summary executions or civil rights, or the causes of this uprising. He could tell her all about it another day, but he suspects she knows as much as he does. For a very short period of time in real time, time had frozen and the world as he knew it revolved only around this manic blonde creature, this old soul he was reunited with after some brutal time apart, that was a real feeling. A madness was taking hold in America, a mighty wave of retributive violence. But for this moment all he could think about was her. The entire history of his people and their struggle, is temporarily forgotten. Kawa Zivistan is living for the very first time. It seems like a happy hope now. But sadly, it is all a deception and also a delusion.