Book 2. Ringing cedars of Russia (1997)
One evening a man from Novosibirsk dropped by to see me. He was in Moscow on some business of his own. He brought along a bottle of vodka and some light snacks. We sat in the kitchen of my one-room flat, and he told me about how things stood with my family and my company
The situation was indeed deplorable. My firm had had to give up one of its offices in the centre of the city for lack of funds to pay the rent. Our automobile spare-parts store had had to close. The workers there tried selling shoes, but their debts only increased. The entire responsibility fell on my shoulders.
‘And here you’re up to goodness-knows-what. Alot of people are saying you’ve gone mad. Abu should have worked out things at the company first and then gone off and done your own thing, whatever it is. Nobody there has faith in you any more.”
As we were finishing off the bottle, he asked me:
“You want me to tell you my honest opinion — what they expect of you?”
“Go ahead,” I replied.
“They would like you to do away with yourself, or at least disappear for good. You be the judge — it’s impossible to start anything now without any seed capital, and here not only do you not have any seed capital, you don’t even have enough to live on. And your debts have been building up like crazy “'Tou know, nobody’s ever heard of someone climbing out of a hole like that. But with you out of the picture, your death will settle everything, and they can divide up what’s left of your estate.
“Your wife says that according to the horoscope you’re a Leo, and you’ve just been wasting your whole life away, so you should die in poverty, just like in the horoscope.
“Come on, now, why did you undertake that second expedition? Nobody can figure it out.”
In spite of the fact that we were both pretty drunk, when I awoke the next morning I had a clear recollection of the whole conversation. His arguments were forceful and convincing. Novosibirsk was a dead end; there was a dead-end situation here in Moscow too. People who had worked alongside me were suffering, my family was suffering. I couldn’t possibly find a way out and fix everything — there was simply no way out. Only my death could put an end to the suffering.
Of course suicide is never the right thing to do. But according to the logic of events, my suicide would relieve the suffering of others, and if that was the case, then he was right, and I had no right to live. And so I decided to do away with myself. The thought of it even brought comfort to me. I was freed from the need to undertake a torturous search for a way out of my present situation, since I agreed that death was the way out.
I cleaned up the apartment a bit and wrote the landlady a note to say I wouldn’t be back. I decided to go to the trades- union office to put the Fellowship files in order. Someone — okay, maybe not now, but later, perhaps — would carry on with the work.
The only question was: how would I do away with myself when I didn’t even have enough money to buy the poison? Then I really began thinking: maybe it shouldn’t look like suicide... Maybe I’ll go take a dip in the river, just like the ‘walruses’, and I’ll jump through a hole in the ice and drown. So I headed off toward the Moskva River.
As I was making my way through an underground passageway at the Pushkinskaya metro station, my ear all at once caught a familiar melody It was being played by two young girls on their violins. An open violin-case lay on the pavement in front of them and passers-by were tossing in money Alot of buskers make extra money like that at metro stations. But the way these two girls were playing their sweet melody amidst the bustle of noisy pedestrians and the screeching of trains in the background caused many a passer-by to slow down and listen. As for me, I couldn’t help but stop dead in my tracks. The violin bows were echoing a melody I had heard only once before — in the Siberian taiga — a melody sung by Anastasia.
Back there in the taiga, I had once asked her to sing something of her own — a song I’d never heard before, and she came out with this extraordinary, unusual captivating melody without words. She started by screaming like a newborn baby Then her voice began sounding ever so quiet and tender. She stood beneath a tree, her hands clasped to her breast, and it seemed as though her voice was a lullaby, gently caressing a little baby, trying to tell him something. Her voice was so quiet it caused everything around to be still and listen. Then she seemed to be filled with delight at the little one waking from sleep, and her voice took off with rejoicing. The incredibly high-pitched sounds and cascading trills soared and took flight to the heavens, radiating through space and delighting all around...
I asked the girls:
“What were you playing?”
They exchanged glances and one of them said:
“I was just sort of improvising.”
And the other chimed in:
‘And I was just playing along.”
Here in Moscow, caught up as I was with the idea of set-ting up the Fellowship of Entrepreneurs, which had become
the main focus of my life, I had almost completely forgotten about Anastasia. And now, on the last day of my life, as though to say farewell, here she was reminding me of her existence.
“Please, play some more, the way you were playing before!” I asked the girls.
“Well try,” the older one replied.
And there I stood in the metro station passageway, listening to the captivating melody of the violins and remembering the glade in the taiga and thinking:
Anastasia! Anastasia! Its much too complicated to make all that you thought up come true in real life. It’s one thing to dream — quite another to turn the dream into reality. Some sort of mistake must have crept in as you were working out your plan: organise a fellowship of entrepreneurs, write a book...
I felt as though a flood had hit me. Repeating these last two phrases over and over again, I felt there was something out of place there, something wasn’t right. Back there in the taiga — in the taiga... the words had been spoken not quite the same way, but how? How else could they have been said? As I continued repeating them, I happened to switch the word order and heard myself saying: “Write a book, organise a fellowship of entrepreneurs.”
But of course! The book should have been written first! The book was supposed to settle all these questions and, most importantly, spread information about the fellowship! Yikes, how much time I realised I’d wasted and, in the meantime, look at how complicated my personal life had become!
All right, then. Til get busy, I thought. At least nowit’s clear just what I should be busy at. It’s absurd, of course — some-one who doesn’t know how to write, writing a book, espe-cially one he expects people to actually read! But Anastasia had faith it would work out. She kept trying to convince me. Okay. That means I’ve really, really got to try now And I’ve got to see it through to the end!