Book 2. Ringing cedars of Russia (1997)
The Space of Love
After the sale of the first print-run of the book about Anas-tasia I received a royalty payment. I went to VDNKh, now known as the All-Russian Exhibition Centre. For some rea-son, I always enjoyed being there. This time I walked past the multitude of snack bars and shashlik buffets, tempting me with their delicious aromas, and fought against my incli-nation to buy all the delicacies in sight. Even though I had money in my pocket, and a fair amount at that, I decided I would now spend it more wisely And all at once, another in-credible thing happened. It wasn’t loud, but, unmistakably and distinctly, I heard Anastasia’s voice.
“Buy yourself something to eat, Vladimir. Buy whatever you like. You do not have to scrimp on food any more.”
I kept on walking a few steps past the open snack bars, and again came the voice:
“Why are you walking on past? Please, have something to eat, Vladimir.”
“Come on now, I’m having hallucinations!” I thought.
I walked over to a bench alongside a broad pathway, where there was hardly anyone else around. I sat down and whispered quietly, bending over so people wouldn’t think I was talking to myself.
‘Anastasia, am I really hearing your voice?”
And I heard the answer distinct and clear:
“You are hearing my voice, Vladimir.”
“Hello, Anastasia. Why didn’t you talk to me earlier? So many questions have been piling up. Questions people have been asking at readers’ gatherings, including a lot I can’t answer.”
“I have been talking to you. I have been trying all this time to talk with you. But you have not been hearing me. Once, when you decided to do away with yourself, I even cried out, I was so worried, but to no avail. You did not hear me. I figured out what I needed to do and started singing. It was this song that the two girls picked up and played on their violins at the metro station. They heard it and started playing. As soon as you recognised the same melody you had heard me sing in the taiga, you remembered me. I was so worried at the time, I thought my milk was going to give out.”
“What milk, Anastasia?”
“My breast-milk. The milk for our son. After all, I did bear him, Vladimir.”
“Did bear... Anastasia!... Was it hard? How are you doing there all alone in the taiga? How is he? You told me — I re-member your saying — it wouldn’t be at the right time.” “Everything is fine. Nature awakened early and is now helping me. And our son is fine. He is a strong lad. He is al-ready smiling. Only his skin is a little dry, just like yours. But that is nothing, it will pass. Everything will be fine. You shall see. It is more difficult for you now than for us. But take one more step. Finish the writing. I know how hard it has been for you, and it will not be so easy in the future either. But keep going. Keep going on your own path.”
“But Anastasia... ”
I wanted to tell her that writing a book is harder than running a business. I wanted to tell her about how things stood with my family and the firm. About all the ups and downs of the past year. About how I no longer have a home and family, and almost ended up in the loony bin. I wanted to give her a good talking to about those dreams of hers, so she wouldn’t aim too high with them, wouldn’t keep on tempting people. But then I thought: why upset a nursing mother? — her milk might indeed turn bad.
And so I said:
“Don’t you worry about trifles, Anastasia. I don’t have any particular difficulties at the moment. What’s the fuss? I’ve written a book. And it was easier than drawing up a business plan. When you draw up a business plan, there are a lot of different factors you have to foresee in advance. But here you simply sit down and describe what’s already happened. Just as in the jokes about the Chukchi: ‘I sing what I see.’
‘And besides... you know something, Anastasia? Those dreams of yours, which I thought were sheer fantasy, they’re starting to come true. It’s incredible, but they are coming true. Look, the book is finished. You dreamt about it, and now it exists. People are really reading it enthusiastically The Moscow papers are already writing about it. Readers are writing poetry about you, about Nature, about Russia.
“I found the picture we talked about in the archives of the Trinity-Sergiev Monastery. The picture has been preserved, it’s entitled “The One and Only by a Single Line”. I shall publish it.
‘And, can you imagine, the bards... you remember telling me about the bards?”
“Yes, I remember, Vladimir.”
“Surprising as it is, this too is starting to come about. I was at one readers’ conference where I was approached by this chap with dark blond hair. He handed me an audiocas-sette and said, in terse, military fashion: ‘Songs for Anastasia. Please accept.’
“The journalists, readers and two of the staff of the Mos-cow Research Centre, Alexander Solntsev and Alexander Za- kotsky, who had come to the conference — they all listened in silence to the tape. Later a number of people began making copies of it. They made copies and at the same time tried to track down the man who had given it to me — whose looks, apart from his dark-blond hair and short stature, didn’t have much to say for themselves. He had appeared, it seemed, out of nowhere, and disappeared just as mysteriously He turned out to be a submarine officer from St. Petersburg, a scientist by the name of Alexander Korotynsky He later told me how the submarine he was on managed to rise to the surface after an accident. How he had been confidently led by a series of coincidences in connection with this cassette. Led to hand it to me. Not only that, but Korotynsky turned out to be a bard as well. And his song Khram (The Church) contains whole phrases which you said to me. Remember these, for example?
Believe not others’ words —
Once said, they’re gone as wind.
Many will see the Church But few will enter in.
Our life may be a race:
From, floor to floor we’re thrown.
But every one must face The choice he’s made his own.
“Besides, Korotynsky doesn’t really have a singing voice. He practically recites when he sings. But that very fact goes to prove what you said about the power of the word connected to the soul by invisible threads. Korotynsky the Bard is a living example.”
“For all the bright joy you have been giving to people, for the purification of souls, I thank you, Bard, I thank you,” said Anastasia.
“Just think — another officer!” I mused. “Grutsia, who first printed the book — he was an officer. And the homeless colonel who drew the picture for it. And then there was a pilot, a regimental commander, who’s been helping me sell the books. And now the first one to bring me songs turns out to be an officer. What is it about your Ray that seems to set officers’ hearts afire in particular? Do you shine your Ray on them more than others?”
“Many have been touched by my Ray, Vladimir, but it sparks aspirations only when there is something there to set aflame.”
“Your dream, Anastasia, is indeed turning more and more into reality. People are grasping hold of it, they understand it. The homeless colonel understood. He was a chance ac-quaintance — pity he’s gone. I saw him lying dead there. His face was all smeared with dirt, but he was smiling. Dead, but still smiling. Did you do something there with your Ray? What does that mean, when someone dies with a smile on their face?”
“That Man that was with you... he is now with the Bard, treading the invisible pathway. His smile is saving many hearts from bullets more terrible than the leaden ones.” “Y)ur dream, Anastasia, is entering upon our world, and it really seems as though our world is beginning to change. There are certain people who feel and understand you — they show evidence of new strength coming from somewhere, and that is changing the world. The world is becoming just a little better.
“But you, Anastasia... there you are as before, in the taiga, in your glade. I would not be able to live in such conditions, and you would not be able to live in our world. What then is the point of your love? Your love is meaningless, and I still do not understand my relationship to you. But what’s the point since it’s so clear we can never be together? Never close.” “We are together, Vladimir. Close.”
“Together?! Where are you? When people love each oth-er, they strive to be always close to each other. To embrace and caress each other. You’re too different. You don’t need that.”
“I do need it. Just like everyone else. And I am making it happen.”
“Right now, for example. Can you not feel the gentle touch of the breeze, feel its caressing embrace? And the warm touch of the Sun’s glistening rays on your face? Can you not hear the birds singing so cheerfully and the leaves rustling on the tree you are sitting under? Listen — it is a most unusual rustling!”
“But that — everything you just mentioned — that’s for everyone. In any case, are you responsible for all that?”
“Love dissolved in Space for one can touch the hearts of many.”
“Why dissolve Love in Space?”
“So that close to a loved one there will always be a Space of Love. This is the essence of Love, this is its designated purpose.”
“It’s all pretty confusing to me. And your voice... Before, I never heard anything at a distance, but now I do. Why?”
“It is not the voice that you hear at a distance. You need to listen not with your ears, but with your heart. You need to learn how to listen with your heart.”
“Why should I bother learning? You can just talk with me the way you’re doing right now, with your voice.”
“I shall not be able to do that indefinitely”
“But you’re doing it right now After all, I can hear you.” “Grandfather is helping us at the moment. Lou go have a talk with him. I need to go feed our son, and there are so many other things to do. I do want to get them all done.” “So, it works with your grandfather, but not with you. Why?”
“Because Grandfather is somewhere in your vicinity right now Very close to you.”