On the way she told us that she lived in a rented one-room apartment, and received the appointment to our school right after graduation from the pedagogical institute. “I never planned to work as a teacher at all,” she admitted easily, “and even less did I plan to move here. If it hadn’t been…. hadn’t been for your wonderful southern city, I’d be elsewhere,” she finished quickly. Yet another surprise was still waiting for us in her dwelling, Spartan-looking in every other way.
Right on the floor stood a powerful Sharp double-decker, quite a luxury in a typical Soviet home. The big cassette tape recorder rose up almost to the knees of diminutive Alisa. Near it was a neat cassette rack with music matching the owner’s tastes: Duran Duran, Men at Work, Eurythmics, the ubiquitous Sade and Bryan Ferry.
Anticipating our questions, she explained that the Japanese tape recorder, quite simply, was a gift from her boyfriend, her would-be fiancé. A young lieutenant, and a recent graduate of the Naval Academy, he too served in our city (“Actually, that’s why I’m here,” she said with a relaxed smile). Recently he’d been assigned to some friendly near-Eastern country to help build up their naval forces. However, Alisa explained that when he returned from that international deployment, they would get married. After that, he would serve a little more and become a first-rank captain, and then they would be happy. “Not necessarily in that order,” she added hastily, as if catching herself on some unexpected thought.
I searched with my eyes for a picture of this all-too-lucky lieutenant, some kind of photo in a picture frame but found none. Meanwhile, Klaus and Kit exchanged knowing looks. To them, the children of military servicemen, it was no secret what it took to get such an assignment.
“What papa does one need to have?” sneered Kit. “Or what paw must you grease to be promoted for such… eeer…foreign trips?”
Alisa was seemingly hurt by his words:
“You, too, don’t look like some kids from troubled families,” she retorted quickly, “judging by your prikid.”16
“My dear young English lady,” Kit replied with delicate familiarity, trying to smooth over the awkwardness of his remarks. “We are not kids – we too are men at work! We don’t ask our parents for money. We earn it ourselves!”
…And this was the sheer truth. The whole summer we’d played on the dance floor, and got paid seventy rubles a month. Having such riches, it was no problem to buy brand-name jeans without asking our parents for money. Still, if they had allowed us to perform our neformals only, we would have agreed to play eight days a week, asking for no money whatsoever.
We opened the package.
In addition to a typewritten fan club letter, it also included a Beatles poster. Alisa carefully unfolded what turned out to be the famous picture of the Beatles “in squares,” upon which someone had written sweepingly in a thick red marker, BACK IN THE USSR, for real this time!
Kit’s eyebrows went up to his forehead.
“Man, you’re what, a psychic?”
“No, I’m not a magician,” said Klaus, apparently no less surprised. “I’m just learning, you know!”17
Alisa, meanwhile, began to read the letter, in a sing-song voice, mockingly pretending as if she were delivering a speech from some high tribune at a Komsomol meeting:
“Dear Nicholas, our faraway but yet so close friend from behind the Curtain…”
Hiding our smiles, we exaggeratedly nodded our heads in “unanimous approval.” Still, I noticed that our man of the hour, Nicholas, was pondering something:
“Have this poster for yourself,” he said at last and looked at Alisa. “This is a gift. I already have all the walls in my room plastered with them – one more, one less won’t make a difference. I hope it fits right in here.”
Alisa scanned him for a brief moment:
“That is a kind gesture,” she said, again seriously, as it was when we met in that alley, but I saw laughter in her blue eyes, “of a real man at work.”
(…to be continued…)
16. Russian, slang: outfit.
17. Another popular meme-phrase
2021: Conceived – Volume 2 of a Contemporary Transadaptation
January: The Pack – Alejandra Baccino (Uruguay)
February: The Pink Shirt – Talia Stotts (America)
March: Dragging the Past out into the Light – Kate Korneeva (Russia)
April: Looking Forward to Spring – Marilin Guerrero Casas (Cuba)
May: Every Little Thing – Gennady Bondarenko (Ukraine)
June: The Girl Who Chased the Rainbow – Toni Wallis (Sarah-Leah Pimentel) (South Africa)
July: Another World – Jonay Quintero Hernandez (Spain)
August: Life after Nare – Nane Sevunts (Armine Asryan) (Armenia)
September: Meeting My Homeland – Rayan Harake (Lebanon)
October: Catching Water (Part Two) – Javier Gomez (Argentina)
November: Remember – Seyit Ali Dastan (Turkey)
December: Los Caminantes – Veronica Cordido (Venezuela)
Background – Context
In the Middle – Prelude to a Contemporary Transadaptation, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2020)
Peripatetic Alterity: A Philosophical Treatise on the Spectrum of Being – Romantics and Pragmatists by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)
La Syncrétion of Polarization and Extremes Transposée, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)
The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2018)
L’anthologie of Global Instability Transpuesta, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2017)
From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin: German and Russian Stories Transposed to Modern-day America, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2013)
Emblems and stories on the international community
Perception by country – Transposing emblems, articles, short stories and reports from around the world
Cover photo: Lviv, Ukraine – Gathering at Market square – Kristi Blokhin (Shutterstock)
Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed