School over, the beginning of adulthood caught us unexpectedly. I didn’t go anywhere, even if I did finally decide what institute I wanted to enroll in. Just after the school departure party in June, Kit and I crashed on his “Jawa” motorbike at a bend in the road. Kit broke his jaw, nose and shin. As for me, my arm, ribs and two toes on my right foot. Plus, we both had concussions, bruises and abrasions. I fully recovered only by mid-August. Kit was checked out of the hospital in September.
By that time, Klaus had already started studying to be a Ukrainian philologist in Kyiv. The decision came wholly unexpectedly for everyone, probably, except for Papa Nikolai. He only smiled mysteriously into his beard, responding to questions by saying, “I eto pravilno!”,18 mimicking Gorbachev’s southern accent. However, I also expected something in that vein. When Klaus returned from the capital and visited me, I asked, “No possible regrets, after all those years studying English?”
Klaus just shrugged, “I already know English – but the same can’t be said for Ukrainian. Admit this, bro: it’s plain weird when you don’t know your native language.” Copying Alisa, I only could say that this was quite an act altogether.
Still Klaus obviously wasn’t going to part ways with English. Judging by his enthusiastic comments on the Ukrainian translation of “The Godfather” he shared with me, the future was spread before his eyes, which could not be said about mine. Klaus seemed to read my thoughts, “Join the race, Tigris! Foreign language is always the quest! He was a Steppenwolf, who found a love at last! Maybe you’ll need English for this?”
We did not see each other all autumn. He came home only for the October Revolution holidays, having asked for a few days off at the university. In October, the USSR Ministry of Defense, represented by the local military registration and enlistment office, examined my health and found that I had recovered enough to serve in the Navy. I received a draft notice for the ninth of November. On the sixth, Klaus dragged me to school for the holiday event. The program, by tradition, included an official part in honor of the anniversary of Great October, a concert with amateur children’s performances and a dance party.
But instead of the disco, they invited the vocal and instrumental ensemble called Druzhba, known also as The Dynamites to its fans, the rock stars of our neighborhood. The Dynamites were older guys, already a semi-professional group that performed constantly, never missing a chance to play at restaurants and rich weddings, earned decent money and remained in patronizing friendship with us.
We skipped the official part and arrived during the dancing. In the semidarkness of the school gym turned into a dance floor for the occasion, some couples were already lazily swaying to a slow dance. Dimon Kovalchuk, vocalist and lead guitarist of the Dynamites, was drawling out a popular hit song imitating a famous singer:
Быть может, мы могли бы быть и счастливее,
Но в чем наше счастье, не знал бы никто.19
Dimon finished singing, looked over and nodded for us to join in. We went up and shook hands.
“Want to play, dude? Kinda shaking up good ol’ days?” he asked Klaus. “While I take a breather? We still have all the holidays’ work in the kabak20 ahead of us.” Klaus looked enviously at Dimon’s semi-acoustic Cremona electric guitar. Dimon intercepted his gaze, grinned approvingly and went to the microphone.
“Ladies and gentlemen!” he said into the microphone. “Cuties and beauties, and their gallant companions. Please welcome the famous guitarist, who has immortalized your school’s name forever and ever. And this, as you, of course, know, is……Klaus! Let’s greet him with your applause!”
The audience responded with languid clapping. Taking advantage of the break, the gallant companions picked out the cuties and beauties from the flock and swept them into the autumn darkness right outside the school gym’s back entrance. Dimon, in the meantime, took the guitar off his shoulder, brought Klaus aside and they quietly talked over something. Apparently, Klaus was checking the playlist.
Unlike Dimon, who liked to show off in front of the microphone, Klaus seldom drew attention when playing. He just lightly tried the strings on the guitar’s fret-board, tuning the instrument. I looked around the gym space, at teenagers fidgeting as they waited for the next song to dance to, and saw Alisa. She stood in the far corner of the gym, talking with the fizruk.21 Apparently, the youngest teachers ‘volunteered’ to ensure order for the teenage event. Finally, Klaus struck the strings and the crowd began to move. Having played some more teenage hits, he looked around for Dimon and motioned to his throat: No way! Out of practice! Dimon accepted the guitar and in the same nonchalant way, as if he were in a restaurant and not at school party, announced in the microphone:
“It’s twenty to eight, our dear gals and guys, and one need not explain what that means,” he said in a soft rolling voice. His audience answered with an understanding hum: Who in our seaside town hadn’t heard this merry song about ‘seven-forty’?
“And this means that our one-man orchestra has a right to deserved rest too. So let’s ask him to perform an encore!”
Yes, Klaus indeed switched from an electric guitar to an acoustic one. Setting the one microphone to the strings, he sang another, this time a solo:
When I’m walking beside her
People tell me I’m lucky
Yes, I know I’m a lucky guy
Klaus would not be himself if he didn’t finish his performance with some of his favorite pieces from the Beatles:
Every little thing she does,
She does for me, yeah
And you know the things she does,
She does for me, ooh…
No encore followed this one. Hardly anyone listened to the acoustic song in the gym-turned-disco. The same teenage rampage was going on, as always, which I had used to watch with such delight from my drummer’s place. Now, when Klaus sang to the guitar, all this commotion seemed wrong to me, and even annoying. “Well, well, young man,” I said to myself and shook my head, “it only took you a few months after school to become such a…”
However, I was mistaken. Someone was really listening to Klaus, and with such intense attention that it was electrifying the atmosphere around that listener. Unwittingly, I turned my gaze to Alisa. She was drawn into the words of the song, like raindrops to soft sand. A shadow fell on her forehead, as if she was trying to answer some uneasy questions to herself, as if putting the question marks after those lines of the Beatles song: I remember the first time I was lonely…? Can’t stop thinking about…? Finally, as if waking up, she turned and headed for the exit, followed by the surprised look of the PE teacher. I didn’t even have time to think how nice it would be to meet her again, and to tell myself how improper this thought was – so quickly did she disappeared through the doorway. After that, I never saw Alisa again.
18. That’s the right thing to do! (phrase that became popular after Gorbachev).
19. Maybe we could be happier / But nobody would know what our happiness is.
20. Rus., vulgar, for restaurant.
21. Physical education teacher.
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: Odessa, Ukraine – Youth – Darya (Unsplash)
Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed