In honor of the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11’s landing on the moon, since most Russians doubt that this event took place, I thought today would be a good day to write my final Rocket to Russia. I’m writing this post from my bed in Beachwood, covered in hummus from my job as a line-cook at the Jerusalem Grill. It’s weird how not weird it is to be back. I got home two days before Michael Jackson’s death and, being a life-long MJ fan, it was strangely glorious to be home for his passing. Instead of mourning alone in Russia, I shared the night with my family, my best friends and a karaoke bar full of the faithful. The country’s reaction to his death was definitely overkill, like where were all these fans when Michael needed them? And, as my friend Mike said, if the country had shut down that way when the Patriot Act were passed, we’d be a stronger nation. But as for me, I won’t stop til I get enough.
Of course, I’ve been reflecting more and more on what I learned in Russia. There are big things, like Russian generosity (incredible) and gender roles (intense). But there’s also little things, like I went to the theater last night and didn’t have to buy a playbill. Wow! And yet every time I go out, I’m excited, until I remember I can’t buy or drink beer on the street. Actually, I had been somewhat prepared for that feeling, but I didn’t anticipate it’s pervasiveness. Most of all, it just feels great to be able to speak without thinking or planning, even when expressing confusion. In English, I can ask exactly what I need to know. I’m also a lot funnier in English, so that’s nice.
But I miss speaking Russian, and I take every opportunity to do so. The other night I saw an old babushka walking her dog. I asked it’s name in English, and she answered, “Darya.” “Dashenka!” I says. “Milaya, krasavitsa” (“Little Darya, darling, beauty). But the woman didn’t take my bait for conversation. She just said, “Sank you.” I have another friend Mike, a Russian one, and when he rolled into town, I went nuts. I called him my handsome, good smart boy, and he said, “You spent a year in Russia and learned how to talk like a grandmother.” I guess I’ve always been more of a babushka (“grandmother”) than a dyevushka (“young lady”).
And yet, I have been influenced by the Russian women’s way, though I didn’t show it there. As soon as I got home, I bought a bunch of high heels, cut my hair and even did my eyebrows, which I haven’t done since prom. So maybe I am a bit of a dyevushka. One thing’s for sure: between rethinking gender differences and living alone, I may not have become an adult, but I’m definitely a woman. An Amerikanka at that. I already miss my friends there, most of them beautiful, strong, intelligent young Russian women. Nadya, Veronika, Aigul, their names are like a cast of Nabokov characters. Thanks to them, I had a year of good times.
Now all I have to do is read Russian literature every day, like Jason on his way to becoming a Doctor of Philosophy. Or go back to Russia next year like Matt. Oy.
So, now that the Rocket has successfully returned from orbit, what’s the next mission? Well, I’d like to go to graduate and/or law school, but that’s all I’ll commit to right now. It appears I have a year on my hands, or at least a semester, to live a little. For this summer and eternally, Cleveland is all my heart desires. But instead of bundling through another winter and working some stupid job here, I am moving to Austin, Texas with Jessie (see posts from April 15 and 22). I’ll work some stupid job there, and on warm nights go to outdoor concerts with cowboys. Then I’ll go back to school. And ya know, I bet there are more interesting, engaging, high-paying jobs in Austin than in Cleveland for two young educated women. I just remember this camp counselor one summer in Michigan. She was from Ohio, but had spent a year living in Austin, which she described as a friendly paradise. Now this girl taught me to play “Dear Prudence” on guitar, gave me her thriftstore1984 and sent me letters for years. Since then I’ve always had this romantic fascination with the city. Jessie’s reasons for the move, which she’s been planning all year, are pretty similar to mine. She’s sick of Boston and New York winters. And to get there, we will take the most magnificent road trip I could imagine.
There are two downsides to the move, one more serious than the other. 1) At home I don’t pay rent. But it seems in Austin rent is almost as cheap as in Cleveland, plus most places have pools. 2) Molly Markowitz. Being away from her this past year was hard to bear, and being with her now is my favorite thing in the world. This past weekend she slept over for the first time. Having worked all week, I passed out at 11 watching Willy Wonka. She watched the whole thing, woke me up when it was over and said “I’m still not tired.” But I turned off the lights and we cuddled and snoozed away. Then in the morning, she woke me up on my one day off at 7:50, the exact time I get up for work. She whispered in her cute voice, “Wake up Abbie. It’s morning!” which is all I ever wanted to hear. That, along with her rendition of “Friller Night.”
In the past year, she got a lot bigger, smarter, funnier, all the things that are supposed to happen. The surprise is that she missed me just as much as I missed her, with the same intensity. So leaving her again won’t be easy. She already knows about it, and is upset. But at the same time, she’s used to me leaving and coming back. It just kills me, cuz we have so much fun together and I know it means everything to her too. Of course in Texas I’ll miss my kinfolk terribly. But like I told my mom, this year, I can come home for Passover.
So I guess that just about wraps her all up. I’m putting Rocket to rest, but who knows? Maybe I’ll write Abbichka: Live from Austin. Thanks for reading. Neither fluff nor feather!