The Shoes of the Wrong Size. Joanna's Page 25
The essay was published and received a lot of responses, and nobody guessed that it was an essay-werewolf.
Khan insistently recommended Yana to blot our all copies of the first version of her essay the staff that made fools of themselves preferred to completely forget about. It would be better to burn it in a stove and and bow its ashes sky-high.
She was tempted to do so but she kept one copy, which she would carry in her inner pocketl lke a capsule with poison.
Next day Denis appeared. She saw his 'Moskvich' at the front door of the editorial office; she saw him sitting in the car, her heart trembled, and she wanted to run away as far as she could. But she knew she had to drink to the lees.
Danis was absorbed in reading a very thick folder. Seeng her, he shut his folder opened the door and dragged Yana into the car with a radiant smile.
His work was finished, and he again paid his attention to her as it was then in the club. Yana sluggishly resisted him; she would have preferred to say farewell somewhere in a neutral territory. But he as if nothing had happened embraced her and said that he dreamt of this moment all the time. He said he knew everything already because Khan even gave her masterpiece to him for reading, and that he turned out to be right when he then told her not to worry because everything would be all right and cleared up.
It was good that they had time to finish shooting the film because he was dragged by the investigator and bosses of his institute, and he also didn't want to betray the boy. Though in the dean' office and in the studio he had to tell about that boy or else things could have been much worse. He told that he had an alibi, and he would get Victor no matter what it took if needed. He also told about it to Leonid's vife.
Denis really looked worn out; he became pale, had a pinched face and needed her compassion. But Yana was so overwhelmed with awareness of her guilt towards him and her own suffering that in her heart there were no place for other things.
Denis seemed to her to be infinitely strange like a Martian. He, Khan and everybody around were like that. The fact is that between her and surrounding people an invisible obstacle appeared, and ether the world was protected from her, or she was protected from the world and Denis with her infinite guilt towards him, which bound her to him like an umbilical cord.
And while she kept silence, Denis switched on the ignition. The car moved off.
"Where are you going?"
"Let me out!"
"I'm not going to do so. It's the abduction of Europe. Don't play the ass, or else we will get smashed up. Three corpses on one picture are really too much."
What jokes he has! 'Moskvich' began to accelerate.
"Stop, we must have a talk." "I've heard that already. We will talk at my place. OK, let's do it now. I'm all ears.
He wasn't going to stop. The speed was almost 80 kilometers per hour. They came out to the highway already, and then Yana started talking. She said that it was all over, that she betrayed him, and she would never forgive herself even if he would have forgiven her. She awarded a final sentence to herself, and it was without appeal.
At last Denos stopped the car and tried to use illegal holds. Yana didn't resist very much; she was undressed and felt nothing in her capsule. Then he left her and looked at her in perplexed and almost frightened way. This fear of losing her that made him belonging to her at that moment as well as in former time of seldom inner intimacy and her insatiable desire of undivided possession of him only increased her decision.
It was a sort of masochistic attempt to assert oneself in one's own eyes after the experienced humiliation. Many years ago he didn't want to lose her, but she didn't want to lose herself. Both of them were young and selfish, and everyone of them was engaged in himself only. Both of them were irresistible. They didn't reconcile, but everyone of them fought for himself to victory.
The sentence was final and without appeal.
Yana drew her sentence out of her hiding place. It was a pile of typed sheets fold in four.
"What is it?"
He put the sheet in his bosom and again switched o the ignition.
"Read it now, or else I won't go anywhere."
"How can I read it in the darkness?"
Inside the car it was really darkish already.
"Then let's come back, Denis, because I didn't warn my mother!"
"She is in the know; I have visited your place already. And gas is going to end. If only I could reach a service station."
"I won't go to your place."
He did manage to bore her with his chatter and take away. "in the long run, it doesn't matter now," she thought doomed and went into the bath under warm stream of shower, enjoying the thought that this shower and pink, and black tile, and Denis' terry dressing-gown, which she had always put on, and Denis himself who was reading 'the sentence' at his room, and Denis grandmother, adoring her, who was cooking something for them in the kitchen - that all af that was for the last time. And it served her right.
At Last Denis appeared in the kitchen. Yana ate her hear out already. He joyfully kissed grandmother's cheek. Then grandmother delicately left, shuffling her slippers. Denis sat down and began to play a good knife and fork. Oh, Lord!
"You are an attagirl," he said with full mouth. This masterpiece can be produced at the film studio 'Mosfilm'.
Oh, Lord! When will he be bored with playing the fool? If he drove her away with a shame and even hit her, it would be much better for her. In her dreams she could see herself running along a street, going down to the metro by an escalator and then by an electric train away from this place once for all to the saving door with rhombuses where her genies lived with whom she would cry and heal her wounds.
Eating up Bulgarian stuffed cabbage roll from a jar, he began to eat a cake and drink tea and tried to put a piece of a cabbage roll into her mouth.
"That's the end; I'm going away."
"What if another car would be there in the forest; I would help to pull it out and it would go away, and there would be no witnesses. And how could I prove something? I would be expelled from the Communist Young League and from the institute. My father could be recalled from the work abroad and then expelled from the party for bad upbringing of his son.
Denis caught her in the corridor, pulled out her coat and tried to kiss her. He smelt of cake and cabbage rolls. Yana was dying from pity and hatred towards him. Why did he tease her, not wanting to free?
"Open the door. Give me the key."
"I'm not going to do that. If you say one more word, I will swallow it."
"It's my fault. I should have told you about Victor."
Yana cried that the problem wasn't in Victor but in the fact that he forgave her. She wouldn't forget herself and had no right to unite his life with a man about whom she dared to think so.
He suddenly let her off as if he had been a robot disconnected from network and said tiredly, grinning by a corner of his mouth.
"What if I were really such a person?" I don't know who I am. And nobody knows who he is until he feels it on his own back. He will be either a hero, or a scoundrel. Am I a hero? I doubt it. So you can think you have written about me.
Yana didn't know yet that this Denis' expression not only would determine their life for future many years but be a base of the television serial 'On the Black Trail'. The authors of the scenario of this film were Denis Gradov and Joanna Sinegina. Anton Kravchenko performed a leading role.
"Everyone in this live is a potential criminal. An onlooker should suspect everyone equally: from a big official to a charwoman," Denis instructed her and Anton, "our task is a simple establishment of the fact or pointing it. Today this man is criminal. Tomorrow that one is. Today you are a criminal and tomorrow I am. Do you understand, boys"?"
It would be later, but now, many years ago, Joanna perplexedly tried to penetrate into permafrost of Denis' eyes.
"You have written about me." Nobody can say something about him until he feels it on his own back� this thought again and again changed profound bases of her consciousness like theatre sets. The light w turned off, some unclear shades flash on the wall, rustling, knocking and coughing are heard, and the lamp under the ceiling is turned on. After that the moon becomes a lamp; a mountain becomes a wardrobe; a forest becomes a curtain; the world changed. And the problem that was unsolvable a moment ago was solved by Denis assertion. And the final sentence was abolished because there were no judges. Judges got a vote of no confidence.
Taking advantage of her embarrassment, Denis took away her coat and pushed her into his room. He was always a terminator who was programmed to do something or other: one more filming period, building a garage, which was constructed by him and the mason Nicolay for one day, or making love. It was impossible to resist his stranglehold.
Yana resigned herself, and while he teased her body and remains of her clothes, Denis' words whirled in her brain like an invisible fairy butterfly; slow and mysterious flap of its wings promised something very important, the most important thing in the world; she only needed to catch that butterfly. But Yana knew that Denis didn't free her until he possessed her entirely together with her thoughts. She drove away that thought-butterfly; she should have stopped thinking and existing but blaze up and be burned down in his icy electric clutches. Or else he wouldn't free her. It was very difficult to get ready for that ritual sel-immolation, but she had no other way out.
At last Denis left a handful of ashes of her and as always fell asleep. His hand lay on her and waited, being ready to return to life. Trying not to move, she slowly revived like Phoenix from its ashes. And then her thought-butterfly again flew to site of fire, and Yana could feel mysteriously velvet trembling of its wings.
He said it had been written about him. So she had written the truth. But about Pushko it was also the truth? And what about her? Could she guarantee that she didn't run away as George did? She grew cold with this thought: a scoundrel who left his wounded friend was always a scoundrel. So she had written about herself too. This meant it was she who ran away from wounded Simkin. And it was not sympathy as she had thought before but her own essence. She would hardly be able to go in search of Leonid. His fancy woman was much better than her. And if so Yana had no right to judge Denis and George and whoever it might be. Who could have a right to do so? And who dared to say with certainty that he wouldn't acted the same way if he had been the accused?
Who could live at least one more life except his own? Only actors and writers could. The investigator established that it was George Pushko who left wounded Leonid. And what about the Truth, for which Yana went to the stake? It turned out to be subtle, having many faces, changing its color like a chameleon.
'Does it exist at all? Is there anything I can assert with certainty? That twice two is four? It has turned out that through two points countless numbers of straight lines can be drawn. Is it a good deed? Even about Stalin they are telling God knows what. But what about a doctor who successfully cut out Hitler's appendicitis, did he do a good deed?'
Yana meditated so in an appropriate situation, gradually getting rid of her complex of guilt towards Denis and the doubtful Truth from the time on.
In a week, many years ago, the corrected essay was published in an issue of the newspaper. it was reprented by 'Komsomolskaya Pravda'. There we a lot of readers' responses.
Later their film came out. It was the first joint film by Sinegina and Gradov, and it was also very good. It received a few prizes, not only in the Soviet Union but in countries of socialistic camp, and it was constantly shown on TV, particularly on holydays. People admired sincerity and persuasiveness of off-screen monologues.
Yana herself was amazed how wonderfully he managed to express people's arms flashing in work enthusiasm, happiness of young and healthy bodies in a training at a sport hall and tears in eyes of a girl who listened to a violinist.
But the best success of the film was its heroes; they were so strikingly beautiful outwardly and inwardly. They were devised by her, Denis and, Leonid and actors who read the off-screen commentaries, and at the same time they were alive, true and having real names, surnames and addresses.
Her and Denis' wedding took place soon after the premiere of the film. According to the contract they got a sum of money that was incredible in that time, and ordered a hall in the restaurant "Beijing'. There was a lot of people there - almost all Denis' co-students and their boss, famous and up-and coming actors and her mother in law who came from Europe for two weeks (seniour Gradov wasn't allowed to come to the wedding due to aggravation of the international situation). The mother in law liked Yana; she said 'a humble girl' and presented her a luxurious Parisian wedding gown made of steel-blue atlas like the color of Denis' eyes. Both the wedding vail and the gloves fitted Yana.
The mother in law liked to play the role of a fairy, and Yana gladly played up to her. Cinderella is Cinderella. In her heart the same emptiness, ahd she without any difficulty became they one people wanted to see in her. Sometimes those roles entertained her, but the most often it was all the same to her.
Somehow she immediately fitted in with film-production circle with its biting words, witty remarks, paradoxes, obligatory sets of names, pieces of information and titles of films: Fellini, Godar, Paradzhanov, Jeanne Moro (not to confuse with Jean Marais) and so on. Being surprised at her unexpected capability for imitation and artfully operating with strange requisite of words, opinions, attitudes and gestures, Yana accepted colors of her environment, and it was also a game.
From that time on everything in her life was a game, and the fact that she didn't invite anybody from the editorial office, even Khan, only meant that they belonged to other former game.
Only Yana's mother, who was the only guest from the former life and who was happy and proud of her happiness with anxious amazement watched her daughter mixing in the circle.
Soon after that she moved to Crimean town of Yalta to the widower with an amusing surname Lapik she met at the time of the last years' leave. Lapik had a five-room detached house not far from the sea, and mother began a new game by the name 'landlady'. At the same time she was a charwoman and laundress; in summer she experienced hopeless bustle and in winter - hopeless depression, as she wrote to Yana.
The detached house was twined with vines 'Izabella', from which a wonderful wine of the same name could be made. And for that wine mother did conceive a liking in gloomy winter nights.
It would be later, but now, many years ago, she was the same beautiful and looked somebody in the same strained attention, as if she expected that Arkady Sinegin who came from his distant Australia to his daughter Cinderella's wedding was about to appear.
Denis' garanmother presented Yana an antique thread of rosy pearls. And in addition to the likenes with the story about Cinderella, her mother in law, being shocked by her modest white 'pumps' recommended her to put on her own silver, high-heeled ones with pointed toes. They were produced by a famous company, and she had to put cotton wool into them because they were too big. All women from the film studio stared at those shoes, and Yana was afraid that somebody would ask to try them on as it always had been in their editorial office, and then it would be a great shame because of cotton wool. Thanked be to God, nobody asked her to.
Our games are harmlessly peaceful and bloody, empty and effective; they fill the world with running, flying, speaking, entertaining, killing and other playthings. They please their flesh and stir up their souls. They are individual, group, international, sportive, scientific and diplomatic. And prizes are sure to be given, from a bottle of beer and to large-scale ones: a place among people above, a place in an encyclopedia, a half of the earth, a half of a kingdom and inevitable bankruptcy in the end.
There are no pockets in a cerement. We go naked out of this gaming house. Our bodies turn into dust. A clock strikes midnight, a carriage becomes a hearse, men-servants become sepulchral rats and a ball dress becomes a cerement.
So sadly meditated the bride Joanna dancing at her own wedding and fearing to lose her super shoe that didn't fit her.