We met somewhere. Joanna's Page 32
We met somewhere. Joanna's Page 32
It was a day when Radik Lifshitz, the artist of their film, dragged her into a Moscow apartment, where Darenov, an unofficial Leningrad celebrity, exhibited some of his paintings.
"You will never see them again," Radik exited. "He will sail away abroad the other day. Darenov sells hot cakes there, but those morons of ours.' Radik used an unprintable word, "They should be tried. They are Neanderthals! Darenov is a genius! Do you know, how much his paintings are there?"
"Everyone is genius for you," grumbled Joanna, warming up the car, if you want to be driven there, say so. And even better, go by taxi. Or do you want to have five rubles without return?"
Radik offendedly kept silence, and Joanna gave up. They went to his place
That time everything happened at private places. Sculptors and painters exhibited their works, poetry and prose were read, all sorts of sensational lectures, meetings were held with disgraced economists, doctors, futurologist, saviors of 'perishing world'. In apartments bards sang with a guitar, films were shown and even performances were played out. In this underground life of cultural elite there was sweetness as in any forbidden fruit.
On the way to that place we bought two bottles of vodka and a huge watermelon. It's for other people," said Radik. He said that Darenov didn't drink alcohol since the time he and his wife, a Leningrad model and a stupid but phenomenally spectacular woman, "who not fit to hold a candle to his and whom tolerated for the sake of their daughter, drove drunk from some banquet. His wife was sitting at the wheel and their daughter next to her. Darenov was asleep in the backseat and woke up in a couple of days in intensive care without his wife and daughter. Since then he hasn't drink at all, although he isn't guilty. And Darenov have women like sprats in a can, and all of them are crap. For example, Regina is a patron having a lot of money inherited from her husband.
Joanna asked Radik to shut up and not prevent her from driving. She was tired, hungry and was about to put off Radik with his chatter, vodka and watermelon at the nearest taxi stop, when he announced that they had come.
The door was opened by the hostess herself; she was a tall, bony, had long legs, a silver-blue trouser suit, the color of her bluish-silver hair; she looked like a purebred dog. Regina pressed Joanna's hand in a manly way, with an approving nod took a watermelon and vodka, and pointing to the open door on the left said, 'The exhibition is there, undress here,' and retired.
Paintings, there were about two dozen of them, stood upright on chairs along walls, being craftily lit apart by lights hung here and there. Guests came and went, quietly talking. There were foreigners: two Italians and an elderly Scandinavian with an interpreter. Perhaps, they were buyers. In any case, a Scandinavian stood silently in front of one of the pictures, retreating and coming closer, right, left. The Italians also approvingly clattered, ran from a painting to a painting is if they wanted to taste them. They admired 'some perfect things', as far as John understood.
Perhaps, they were really perfect; the paintings overwhelmed by some incredible combination of objects, their placements and sizes; one just wanted to touch some of them because they were plausibly implausible. However, Joanna was not a connoisseur of art and all of these trends, styles, trends. And other arts did she perceived in a purely emotional and amateurish way; she didn't like to expressed her opinions. In fact, she had no opinion, only a sense of personal acceptance or rejection.
For example, Joanna didn't perceive grim naturalistic scenes. In her childhood she refused to let into her life all sympathetic stories about animals, children and elderly people, ran from some of the world's best movies with scenes of brutality, violence and explicit sex and went out of a room when they started talking all sorts of horrors. Friends knew that strangeness of hers and vainly tried to change her. Joanna knew that such a perception of art was unworthy for a professional but could not help it. She preferred not to watch even very natural scenes her own scenarios shot by Denis, and, to his shame, had a secret weakness for commercial movies with a traditional 'happy end'.
Darenov's paintings were the same; they were unacceptable to her perception, although they had no blood and no corpses. In addition to 'A Rising Monster' 'A Jump' shocked her too; it was as a picture which was divided in two. On the left there was a figure of an athlete, who under jubilation of crowd rose over the bar, where everything was permeated by the sun, young and joyous feeling of rise, and on the right there was an abyss instead of mates.
And far below, as if from a roof of a high building, an urban street crawling with ants-cars was visible.
'The Two', looked like fantastic flowers woven between bodies of lovers, starting from their waists they gradually scattered passing into sand. And now we faced a wilderness, whitish dunes, a caravan receding into a distance, and these two were only a mirage.
The transition of strong young bodies into something falling apart, decay and inanimate was particularly amazing was written
It was perfection of brush and skill of painting. Joanna didn't understand how one could talk about skills, when one felt frightened and sick. All Darenov's paintings made her feel frightened and sick. Even when there was no plot: just because of sinister combination of items, colors and violating the usual proportions. Whatever he painted, an empty room, the dark window, street, corridor of an institution, everywhere there was a trouble of waiting for a catastrophe, an unknown rock lurking just around the corner in the form of a barely visible shadow, a reflection on a window glass or bird eggs suddenly floating in cloudless of blue sky. The egg was slightly cracked, something hatched out of it already, and this 'something' from a closer look was not a bird.
Once again she felt frightened, and her look couldn't tear itself from a dark crack in the egg's shell, from the shadows around the corner from a mysterious reflection of light on glass and from the poet Yesenin's face fragmenting in a broken mirror.
In those shadows, crevices and glares on the painting's Darenov there was a certain fatal attraction; they lured like a chasm, an abyss or wheels of a racing train. It was something on the other side of life.
People went in and out, the front door was slamming, some enthusiastic young ladies shared information about Darenov, and Joanna learned that he was an artist-designer, but his painting is prohibited for obvious reasons. Recently there was a scandal, militia came, and maybe even KGB. Then the girls went to a whisper, and John angrily thought it was right that she came. Even a broken nose is punishable by law, but what if you get to madhouse or hang yourself because of such painting,
Galoshes finished her. Feeling that that for a long time she wouldn't get rid of them or from other masterpieces of Darenov, imprinted in the memory like an ink print on these galoshes, Joanna was going to go away. She decided not to call Radhik to go with her.
But in the hallway it was stopped by Regina. Bewitchingly smiling she said she wouldn't let her go because Volodya Vysotsky and other interesting people would come soon, and that she, Regina, was very familiar with Dennis (even when her husband was alive).
"I will convey your greetings," John unsuccessfully tried to reach out to her jacket. "Or you can call him yourself, right? Do you have our phone number?"
Regina recited the number by heart and laughed like a diligent schoolgirl.
"Don't think anything bad. Radik just told it now, and I remembered it.
"Want a drink?" invited Regina.
"I want to go home," Joanna pleaded. "I'm hunger and feel sleepy."
"Want dumplings? I have cooked them all day ling."
Joanna wasn't a glutton but home-made dumplings... Therefore, she gave up. Just think, if there weren't these little balls of dough and meat with onion, pepper and salt, she would have gone forever, linking with the name of Ignatius Darenov only painful shock from his paintings, which she wanted to forget as soon as possible as a nightmare.
Dumplings were excellent. Regina promised to bring hot ones in a few minutes, but Joanna began to eat cold ones. There was no clean plate and no fork, but there was vinegar and sour cream. She ate straight from a tureen with tablespoon, and she did not care that somebody could look at her, but no one was looking.
On the couch, being surrounded by women and admirers, Darenov himself was sitting. He looked like a robber. He had thin and dark face, a half of which was closed with lock of tangled hair like a pirate bandage. His eye, which wasn't closed with hair pierced guests with undisguised hatred.
"Somewhere I have seen him already," Yana thought, but then Regina brought hot dumplings. And when the dish became empty, Yana again looked toward Darenov. On his knees an oriental kind lady was already sitting. She was a gypsy or not gypsy and wore an incredibly slim black dress with massive gold rings in her ears. Her low chest voice sounded as if from bottom of a well:
"Your curls, o falcon, are as streams in the mountains; your cold fingers drag into the abyss... Your eyes, o falcon, are as honey in the mountains; they are bright and dark... And sweet, and bitter...
"Ignatius, Vladimir arrived!" Regina shouted from the hall. Darenov seated the gipsy or not gipsy to the Italian's knees and went to meet Vysotsky.
"I could see him a very long time ago," Joanna thought again -
Their eyes met. Darenov slightly slowed down his pace. He turned round and hesitantly nodded.
Something incomprehensible was happening. Suddenly it became very important to found out how she knew Darenov. It was the most important thing in the world. And while the underground bard saw the underground exhibition while he was treated to dumplings, watermelon and ice-cold vodka from misted bottles, while the bard was singing, being plastered with guests, wrapped in cigarette smoke and wine pairs, Joanna, hiding in a corner of the room with the album of Impressionists, puzzled and tried to revive the robber-like face of Darenov in her memory.
And she could not get rid of the delusions that he looked at her, solving the same charade.
Vodka flowed like a river. Probably only two of them were sober in the company. Darenov seemed to observe his vow, and Joanna was going to drive her car. She had better go home because she had often heard these songs of Vladimir.
"That's all, I'm getting up," she said to herself, continuing to sit. Meanwhile, in the room from a huge black man somewhere appeared. The Negro was made drunk too. The recorder sounded in all speakers, and the Negro danced with the guests.
The apartment was shaking. Regina asked, "Don't stomp, guys, Vasily will call the militia again!" But there was no reaction.
Vasily who lived downstairs was an academician.
Darenov had gone somewhere, and Yana, not even remembering anything, rose from the chair. Then she sat down again. He walked toward her. His face was approaching, floated from general din and smoke, with every step becoming all the more familiar and beautiful. He came with his chair, put it and sat down opposite her, looking at her fixedly, seriously and almost frightened. Now under the light of the floor lamp she could see every detail: shadows on his thin cheeks, a soft line of his chin and a firm line of his mouth, with a little advanced upper lip, as if it were marked with a pencil, his tangled hair sliding on his forehead and eyes his eyes of the same color - a golden-brown ones, as if they were lit from somewhere inside.
They were bright and dark.
"For some reason I cannot remember you," he said apologetically, "Joanna is a very rare name, I have never had friends who would have the same names/ Didn't you change your name?"
She shook her head.
Did he ask about her Regina or Radik? His cracked teenager's voice suddenly fell to shy husky, and her heart responded sweetly, as if to a call beautiful and familiar distant future.
"But we did know each other? Don't keep silence, please."
His face came still nearer; it wasn't nice at all. That's what Joanna clearly understood. Yet it seemed blindingly perfect.
"I also can't remember," she finally forced herself to speak. Suddenly, as if answering her thoughts, he said that people whom we once knew seemed to be very beautiful after many years. didn't you notice it? There is such a strange pattern." And before Joanna had time to be embarrassed and then realize that it was probably a compliment to the address, Darenov put a pencil drawing on her knees.
In an ordinary typewritten sheet a girl with hairdo 'horse tail' in profile was portrayed. "Perhaps, Joanna once was like that; in any case, she had 'horse's tail', and who didn't have it in the late fifties! In any case, the resemblance was certainly there.
"It's me? Where did you get it?"
"Right now, I have remembered and sketched it. Somehow I can remember you in profile, but here in your hair there is something blue..."
It was Lyuska's plastic ring, fastening hair at the back of Yana's head. It was similar to a jaw of some exotic fish with lines of sharp teeth.
"Have you remembered?"
Yes, I can remember the ring. What is it?
In the corner of the figure a toy horse with a bright mane in the bridle and bells jumped.
Yana suddenly realized that this horse, as though it were from a very different picture, was the most important thing and the key to everything. The horse instantly came alive in front of her in paints and great details.
"Why have you drawn it?"
"I should ask why. Do remember it now!"
They avoided looking directly at each other. Everything that happened was in the field of mysticism and mystery; both of them suddenly realized it at once and scared.
There appeared a need for reality, and a wave threw them out of the unknown again to the smoke-filled room, where Vladimir's guitar again sounded, where Regina appeared for a moment like a silver lightning, jealously squinting at them and where trucks rumbled behind the window, being muffled by bursts of laughter.
They also got a closer to listen to Vladimir and laughed; his songs were funny.
Then something strange began to happen. From nowhere the gipsy or not a gipsy reappeared on Darenov's knees. She twisted, saying something in his ear; her narrow black dress rustled and creaked mournfully.
"Leave me alone, Svyeta, with your fortune telling," he struggled feebly. "You'd better helped us to remember, if you really can do something."
"What should I remember, my falcon?
"Don't ask but help."
The woman squinted at Jan her crazy and merry eyes in stains of black and green cosmetics. With a rapid movement she slapped Yana's forehead with her hand.
"Close your eyes, beauty."
Yana obeyed. Gipsy's hand was suddenly cool and smelled of something sweet and intoxicating. Joanna suddenly felt terribly tired and, as she thought for a moment, fell into a dream.
Then he opened his eyes and with surprise discovered that she compressed a felt pen in her fingers.
"You have remembered it," the woman smiled, flashing his gold tooth.
"What have I remembered?"
"You have remembered what you have written."
On the reverse side of Derenov's picture a word was written by childish handwriting:
"What does this mean?"
"You have written it yourself. Our falcon knows it."
Darenov silently stared at the paper; his appearance left much to be desired.
"What's happening? What has she written? DIGID. What nonsense. Is it she who has written it? Maybe, they have played her out?"
"I feel bored in your company, gentlemen," said the woman. "I'll go to get drunk."
"Maybe, you will say that?" Jana jerked a sleeve of Darenov, who seemed to fall asleep.
He shook his head.
"No one could know but me. Why have you written it?"
"What have I written?"
Regina came up and said that the Scandinavian was going to go and waiting for the final talk. She talked and looked at Yana with a puzzled anxiety: "What's happening?" She replied in the same way.
If only she knew why she for a good an hour sat in the strange smoke-filled room with an open album of Degas, with a painting of a girl-dancer in profile, with a wooden horse and the mysterious word DIGID, with Darenov with his mysterious resemblance to someone mysteriously and completely forgotten, with their mutual sudden insanity that compelled to foolishly sit opposite each other, more and more getting stuck in the impenetrable labyrinth of unrequited memory.
"What message would you like to leave for him?"
"Let him go to." Darenov cursed. Regina prefer not to hear it.
"OK, I'll say that you will be back now."
She disappeared. Radik came to ask whether Yana was not going to leave. Darenov swore him too, but Radik continued to stand over them, swaying and smiling drunkenly.
"Leave me alone!" Darenov jumped up in rage and pulled John out of his chair. She managed to pick up the picture, but Impressionists fell down to the floor.
"What are you doing?"
"We must sort it out," his cracked voice sounded almost panicked, and Yana thought that women seemed to perceive any kind of mysticism much calmer.
She had already remembered a girl with a horse's tail from the past, intercepted at the top by Lyuska's plastic ring and a wooden horse in an empty carriage with bells and bright mane, whose owner went to the platform to smoke.
A disabled person with a horse got off when the car was empty, and other people got on at the same stop.
Darenov could not see her then! The picture was a miracle, like everything that happened to them. Yana understood it in contrast to Darenov who was in a panic.
Only many years later Joanna would find out the meaning of the mysterious DIGID that she scratched, being hypnotized by the woman-gipsy.