Privilegee (based on a true story)

I jumped into a marshrutka and climbed onto my favorite corner seat in the back row. It’s a bit higher than the other seats and you feel like you’re sitting on the upper circle at the theater. You can see and hear everything without attracting a lot of attention. Today, though, I wasn’t about to watch passengers.

I untangled the headphones that always managed to tie themselves into mysterious reef knots. It never mattered how carefully you packed them before. Then I found the next MP3 file on my phone and delved into an audio book in English. It required a hell of a lot of effort to recognize formerly familiar words now disguised in quirky pronunciations. I don’t know who invented the rules of English but this person definitely must have had an upset stomach. I had no another logical explanation as to why they mocked the human race so cruelly.

While still in a state of shock over how the word ‘cautiously’ sounded in actual fact, I hadn’t noticed that the marshrutka had not moved in a while. And I eventually realized that the leaflet advertising lessons promising guitar playing virtuosity in record time had been hovering near my nose for a suspiciously long time. I turned my head from the window that the leaflet was stuck to and looked towards the passenger compartment. Something was happening near the driver and it wasn’t a pleasant scene, that’s for sure.

An old man was standing there, waving a pensioner’s card in front of the driver’s nose. He was insisting on a free ride but the driver would not comply. There were only two priority seats, and unfortunately both were occupied. The driver suggested that the old man get off the bus and wait for the next one. This suggestion obviously wasn’t to the old man’s taste.

The old man looked highly strung, while in contrast the driver was the very image of calm. The old man threatened to write complaints to all known authorities, from the boss of the driver to the president of Ukraine. The driver, wordless, offered him a pen.

And the bus still didn’t move. Passions were rising.

The passengers quickly divided themselves into sides. The first side eagerly supported the old man, cursing the driver and government for being so heartless and humiliating poor, defenseless pensioners. The other side wisely reasoned that the bus wasn’t made of rubber and that the driver was duty bound to fulfill the daily revenue target. There was no place on Earth where a retired person could be late on a Saturday morning.

I sat on my VIP loge in the back row of this bus theater. I was not enjoying this stage play at all. The perfect voice with posh English pronunciation was still whispering something in my ear but I was no longer listening to it. The ugly La Comédie humaine had grabbed all of my attention.

The crowd started to demand that the bus continue on its route. Someone yelled at the driver while someone else threatened to help the old man to leave the bus if he couldn’t do this on his own… and suddenly I felt unbearable shame for everything that was happening here. No. I refused to be a part of this crappy play!

I left my seat and approached the driver, holding forth a five-hryvnia note. He took it without a word, tossed it into the money box, and shut the door. The bus moved ahead.

I was back at my seat. No one said a word. The other passengers went back to their private affairs. Someone poked a nose into their phone. Someone looked out the window. Someone else continued their conversation. I tried to concentrate on my audio book again.

“Stop here!”

The bus stopped at literally two hundred meters. The old man disembarked. Only he. No one else. And when he was passing me, our eyes met. I was ready to see any emotion in his stare… gratitude, embarrassment, surprise. But hatred? What the fuck?!

A bit later, I understood the reason. At the time, however, I was dumbfounded at the unpredictability of human nature and just went back to the book. Moominmamma had called everyone to the dinner and I didn’t want to be late.

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA
© All rights reserved 2017

Authentica (Fragment #023)

Here you are!”

Maybe I’d plopped my notebook down a little too cocksurely, but I was feeling pretty confident. Hell, I’d been sweating over this essay for two whole nights, rummaging through the dullest monographs and sneezing up billows of agelong library dust.

The professor picked up my notebook with two fingers, kind of like it was a filthy toad. Well… actually, I consider toads pretty cool. Take, for example, Hypnotoad or Kermit. Or, even, Jin Chan. I remember, once…

“… plague!”

His harsh voice made me jump. Damn! It looked like I’d lost the plot again. I needed to concentrate. What the hell was he saying? Yes, toads were  The Second Plague’, but had I said something about toads out loud?

I raised my eyes and stole a look at his reflection in the dim windowpane. Then our eyes met. For a fleeting second it seemed as though his glance was flaring a bright orange, but when he turned to me, his eyes were yellow as always. This angry look was a storm warning.

“Too vague! Up in the air! It’s a mere dalliance with the topic, not an exploration!”

Why was he always on my case? But there was no sense in arguing… at least not now. This morning, I’d heard how Uranus had said something about the Moon being in Aries and that one should avoid open conflicts. (If someone had said to me some months ago that I would make decisions with an eye to this cosmographic crap, I’d have given them a Screw Loose sign. But this University can make anyone superstitious like the last pea goose in existence.)

I took my unfortunate essay and went to the door. I had almost stepped into the corridor when his acrid voice struck my ears.

“And don’t forget that using translations in research is  ‘mauvais ton’. If you want to get a decent result, you must work with authentic texts only!”

Huh? Ball and Tzara? In the original? I fucking like it!

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA
© All rights reserved 2017

Come Unto Me (based on a true story)

I feasted my eyes upon the gorgeous frescoes that adorned the ceiling one more time, then turned to the exit. When I reached the wide doorway, I saw that today (to my great surprise) the forecasters had been right. There was a heavy rain.

Of course, I hadn’t taken an umbrella. Who can properly enjoy walking around one of the most splendid European capitals with unnecessary stuff in hand? One hand is for my camera, another hand is for ice-cream cones. A third is not a given.

I turned around with the intention of going back into the church and waiting out the storm. No such luck. A stodgy man in a black robe blocked the passage. In answer to my wordless question he pointed to the notice board. It stated that the canonical hour would be starting soon, so I went out to the big porch in the rain. There was no choice.

The porch was quickly filling up with people. The rear pushed at the front, perplexed as to why they would stand out in the downpour and not enter. Toward them moved ‘exiles’ like me who had been turned out of the building. A sullen acolyte stood at the centre of this live whirlpool like a hard-shelled bouncer at a night club doorway. It looked like no one was fitting the dress code for this private party today.

I lifted my face to the grey sky and inhaled the heavy, wet air. Some huge raindrops fell on my cheek. I smiled and shrugged my shoulders. There’s always choice.

I covered my head with a leaflet detailing the schedule of canonical hours, and ran to a bar opposite the church. Thank god these sanctuaries are always willing to embrace and warm the sick and suffering. Amen.

 

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA
© All rights reserved 2017