When Mary brought me here for the first time, she did not tell anything about that. Only stood and gazed at the water surface as if suppressing sharp pain. This was not, however, unexpected: she told little of herself, though being generally talkative.
This time she thanked me reservedly for having accompanied her and disappeared in the thicket. And warned against spying on her and asking questions.
Sometimes you like something in a person. But dislike other things.
And when nice features prevail, you wrap your mind around and feel sympathy.
Otherwise, you part with the individual. Alternatively, just put up with him. As with a wisdom tooth, that foolishly grows the wrong way.
It’s neither this, nor that with Mary. You are just as much attracted as you are repulsed.
An injured girl easily turned into a hooligan. Tenderness morphed into rudeness in a snap.
Sometimes I embraced her on an impulse and suddenly recoiled struck by a poisonous, profound presentiment. A serpent was moving inside a sweet girl.
She was making love without commitment. She confided in me without fully opening up.
Her heart concealed grief. Blue tattoos disguised her white skin. Light-hued underwear hid her somber essence.
She had red mane of a witch and speckled shoulders with bra straps cut into them from under the T-shirt. She was great at adjusting them by casually but provocatively jerking of clavicles in turn.
I liked the fatality, which was felt in her. Black lights and foreign music. They mesmerized me. It was like having a look behind the scenes: in morgue or in royal bedroom. But I never had a chance to fully enjoy this mystique, because a yobbo easily cohabited in her with a demoness. - What’s your gawping about? – she could bark and I, who was admiring her a second ago, despised her again. And I had an itch to give her a wack, which I am pretty sure, was her greatest desire.
I ran away under a silly pretext a jillion of times. Leaving her in the darkness of her messy room.
And I returned a jillion of times without a suitable excuse, nor was she expecting any.
It never entered my head to bring her home.
What I remember was her silhouette against an old window frame in somebody’s Khrushchev-era apartment and her smoking thin cigarettes for ladies with thick branches entangled outside the window. Or meetings in a tiny abode of her husband-narcotist.
Yes, she had a husband. And what of it?
Once she phoned me. And asked for a meeting.
An hour after that we happened to sit in an Indian restaurant. I rarely go there, but right on target.
The owner, an old Indian Moslem, stepped out to greet us personally.
– Why does he do it? – a yobbo in her asked. I explained her it was natural in India. We are not just clients, but his guests.
No sooner had I embarked in ethnographic stories to impress the girl with my erudition, she flung off in a dry voice, which I never heard to emanate from her white body: – Mom’s passed away, – and burst into tears.
I did not know Mary was capable of crying.
I knew she might go into hysterics, shout, swear, whimper and moan. However, did not imagine she could thus childishly weep burying her eyes in the hands…
And it was the first time, when I put my arms around her and did not feel a serpent stir inside her plumping up body.
Mary’s parents had registered marriage to reduce her father’s term of imprisonment due to marital status and dependent newborn to support.
That was raison d’etre of Mary’s birth. To rescue her dad from the cage.
Mary loved her dad in her own way. Both as father and as the first man.
She spoke derisively of him as a father. And better as a man.
But what she appreciated most was his cooking gift. And missed his potato. He died of binge and she never tried better cooked potato. The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. The way to a woman’ heart may follow the same course.
Mary’s heart was opening through homemade mash better than through passionate words.
Mary’s mother was a stewardess. Professional hypocrite.
“What would you like for dinner? Meat? Fish? Vegetarian dish?”.
Her father died. Mother was decommissioned.
Mother took to drinking. And nagged at Mary. The latter did the same: she is an expert in this. That was the way they lived.
Then mother suddenly met Renato. And fell in love with him.
Not just dropped on him to survive but really fell in love.
It was not a convenience, because Renato was homeless.
The ageing alcoholic quit drinking and acquired a new look. Let her iron-grey hair down. Got the feel of laughing. Learned to smile as a woman, not as a stewardess, and make her eyes sparkle.
One day, dumbstruck Mary, disoriented by this change, suggested that she should hoist sail, if she decided to go crazy in her old age, and leave the flat to her.
Mother calmly and meekly packed her things. That same evening Renato came to take her and they drove away into the darkness, happy to the max, kissing and embracing each other, like young people, oblivious to everything around them.
She never returned, even when Mary called her back having decided to mend fences. Signed a general authorization for residential matters. And left all effects behind.
And they lived happily but not too long. In Renato’s tent, in the depth of Moscow Sokolniki Park. Love doesn’t mind a poor hut, if there’s a loving heart.
Renato worked off the books here, there and everywhere. He was a strong man having a clever pair of hands and head. She was waiting for him impatiently in their orange tent, plucked flowers in the park or had walks in Moscow streets.
Or sat on the shore of a small lake and looked like always listening to something.
Mary sold the flat. Brought mother’s share to her, still willing to make peace. Bundles of banknotes in a plastic bag.
Mother took the money, but showed no greediness, just tossed the bag in the tent in an offhand manner.
The conversation was heavy going. Both between mother and daughter and between two women.
Mother laughed, capered, ran in the park in a long dress with a bright flower pattern. Apparently bearing little recollection of her former life.
Her hapless red-haired daughter could only find a nerve to quit in order not to hang about as a foreign substance within other people’s happiness.
Renato phoned yesterday to say her mother and his lover was no more.
The body was found at the lake. She sat at the shore, as if listening to something, and thus died sitting, nursing her knees.
I accompanied Mary to the tent in the park.
Renato was a sturdy, handsome man, black-haired with a tinge of grey, of an old-rocker type.
Such noble faces are hunted after to use them on old Scotch whisky labels. Or men’s deodorant. Such features are given to the old-weather beaten tars in juvenile adventure books.
His handshake was steely. He had a rich voice with slight clangor fit for Cossack songs about vast steppe, boundless freedom, dashing steed and stray bullet.
He accepted the death of his sweetheart with humility. They lived taking no heed of time: they had an eternity ahead, the Universe for two. And his grief had a tint of gratitude to the Creator for the chance to have his realm on Earth that only biblical Kings had.
I came up to the lake, where dark water was softly licking the shore, the cattail and empty sky was reflected in the ripple. It smelled of dampness.
The ducks crossed the surface, probably the single witnesses of the event. They were leaving an evanescent trace and passed from the light spot of mirrored sky into the dark reflex of the riparian forest.
I was there before, accompanying Mary, and now understood where she used to disappear and why shunned my company. I pricked up ears trying to understand if I fancied I heard the thing last time.
No, I did not. As soon as you neglected the distant city hubbub, faint slap of lake water and murmur of leaves – the buzz: cadent, modulating, monotonous noise clearly manifested itself. The buzz heard day after day, the song of great rootlessness and great loneliness. The roar of black wind. The song of the Universe. An arrow having neither beginning, nor end, where I anchored like a sand grain of conventional marks in a hastily invented dial.
The buzz with which you come into the world, but cease to take notice of it. You flee from it to take refuge in a noisy get-together, in a megalopolis, in drinking, in the labyrinth of someone’s flesh, in philistine games.
The buzz abates and looks like it has never existed. And you live deafened, for some time to come, thinking naively that you have escaped…
The lake, ducks and forest – everything lost clarity. And became a bleak picture, like label on a
bottle of mineral water.
Like a drawing on damp paper. And when you touch the paper, the thin, sticky and wet film crumples, moves aside and there, beneath it…
– Do you hear? – Mary’s voice penetrated through torpor, – do you hear it? – she waved her hand all around.
I had no doubts what she was asking about.
– Yes, I do.
We were going back in silence. Mary preceding me a bit.
I was looking at her tempting bum in blue jeans without much desire, rather mechanically, by force of habit.
She was awkwardly carrying the bag returned by Renato with several millions: she spent almost nothing of the money for the sold flat.
It emerged that I only loved this in her. Only her capacity to hear that buzz, to know of it and acknowledge its power. And not try to pretend it does not exist, the thing I despise most of all in people. Their cold-hearted, swashing conceit.
And I do not love anything else in Mary. Yobbo is always a yobbo.
The bum is not bad, but even that I did not want at that moment.
And she is lucky to get that capacity to hear the buzz and convey it, and judging by her mother, it runs in the family. And I tune in to it through her. The more so, it weirdly transforms in her.
And what should I say of Mary in particular? Generally speaking, do I love any one pure and simple?
Am I worthy of a queen, as Renato was?
Does anyone interest me as a soul, a flash, as sun, as white and not black light – as a personality?
Or in all people, I love something that stays behind them? The way It refracts through them, the way It is suppressed through their prism, because you cannot listen to the unimpeded Buzz for a long time. You will die.
Human beings are replaceable fuses. They are bodies that cover a grenade preventing fragment dispersion.
And someone rushes to the Buzz, as if to the barricades, whereas I cowardly crawl, hiding behind this or that. Pushing one to the black flame and dragging the other there by deceit, to watch from the sidelines: what will happen to him? Will it collapse right away or wriggle for some time?...
– Let’s go to my place, – Mary suggested with slight hoarseness, pulling me out of illusion again. There was something of a witch in her and at the same time earthbound, petty, and fitting within proletarian values of our community of workers and peasants. She belonged to the world of people, who dream of eternal life, whereas they do not know how to stave off boredom in a free evening.
I was looking at her without seeing her. For several moments, I even had the impression there was no Mary. And had never been.
There was a gap in the world veneer, flat and primitive. Organized as a kind of girl’s figure.
And there, seen through the gap…
– What’s your gawping about, shall we go? – Mary always lost her temper and attacked, when she feared my glances through.
– No. – I answered rigidly and decidedly after several significant moments, unexpectedly for myself.
We reached the main road separately.
At the crowded street, the buzz was expelled again and disappeared behind the cascade of city noises.