Sergey Streltsov.

The Infantilist.

 

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

Matthew 7:12

 

Etre sans savoir, ou savoir sans être, là est le dilemme.

Vladimir Jankélévitch

 

1

 

All that Vadim Leroux encountered since his birthday had put to him new extraordinary profuse experience of life in law of maternal love and paternal simplicity. Spartan boy he had sense of humor not against his weaker ones and not to annoy his nearest. Mother, his first and only true love in the world, gave him birth in second marriage, grieving about her first son who was seized by unflinching sentence of Roman court in the custody of her former husband, the chap of politics, and whatever about it, in Italy. Father of Vadim was well-educated American architect making his private fortune in huge mansions for all kinds of celebrities. Money never was a real problem for him, once idea came he had it cashed in, and then he proceeded for new ones of the same fate of brilliance and tradability. Vadims mother was of Russian origin, her grandfather dashed to America when so-called Great October Revolution had destroyed his wood selling business in Siberia. She was countess of no other baggage to voyage through the years but her natural beauty undemolishable with years and their tragedies. We cannot say that Vadim was proud of his noble predecessors by female line. Proper guys have proper thoughts, and these ones are not only of gold and glory, and his inner world was too private and unspotable from abroad of his family. In one word, he was not another stupid bore, thanks, mostly if not above all, to his father who bred sincerity in the naïve heart of his only and, as it often happens, beloved son for sake of pedagogic and love.

 

2

 

Vadim was not fond of his diploma from Harvard and shortly after graduation he, being seduced by example of Bill Gates and alike chaps of almost purely digital and often enormously huge income, fled to California with two senior and scholar-minded friends to deploy his little private company built rather on thin loans from wealthy friends than on family support. It was early 1990s and he was working to produce the new system for Internet-to-come.

After two years of sedulous work, days started storming into Californian house of Vadim, as his project stopped to produce new ideas though of any delicate merit and his team kept menacing him to swallow rest of his life time in the ping-pong of loyalty to young master and back to those faithful to him. Gradually Vadim understood that he is no great thinker of New Age and unable to hit high in the values of patent legislation. When he was nonetheless about to obtain backing by mighty industry tycoon, his father suddenly died by stroke in one day and left him the major part of bonds and savings.

Funeral urn was placed according to the old mans will into behind of portrait of latters in the long before prepared niche. Mom said: shes leaving this house for good with nothing on the hands, because she cannot live with ashes of man she adored under the one roof and dont want to become the unstable soul and then mentally affected one. She declared her desire to live rest of her widowhood playing tennis somewhere in Europe with suitable fellow-beings.

 

3

 

Then Vadim left his company with feeling that hi-tech research world is on good for his nerves and with strong wish to live alone and to marshal his thoughts about life and all that comes along with its troubles and happiness. He started to smoke more and to surf all the time through satellite channels, and not only American but also Russian, for he happened to have little command of Russian acquired through maternal way of dalliance with him that was enough to understand the news and talk-shows, stuffed to the brim with motherlands awkward appeal to give a try to great culture of ages to come and that that are completely gone in obscurity of the past.

Easy packer he took his Sun notebook, photo camera and notes about what to see for a first several weeks on the new land. Boeing had jumped to the air and started to eat miles on its course for Moscow. Nothing was yet splendid, but he felt stupefying hope mixed with readiness for new friends, new love, new happy or not so dispatch in hands of mafia, stupid government, girls and mentura its the Russian name for native police, famous inland and abroad for its corruption.

Sheremetievo-2 airport met him in plain colors of international structure accustomed to send forth those who love to and receive back those who need to. He took taxi. The road was bad with pits covered with spring puddles. Taxi driver was very lovely Muscovite with brown teeth of hard smoker. He teased Vadims Russian in friendly way and helped with checking in the hotel where prices were relatively reasonable and service was something usual for decent foreigner.

 

4

 

First of all Vadim managed to buy his former familial property seized decades ago by bolshevists. It was apartment on Ordynka, the one of ancient Moscow streets with lovely church in the close neighborhood and famous Tretiakovs Gallery in some ten minutes of walk. He had hired decorator with crew for the renovation and in two months all rooms were sparkling in lovely cross-breed between something pre-revolutionary and modern lintérieur. In this short time he got used to morning jogging from his new home, then across Moscow-River, and after light exercises on the grass under Kremlins jagged walls of red bricks he made it to shower, and only then breakfasted with first cigarette which came to accompany café au lait and mumbling of morning news. Russians seemed to him strange in many ways, in the short post-Soviet epoch they learned to smoke American cigarettes and to wear American jeans, with one little point about it genuine jeans were made by Vietnamese emigrants in outlaw factories, the same time forged Camels and Marlboros came to surface from Ukrainian mafia controlled plantations. But leaving alone this Russian love for cheap fakes of loud brand names life in Moscow in mid-1990s were interesting and full of convenient entertainments. To mention the one of them there was restaurant boom with smart les chefs and their no less smart les plats recherchés, and Vadim, in his previous life quite indifferent to haute-cuisine world, obtained sense to various species of food he had never heard about before.

Another remarkable novelty of life in Russia was bursting from nowhere telecom services as cellular as Internet oriented. Prices were exorbitant thanks to regulated by mafia undercover treaties in midst of operators. And Vadim in short time embarked on Internet-providing career investing little and profiting much. His Moscow-Online Ltd became popular in one year, because he unlike his Russian-all competitors, stored huge sums of net revenue in marketing struggle, persuading more and more users to become subscribers of his company.

Moscow-Online shortly became the giant with personal approach coming along to those in need, when its rivals were mostly impersonal and unsympathetic. When all civilized world came to flat-rate, Russia was standing its way and held to depending-on-time-of-connection payment. No one needs to explain that major rule of business in Russia then was Long-life-to-robbery and if you wanted to make friendly step to people, you were to know all questions of price and quality there to be solved by killers not by courts.

The market struggles were always object of interest to Vadim. Since his boyhood he was eager reader of special literature about marketing which was bought on occasions in special shops made by the time of his late-teens two shelves in his room. These stratagems and exploits of now-a-days heroes made him feel himself being among those ones of ancient world. Strong bodies and wild minds were replaced by bright education and unbeatable power of will in lethal clench of mortals with immortal-like ambitions. They were gods then by his young and full of admiration point of view, gods of new technology, of new wisdom, and new social philosophy. Only when he himself turned out to be, though just a little, but one of them the mist cleared before his eyes, and by degrees he felt poverty of spiritual meaning in his idols. They were no more even human beings but only shadows out of filthy hell of their own invention.

To millennium Vadim came as noticeable figure of Russian business fauna. More loved than envied because of well-disposedness to different people and accuracy in private relationship with all and sundry.

He even made a few good friends especially among restaurateurs. The best of them were Nikolai and Anna Dumovs with their luxurious place Russkaya Duma situated on Kuznetskiy Most. They were warm-hearted pair of mid-thirties. Before being converted to place of glasses and dishes, restaurants premises were held by famous books-store for pre-revolutionary intelligentsia, then district station of CheKa revolutionary police forces, then laundry, grocery, barbershop. And only before it had become restaurant in early Yeltsins era it was Red Corner or, to cut long story short, the meeting place for one of the new left parties. In the evenings, badly dressed, grey-haired people came there to discuss how they would set up new Marxist revolution, after cheap tea they sang folk songs to accordion, some marriages between them also took their place and they were in the eyes of this awfully poor and forgotten society their victory over injustices of this world.

Specialty of Russiaya Duma was ecclesiastic feasts of Orthodox Church, historically dominating congregation in Russia. From opening till 6 pm it was overcrowded with young families teaching their little ones how to cope with knife for fish, after this show of uncommon fun its walls were surged by party with jazz octet sweeping the hall with quaint Edwardian dances. Blotto foxtrots and shimmies rocketed through the night till 2 am when place was closing access to Rastigaï and Nalivka. Vadim was baptized by help of his mother in childhood as Orthodox Christian in Russian Cathedral of San Francisco. Though he never was dedicated churchgoer, but he liked this piece of culture, while he never visited divine service since his baptism, he revered all what ages of tradition were to offer, feeling himself in good spiritual repair.

In such a way Christmas Eve of 2002 approached.

 

5

 

Russians celebrates Christmas on seventh day of January according their Eastern or so-called Julian calendar, all feasts of which take place 13 days later then in Gregorian calendar maintained by Western Churches which are Catholics, Protestants and many others. So about 8 pm on the eve of Russian Christmas Vadim parked his sportive two-seater in nearest lane to Russkaya Duma and entered into the bar where he met Nikolai Dumov, who immediately turned his face to him with Happy Christmas! in already drunk but happy voice.

Vadim, dear. I hope Ill have opportunity to drink to your health through the night.

Like host, like guest.

So do sit down and have a go of Vishnevka. Take a breath of this aroma. Luxury of cherry robbed by vodka of its juice and freshness. Hey, You! Nikolai turned to barman. Call upstairs for chanterelles and reindeer ragout for my buddy.

Five minutes later on the spiral stairs appeared Anna Dumova with tray fuming with exquisite smell of elaborate and almost supernatural fashion. Vadim turned to welcome her.

Anna, attagirl! How you manage to stay in this divine form. Your Nikolai is half-dead with your potations. They are supreme!

Little boy! Vadim! Its you the buddy he ordered this stuff for.

Its me, old girl.

How you always succeed to be so polite with my wife? Nickolai smilled at Vadim.

Anna frowned at her husband.

Yes, so polite. And twice as Yes with your wife!

Nikolai readily opposed this attack on his master-of-the-house-ness.

Vadim, my boy, it is always this way with these proud beauties!

Anna glowed at Nikolai with tender smile.

Hubby, dear! We are married since we were so high. But I pray dont be the brute. I know you love to. But one word more and you to be cut off the drinks and to be chaperoned to office for healthy and sobering nap.

Yes, maam. I got it! Wives conquer all!

Vadim merrily applauded to this scene of competing ambitions. Anna put the dishes on the counter before him and put her well manicured hand on his shoulder.

I say, you potty-dotty American must to be married, too.

Why not! All in due time.

I have something for you about it.

Are you threatening me with inevitable happiness ever after my acquaintance with this something.

Yes, boy. Awfully Yes.

Who is this faerie?

Vika Tatarinova. You know her father.

She isnt stupid like he, I hope.

No. Our princess is even improved copy of her mother both physically and intellectually.

What I must to do for poor child?

Hooligans punctured tires of her Renault. So you must fetch her at Krasnoselskaya and bring here.

Pip-pip. Im burning with Heavenly fire.

As CD burner! Nikolai shot off, and blasted with laughter shaken to the core by his own timely crack.

 

6

 

Roads on Christmas were covered with slippery slosh but Vadim got no care about it. When his car rushed into Myasnitskaya Street he looked around for flower stalls and still unsuccessfully. When his two-seater almost passed this street and was ready to fly through Turgenevskaya Square suddenly little boy ran into his way chasing his red plastic ball. Car hit him in a fraction of second and boy flew away in direction of curb. Turning to trace his flight Vadim saw young woman in dark green goggles and blue headscarf. He pressed accelerator in cold perspiration and hope that no one remembered his cars number plate.

After the hour of senseless speeding about the city, he had phoned to Dumovs and said that he will meet Christmas in another company and wished them all to have good evening.

The next week he spent in his apartment on Ordynka. To say that it was nervous breakdown is to say nothing. At once he discovered that he can weep, almost without help of drink. He needed all that whiskey-vodka things to keep balanced his shattered psychic. The telephone calls were at mercy of answering machine. Food was provided by maidservant. Vadim was sinking in depth of despair. And in one month he completely forgot about jail, but when he closed his eyes he always saw rosy cheeks and bright eyes of little boy flying away from his car. This picture was with him day and night, and when in the April Vadim understood that he kept all the days long chatting with the boy he had to acknowledge that madness was engulfing him.

His maidservant on the one of these days which were lovely to the most of Moscow denizens but troublesome for Vadim gave him week notice and left for new and more pleasant engagement. Only people who kept visiting him were pair of Dumovs, his managers abandoned idea of keeping him abreast with life of his own company and were preparing sellout. While having soft spot for Dumovs, Vadim trashed his commercial pretensions in hands of blind fate.

On V-day Dumovs had made serious and unexpected gift to him, they found old, patient and skilful nurse from rehab, lonely woman in late fifties who happened to be good cook. She opened to him world of medications for ever-boozy men. The droppers, intravenous injections, and pills had made miracle and in two moths he was ready to go to dacha of Dumovs at Nikolina Gora, prestigious suburban district with villas and residencies of Moscow jet-set.

Immodest house of Dumovs this time was boarded by noisy and dazzling horde of their friends. Vadim was transported there in BMW of Nikolai. Vera, Vadims new maidservant and private nurse, provided him with all necessary medications to keep control over his broken-down soul.

Vadim settled in the spacious room facing the garden and immediately climbed on the high bed and fell asleep by weakness till the dinner. When he woke up, he shuffled to terrace where found cold tea and sandwiches made from petty game. Profoundly starving he sat on divan in motley upholstery with plate on lap and put cup at his feet. Proud ravens marched along pebble paved paths cawing from time to time.

 

Quoth the raven nevermore! Said Vadim teasing the birds with would be most famous line of American poetry. Then he suddenly heard female voice from the back door.

Where is all the mob?

I dont know. God knows. He turned back and saw pretty woman of twenty something. I mean, I am stranger in these parts. First timer on this dacha.

So I am.

Youre friend of Dumovs?

My sister was schoolmate of Anna. They invited me with her.

Bright idea. Girls must be girls.

I think anyhow- yes. When time is coming.

I am Vadim. Bit American, bit Russian.

He extended his hand to her for handshake.

Nadia. Said she softly, shook his hand and sat in opposite chair.

She was silent about a minute and then as if acquired interest to him asked.

Excuse me, but I see you dont wear cross. You are not Christian?

Rather Christian. But out of practice.

I can tell you ancient parable about one saint and his cross. I think it would be interesting for you.

If you please.

In the desert for many years lived one hermit. All his time was dedicated to prayer. And angel once came to him and gave him heavy gold cross on heavy gold chain, and said to him that he had to go to nearest town to preach the gospel. The man came out of desert and approached gates of the town. There were many beggars. And they said to him Give us what you can. And he answered I cant give you money for I have not money. I cant give you my haircloth for your shame impedes me. And I cant give you my cross for everyone must bear ones own cross whatever it be.

He was smart guy your hermit, I mean.

You think smartness and Christianity is incompatible?

Look! But you must be historian or something to prove it.

Yes. I am historian like my father was.

I understand.

And you.

Me? Recently I was internet tribes benefactor. Now nothing more than ill chap and what is most hurtful quite unpopular with girls.

Why you think so?

That unpopular. Funny question.

I see. Excuse me.

 

7

 

In the next two days Vadim and Nadia often talked together. They made friends. Nothing special but he took her cellular phone number. They began to meet, usually once or twice a week, in different places. Martinis and oysters completed its general duty, and he was informed that she was divorcee with no kids and some money to live on. Decisive scene happened at Vadim apartment. He proposed, and she didnt turn him down. He wanted to explain all his troubled soul to her, while she almost never spoke about her private life, and particularly about her life previous to their acquaintance. He felt that he must tell her about the boy he involuntarily killed. He tried and she listened attentively and silently. When he finished his tale, she was about to faint.

Sorry. I didnt want to hurt you. He said. What makes you so pale.

Youre sure it was in Myasnitskaya at last Christmas.

Yes, but what?

Then it was my son. My marriage was broken shortly after the incident.

Nadia, dear. Why the life is always like old-Greek tragedy.

Oh, thanks God we had not slept together, Id killed myself if we did.

I feel myself like a damn. Where your child was buried?

On Kuntsovskoye cemetery. Why youre asking?

Can I visit his tomb?

Lets go.

After the full of stops driving through the midday Moscow traffic jams they parked by the cemetery. Grey walls, gates painted in green decades ago. They walked slowly along tombs of famous Soviet singers, artists, composers, top-rank military men, scientists and scholars. Names were straight from Big Soviet Encyclopedia. After short detour Nadia pointed him the marble plate with engraved photo of her son. She sat on the bench before his tomb, and asked Vadim to bring water for flowers in plastic bucket, which was stored for this purpose under the bench. She was awfully ash pale. He understood, its something with her heart, he knew that she was shortly before in cardio-clinic. But he left her for nearest faucet of cold water. He found it by the wall. When bucket was half full something struck him like a thunder, he felt that something happened. He ran back to her splashing water around him. When he saw her, she was on the ground and breathless.

8

 

Emergency ambulance did nothing. Vadim could not attend the Nadias funeral service. He was devastated by occasion. He could not drink and could not sleep even with injections. He was eating almost nothing. He only cried quietly in his bed. In this condition he passed the autumn. By the New Year he stopped to cry and acquired steady wish to live no more. On the Christmas Eve he was sitting in the chair with Nadias photo, which he wangled from Anna Dumova collection, in one hand and long before bought revolver in another. Suddenly, his maidservant and nurse, came in the room. She saw revolver and photo and asking no questions said.

Youd rather go to the church. Now great feast there. Would be something come around.

Well. Very well. Vadim echoed and stored pistol in pocket of his jacket.

In five minutes he was gone to the nearest church across the road.

In Russian Orthodox Church there are only two divine services a year administering in the midnight, those are correspondingly Easter and Christmas. It was something about 0.30 am. Vadim bought some candles for icons, and after senseless roving around stopped by the group waiting for confession. He felt he needed one. He had a great hope for relief it might give him to go on where God would lead him, to where Vadim was to follow His divine care and blessing.

Deepened in these thoughts he found out that this is his turn to confess. He approached the priest.

I guess youre new parishioner. Said priest in tired by polite voice.

Yes, father.

Glad you joined us. So lets talk about your sins.

Its no sins, its abyss Im sinking in. I feel the hell is in me. The day and night it punishes my conscience, I cannot live on. Only thing I want is to kill myself.

Just to live in this hell eternally.

But what to do.

Just confess your sins, though only most hurtful.

Well. First I killed little boy in accident. Then strangely found his mother, and fell in love with her, and proposed. She died. I never confessed in my life. Sorry, father.

Go on.

I have no strength to bear along my existence, so sophisticated with dreams impossible to fulfill.

I think youre bit infantilist. But I wish you the best. Is it all?

Im so sorry of all my sins. Bless me, father.

Bow the head.

Priest covered Vadims head with the stole and whispered.

All your sins are absolved in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. Kiss the gospel and the cross on the lectern and you can go.

Absolution came to soul of Vadim as unexpected invasion of peace and easiness spread in every movement of body and mind. He was calm and quiet and the same time felt aptitude for something great and never anticipated before. It was unusual but it was he the same man and simultaneously the different man. This new condition got only one name the mystery being Christian. It seemed strange but it was nothing else.

After Liturgy had ended he exited church. Moscow lied silently around him illuminated by nightly lights. All was silence and devotion. When he only made a few steps across the road. He heard a roar on his left, then hit, then he flew aside and fell. He could not see this red jeep, which came and go as a wind. Death wasnt frightful.

Vadim saw himself outside of his body. It was new experience. People who were leaving Church had crowded around him. He heard their voices. But instantly he discovered that someone was behind him. It was Nadia, with son on her hands.

Come with us. She said him.

Vadim gave her his hand, and they ascended to the Heaven.



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