Thursday 20 August 2015

The love song of the dark lady XII

Chapter 12

David began sitting with Galina throughout the day and I tended to see him only at night when we continued our practice of reviewing the day and sharing some illicit cigarettes and alcohol. He was happier and yet nothing much had really changed. They sat together. She helped him find his place when it was time to sing. He would glance at her and she would glance back. But they rarely actually spoke more than a few words. During lunch and dinner she sat next to him, but they were never really alone. The same discussions continued.

It was interesting that no one came up to me to ask me about my progress towards enlightenment. No one asked me why I was there. No one attempted to persuade me.  Perhaps, it is the manner that I have developed throughout all my years in Russia. There’s a certain look that I have developed. My husband has it, too. Many of our friends and colleagues likewise know how to look in such a way that discourages conversation.  I remember at one point in the film ‘Doctor Zhivago’, Alec Guiness walks into a room in the middle of an argument. He snaps his fingers and everyone ceases speaking. It’s not so much because of how he snaps his fingers, but because of the look on his face and the fact that this look tells everyone exactly who he is. When I first arrived in Russia, it was very necessary that people did not ask me too many questions. I could not have people delving into my past with small talk. There was a surface persona that worked, but it was more or less only on the surface. If you dug a little deeper, you reached Effie and Effie had no business being in Kaliningrad. So I became shy, I became reticent and I developed my look that said ‘Don’t ask me any questions’. And so people were friendly enough to me. They were happy that I was there and asked a little about where I was from and how I had become interested in Krishna. But when I pulled down the shutters on the conversation, they dropped me and soon went off looking for someone else to talk to.

I’d talked to David about his plans. He was glad that he had stayed on. He was looking forward to going to India. This was the excitement and the changed path that he had been looking for all those years ago when he had started learning Russian. Above all, he was looking forward to having Galina on his own as she took him to the airport. He thought they would have the chance to talk of other things. He might be able to allude to their relationship. He might even be able to make a little progress. Then after a few months, he would be with her again. There was a lot to look forward to.

I wondered how real his dreams were, but I didn’t say anything negative. When faced with a difficult situation years earlier, I hadn’t listened to anything negative, I had done what was necessary to fulfil my dream. In this David was like me. He was willing to act. He didn’t just sit back passively waiting for his fate to happen. He made it happen. He knew what he wanted and was willing to spend some money and endure some hardship. The problem is that he knew what he wanted, but I was entirely unsure that Galina knew what she wanted. She had twice intervened to keep the relationship going. She had invited him to come to Moscow, she was now inviting him to go to India, but did she accept the logical implication of these invitations. You can’t invite a man to travel in that way and then expect him to act towards you just as if you were any other acquaintance. What was going to happen when they were confronted with desire? What above all would happen if she found that desire in herself? I worried, but I said nothing negative.

I questioned him about the ideas that we had been exposed to. I was concerned that he was getting just a bit too close.

“Don’t worry, Effie, I’m not about to turn into one of them, but it will help me with Galina if I understand a little of what she believes.”
“I imagine this trip to India will not exactly be sight-seeing,” I said.
“Again, I’m pretty vague about details. I suspect it will be something like this only with a warmer climate and worse food.”
“What if she doesn’t change in the way you want her to? You’ll be a long way away from home.”
“I don’t make plans. What’s the point? But I’m hoping we will be able to spend some time together.”
“Do you think she’s worth it, David? It’s an awful struggle for an uncertain end.”
“Did you think it was worth it when you went to Russia?”
“But I was married, David, and I knew my husband loved me.”
“What would you do?”
“I’d do as you are doing. I’d go.”
“I’ve known Galina quite a long time. She’s worth it and not because she is beautiful. I’ve seen how you look at her. You’re right to do so. She’s stunning, but she’s much more than that. When her mind is not clouded, there’s something quite special there.”
“I think so, too. When she writes, there is suddenly a sentence that touches me, even if the rest of the letter is nothing special and sometimes just mumbo jumbo. While now, for the most part, she is glazed over and thinking only of her mantra, I can sometimes break through and find the Galina I knew. She’s hurt in a way that I don’t understand, but I think I can heal her. I’m going to try.”

It was the last evening and he was happy sitting beside her. The discussion had been toned down. They all knew that David was willing to go to India and in that sense there was no need for further persuasion. He wasn’t quite one of them, but he had shown that he was willing to go a long way along the path to meet his Garudi. I saw people acting towards them subtly as if they were a couple. Those people who had been disapproving when they heard that he had come to see Galina, were accepting, even enthusiastic, to admit him on those terms. I heard little bits of gossip about Garudi and the man from England. In Russia everywhere in Britain is called England. Some people were rather disapproving, but others said the guru had agreed and approved.

I was sitting across from David and Galina. He was being conciliatory about the whole experience. He said he’d enjoyed himself. They talked a little about India, about when it might happen, what it would be like. He was optimistic and whenever he heard of any difficulties, he dismissed them. It was just as things should be at about 10 O’clock on the last night.

“David,” she said. “I have a favour to ask.”
“Sure, anything,” he said.
“Would it be OK if I didn’t go back with you to the airport tomorrow?”
“I don’t think I can manage on my own.”
“But you can get a taxi, it won’t cost much more.”
“I’d rather been looking forward to that time.”
“I know, but I’m going to stay on for a few more days here. We’re planning some quite important discussions tomorrow morning.”
I could see the devastation on his face. He was willing to do so much to be with her, and it seemed she wasn’t willing even to take him to the airport.
“Why do you keep looking at me like that?” she said.
“Like what? I’m disappointed that’s all. But, in the end, it’s not that big a deal. I can get a taxi.”
“But must you keep looking? Every minute you’ve been here you’ve been looking at me. I look round and your eyes are on me. It’s as if they look through me or imagine what’s underneath.”
“Galina, what’s wrong, we were having a nice time thinking about the future and suddenly you are angry?”
“Because I’m sick of it. I’m sick of seeing your desire. You always want to talk to me. But it’s just spam. I want to focus on what’s important and you, you’re always there with your distractions and your trivial wants.”
“When have I ever?”
“But I know what you’re thinking. I know what you want. I know why you want to go to India. You want me. That’s all you want. But I’m going there to find out and to learn. I’m not interested in this thing that you want.”
“Then why on earth did you ask me to come here, Galina? It’s not serious. I was happy to walk away two years ago in Kaliningrad, but you wrote to me. I was happy to walk away again two days ago, but you came and talked of India. Enough! It’s not serious!”

At this he got up and walked out. I went with him and we smoked a couple of cigarettes outside. So it had ended this way, I reflected. It was always likely to. They wanted different things, and I could scarcely imagine how she could change. In the end, if she wasn’t willing to even take him to the airport, what chance did they have of finding something together in India? If they couldn’t find it in Moscow, why would they be able to find it there? If she didn’t really want to spend time with him, if she valued one more discussion as more important than that, then really what was the point?

I saw that he was all choked up, there may have been tears flowing down his cheeks. It was hard to tell in the dark.

“We’ll go for a drink in a minute,” I said.
“I need one.”

But then Galina was flying out of the door. There was a scene where both she and David were almost hysterical. She spoke Russian so quickly that even I struggled to keep up, but there was nothing much to keep up with. He answered as best he could and somehow through the hysterics came a new reconciliation. I have no idea what happened inside while we were smoking our cigarettes. Perhaps, she calmed down a bit. Perhaps, it was at the point when she might lose him that she suddenly realised that she must act and act now. It was all very strange and bewildering even for me. What it must have been like for David I can hardly guess.

They squabbled about who said what and why. She told me to leave and what business of mine was it anyway.

“You’re always looking on, aren’t you, Zhenya? You never say very much about yourself, but you find out about others. There are people in there who are a little scared of you. Did you know that? They wonder who you are.”
“Calm down, Galina,” I said. “I’m happy to leave the two of you to it. Why don’t you go and sit together for a few minutes and sort things out? These tiffs are nothing much. But think calmly. Good night both of you.”

They went off together to David’s room. Of course, nothing happened. They sat for a while, chatting. She was sorry that she’d lost her temper. He asked if she still wanted him to go with her to India. She did. He told me later the sort of things they said.

“You must be patient with me, David. I’m a little confused. I’m tired. I want to learn, I want to keep on this path, but another part of me enjoys ordinary things.”
“You don’t know quite what you want,” he said. “Or else what you want is incompatible with something else you want. That’s fine. You can have both. There’s no need to choose.”
“I don’t know that I can give you what you want.”

“All I want is the chance for us to find out. We need to spend some time together.”

She began fussing about in the room after a few minutes as if she was getting nervous. She saw a book he had been reading and dismissed it as rubbish and that he should not pollute his mind with such things, nor, indeed, should he smoke or drink.

“I think that Zhenya is a bad influence on you,” she said.
“She’s been a good friend to me, but why don’t you call her by her real name?”
“Zhenya is her real name. What do you call her?”
“I think that’s some kind of pet name her husband uses.”
“Oh, well, it hardly matters.”
“Look, I must go. I’ll see you off in the morning. You don’t mind, do you?”
“No. I never really did, Galina.  Do something for me, would you?”
“Embrace me.”

She looked dubious, but they did embrace and held for a few seconds. He could feel her discomfort as he held her close towards him. He could feel the closeness of her body and enjoyed the sensation, but he wondered what she was feeling. He sensed that the experience was difficult for her and yet, perhaps, she, too, had wanted him to do this. But there was a slight tremble that he could sense as he held her as if holding an animal that is scared and wants desperately to be let free. So very soon he released her. There was no question of any more, not even a kiss on the cheek.

“Good night, David,” she said with Galina’s eyes and with no mantra going through her brain. She smiled with her whole face and yet there was also that hint of Russian severity that he rather liked.

The next day I saw him briefly and we exchanged e-mail addresses and telephone numbers. I would talk to him quite a bit over the next few weeks.

With Galina in those last few minutes before the taxi arrived there was nothing really said. She was neither distant, nor affectionate and they only talked of general things, of how he would write to her and of how they would organise their trip.

As he got into the taxi, he looked at her. Her face was pale, her hair was ragged and uncombed, but it was the Galina who he had known. Somehow through all the ups and downs he had been able to communicate to her.

Now even though he expected to see her again in a couple of months, it somehow felt like he would never see her again, and so he carefully photographed the image that she presented to him on a cold sunny Moscow morning. He looked once more, and then she was gone.