Once in Geneva automotive show I saw a man, who had been looking at a Bugatti Veyron from all angles for a quarter of an hour. I overheard him saying: “I want this car so bad, so bad, that my heart is bleeding“.
Has it ever happened to you?
Have you ever experienced this weird feeling that you want something so bad that this desire is bigger and stronger than you, and you can do nothing about it, just follow it? You can think of nothing else. You get feverish from that desire. Intoxicate yourself with fantasies. You want it so bad, that it hurts. Day after day. Night after night.
The name of that desire was Ingrida.
We attended the same high school. She was like an obscure, unremarkable plant in a corner of a corridor. You could pass her by a hundred times and would never notice that she was there.
And then in the junior year she started to bloom, suddenly, without any advance warning. Her stalk was tall, leaves gentle and elegant, the flower-bud disorderly gorgeous in a flamboyant color of dark copper.
Have you ever experienced shivers while listening to music? I had that kind of tremble going down my spine when I really saw her for the first time.
I fell in love with her immediately, with a sort of guerilla love that hides, sets ambushes around every corner and never never never surrenders. I worshiped her five times a day. Ingriiida akbar! And I hated all the infidels.
I desired her more than anything in the world.
That was a stupid, self-destructive and totally irrational desire. You see she was a princess and I was a nobody.
Actually, I was worse than nobody. In the high school my nickname was „monkey“. I guess it was a rather apt nickname. I had long arms, brute face and failing scores in almost every subject. My four brothers and a sister attended the same school and we all shared that same nickname. A few times I picked up a fight because of it, but you can‘t really fight everyone. That wasn‘t just a nickname, that was a description of my social status.
My family lived in one-bedroom apartment with a tiny kitchen. My mom used to work all day round just to feed the family. My dad used to drink all day round, just ... eh ... oh well, for no particular reason. It was like a full-time job for him. Whenever he was sober, he would beat the crap out us, so I preferred him being drunk. We slept on mattresses, with the exception of my sister, who had a bed, because she was sick all the time. It sounds weird, I know, but my childhood was quite happy. Only later on I figured out that I am a piece of trash.
Ingrida, quite to the contrary, was born to the creamy layer of society. Her mother was a professor at a medical school. Her father was the chairman of the city committee of the communist party. I don‘t think he believed a tiniest bit in the communist ideology, but made himself a fine career anyway. He was in charge of running a city of half-a-million people with all the prestige and perks that come with it.
Ingrida fit her social layer perfectly well – she was a straight-A student, played piano and probably would have been a competitive figure skater, if her parents would have thought it worthwhile.
I used to observe her from a distance. Her curly hair. The way she walked – like gentle sea waves running to a shore. I gazed at the perfectly ironed white collar on her school uniform and the belt knot on her back. Sometimes I would not even know what I was looking at. These were the absolutely best things in the world, yet undiscovered and unnamed.
One day she walked straight to me and asked:
„Why in the bloody hell are you looking at me all the time? “
My face turned red like a monkey‘s ass.
„Because you are beautiful“- I said. Gosh. It felt as if I was talking to a god.
She lifted her eyebrows.
„Then look at the paintings in a museum“- she said, but her tone was no longer angry. „Stop stalking me“.
She turned and walked away.
We used to take the same bus after school. I tried to be a shadow next to her, barely noticeable. She would not order me to go away, but neither would she invite me to approach. Sometimes I would catch a sunray of her smile. Sometimes she would tell me „bye“, while getting off the bus. And that was enough to make me heavenly happy.
One day, quite unexpectedly she invited me to come to her birthday party.
„Sure, I‘ll come“– I said as if it was the most natural thing. However, the very moment I got off the bus I started to have second thoughts. I have no money. What will bring her as a present?
I tortured myself throughout the night. I the morning I decided not to come. Just apologize politely and that‘s it.
Then I changed my mind again. I thought of a solution. Two days in a row I skipped the school and instead I would steal some tulips from the private gardens in the posh area of the town. Then I would sell them in a small market by the railway station. That netted me a sum of 25 rubles, it was the largest fortune that I ever had. My brothers reported on me to my parents. My father beat me up worse than usual with a wide army belt and took away the money. But not all of it, I managed to hide away 10 rubles.
With that money I bought Ingrida a present – a horribly kitschy picture with an ember frame. Once more I skipped the school and used the time to steel some splendid velvet tulips. Then I went at Ingridas to congratulate her on her 16-th birthday.
The house of Ingrida‘s parents shined with parquets, paintings, crystal chandeliers and tasteful antique art deco furniture. I did not know a thing about decorative arts then, but now, thinking back, some of these paintings were probably by Kandinsky and Ciurlionis and some other museum quality names. What impressed me twice as much was the American or Japanese house appliances which was the stuff you would never see in the Soviet Union. Except, of course, in the private houses and dachas of the communist party elites.
The birthday was attended by the golden youths. Boys bragged about their motorbikes and motorboats. Girls showed off their French or Italian clothes. Everybody was mocking the school uniform pants that I was wearing, and, of course, my incredibly lame gift.
I overheard somebody whispering: “Ingrida, why, did you really invite a monkey to your party? Take care, he will steel something“.
I saw how Ingrida blushed. I was an embarrassment to her. I felt my stomach contracting to a small ball of nerves and then raising up to my throat. Quietly I took my jacked and slipped away.
Next day in the bus it was Ingrida who came and sat down next to me.
„Where did you disappear yesterday?“- she asked me in a severe tone.
„I did not want to embarrass you“.
She examined my face with obvious distrust.
„You disappointed me“– she said – „ I had some plans regarding you. In fact, it was a bigger embarrassment to me that you left. I lost a bet. “
„What was the bet about? “ I asked.
„Oh, never mind. I‘ll tell you some other time“
She smiled at me. Her eyes were so very very green. I could not decide, whether they were kind or cruel.