I translated a fragment of my memoir “Taking to the moon.” I have written it in third person. Natalia’s character is me. Sergey is the man I was forced to date.
This is the second chapter. It describes a clandestine relationship I was in with another woman, in Russia, before I met Meg.
To recognize that you exist in a dungeon, you have to be able to see the bright sky outside, beyond it’s walls. So it happened to Natalia. She began to sense the dungeon she was living in only when she, for the first time, genuinely wanted to be with another person. This was the kind of person Natalia had no right to be drawn to – it was a woman.
Natalia hardly knew then, last spring, what it was that happened to her and she didn’t analyze her feelings. She only knew she wanted to see that woman, wanted to dash to their rendezvous, be near her, watch her and only occasionally, when there was nobody around, she would touch her hand.
The two women rarely met – once or twice a week. The rest of the time they were spending with their guards. Natalia’s life belonged to her mother and Sergey, Natalia’s young man, and Tatiana’s life belonged to her parents, jealous husband and two children. Each of those rare and incredibly precious days Natalia marked on her wall calendar. Pressing the pencil ever so slightly, so that mother wouldn’t notice it, she drew a small cross in a corresponding cell.
Natalia remembered every single date she had with Tatiana. She kept reviving recollections of those moments, so that she could feel free again, at the helm of her life, feel her heart beating faster, experience thrill, hunger for life. Natalia knew what she felt was right for her and would have become her only choice if she was free to make such a choice. If only she was free… Natalia was convinced she had no right of choice. All she could see ahead, like a horse running with blinds on her eyes, was marriage, children and far beyond, years and years later, the end of her joyless, insensible, pointless life.
On one of those mad days, when the two women managed to steal a few hours to spend them together, Natalia was returning home on a trolley bus. She could still see Tatiana’s face, her eyes, could feel her soft hand. On that day they parted particularly unwillingly, with all the strength of their will trying to halt inevitable arrival of the bus, which was going to take them both to their unwanted, draining, demanding atonements lives.
In oblivion, Natalia reached her apartment building, took the lift to her floor and walked to her door. She didn’t want to disturb her parents, who could be sitting on the couch or watched TV in the kitchen, so she opened the door with her key and stepped into the hallway. When Natalia glanced into her room, her heart sank – parent’s peace was already disrupted. Sergey was in their home. That Sunday he returned from his home town earlier than usually and was now sitting on Natalia’s sofa, looking at her with glazed eyes, anticipating the upcoming hours he would spend with her.
Only on that May Sunday, when she saw Sergey in her room and her awkwardly smiling father, who was entertaining the guy prior to his daughter’s arrival, Natalia realized how real and daunting the threat was. The discovery shook the young woman so much that she could hardly inhale. Natalia was being encircled, corralled into a trap. Gradually, day by day, conversation after conversation, her future was taking more and more clear, concrete outlines. This young man, sitting on her sofa, was going to become Natalia’s husband, for this reason her father and her mother, who was eavesdropping in the kitchen, were so happy to see him, were welcoming him like a dear guest, lavished him.
Natalia hated those two men, who were occupying her room. She recognized that feeling in her and didn’t try to wave it away. In the depths of her soul she was also furious at herself for supporting this theater, for acting in a play they were writing for her, by betraying, silencing the most precious and beautiful to her thing – Tatiana’s presence in her life. The moment Natalia was crossing the threshold of her home, Tatiana was disappearing, fading away like a dream. Sergey alone had the right to inhabit Natalia’s room and her life.
Natalia didn’t say a word then and just walked into her room where Sergey spent the rest of the evening with her. Nearly all of the following days also belonged to him. Tatiana soon disappeared from Natalia’s life. Their relationship lasted only one and a half months – nine dates. After her husband discovered her online correspondence with her female friends, Tatiana was engrossed into a genuine war with him and her parents, fled her home and was either incapable or unwilling to keep seeing Natalia. As for Natalia, day by day, week by week, she kept moving toward her downfall – her joint life with Sergey.