Translated from Russian
Elena thought it was the sea she hated, but it was the loneliness. Out there, beyond the endless plain of water, it consumed her with its taciturnity and desolation. With each casting-off to sea, to the ocean, Elena shrank inside. She tried not to think, analyze, or feel. There was no room for weakness. She and Meg had to keep moving forward; keep on living. Vulnerability, fear, or indecision lead only to defeat, when your life belongs to others and they decide for you, what fills you with joy, what meets your needs, and to what you should aspire. Be it in Russia, Canada, or any country on earth, standing up for your life and the right to live it your way, was equally arduous. It was the same everywhere, only the methods of pacification, constraint and programming differed.
Meg was close to only one other person besides Elena; a French girlfriend she’d known since University. By now, Elena had no one in her life but Meg. She filled the void by recalling her former life in Russia — her school, college, her job, the building she lived in. Back then, she knew and socialized with many people. Although they were not close, nor was she of much concern to them, they, at least, knew her in such a way as to be aware of her existence. They were part of her world, her home, her country. Since then, Elena had adapted to having only one person in the whole world who knew and worried about her — Meg, with whom Elena had shared her life since running to her in February 2006, in Kiev.
Elena yearned for friends, acquaintances, community to share her life with, but mostly to tell them about Meg. About what an amazing person she was, and about how much she loved her, and about how they met each other, and then, how they grew closer, and how they finally met in Kiev’s airport. Elena dreamed of the conversations she might have with them; with Russians, in Russia, in a cramped kitchen, at a tiny table with a colorful, plastic tablecloth. There would be tea in plain but cherished cups and dishes. She would, most certainly, have wept, overwhelmed with feelings and memories, tears of relief that her listener wasn’t chasing her away for her love to Meg, but was happy for both of them.
“Freedom doesn’t come without cost.” Meg used to say. “There is always a price to pay for freedom and its ramifications.” And so, they became castaways without attachment to any country or address. Elena and Meg, having fled from their old world hadn’t become part of another. But perhaps, they hadn’t lost anything at all, but had found freedom, itself. The whole planet was now home for Elena and Meg.
In 2006, crossing the planet with Meg, Elena had no idea what people, what country she would encounter on the other side. For Elena, throughout the year it took, Canada was Meg. Elena’s expectations were shaped by Meg’s views and values, and more than anything, by Meg’s love for Elena: her absolute, intrinsic need to help, to mend, to save. Meg was doing it all, entirely on her own, without anybody’s help or support. For the most part, she was met with common indifference. Unsolicited advice usually came down to taunts, mockery, and attempts to talk her out of it. Only the two of them believed that Meg was capable of completing a sea voyage from Turkey to the Pacific coast of Canada; that Elena wouldn’t flinch and give in; that they would keep loving each other despite the obstacles. Finally, inspired by their love and confident only in themselves, they took to the open sea from Marmaris bay.
Many years after the journey, Elena began to realize that she wasn’t the only one who broke free of her shackles and ran from her world. Meg had done the same. Elena’s rose-tinted delusions of western Utopia had been fading and finally disappeared altogether. Nowhere on earth was Utopia. How and where one ends up in life is entirely dependent on one’s own decisions and actions along the way. In Meg’s case, she made the decision to fly across the Atlantic and Europe to meet with Elena in Ukraine. She had only a vague notion of what kind of person Elena would turn out to be. But both Elena and Meg knew that it had to happen. They were determined to make it happen, as though the upcoming meeting was as inviolable as something that had already happened. They both knew, without question, that this meeting would mark the beginning of a new way of living — fearlessly, honestly, without pretense, and without artifice for the sake of others.
Elena became an outcast the instant she declared her love for Meg; losing her parents, friends, and community. Meg’s family – although it was from the progressive, liberal West – affixed upon their faces, masks of propriety and grace whenever Elena and Meg appeared in their company once every two or three years – in reality, they either hated Meg’s guts, or resented the reminder of her existence during one of the ceremonial, Canadian festivities that oblige family ties and kinship.
Gazing in wonder at an army of Meg’s relatives, Elena saw clearly their interest and relationship to Meg. There was none. In Russia it’s unusual to meet anyone, even a passerby in such a way. People still look each other in the eye, ask how things are, and offer a place to sit for a while. Ten years after their last family gathering, nobody hugged Meg, nobody patted her on the back, nobody asked her about her life. Nobody cared that she risked her life for over one year to save the person she loved, that she still had to fight to be with her, that she could have vanished in the ocean, could have been killed, and that, years later, was still living with the emotional and financial ramifications of the journey. In affluent Canadian circles, unsanctioned, headstrong, recklessly-risky actions, are not only incredibly inappropriate, they are also truly disgraceful. No one talks about it. No one mentions it.
Meg no longer had real estate, investments, money in the bank. She didn’t have her own private island in Bahamas or an enormous yacht with a crew of thirty, and she didn’t bag a tycoon or celebrity for a husband. In other words, her value as a daughter or niece was nil. Elena and Meg had nothing in common with those people. It was a party they didn’t fit into: where everyone knew each other, but nobody knew anything, or cared to know, about current-day Meg and her Russian friend. That Christmas became their first, and the last that they celebrated together with family. Meg’s all too familiar feelings of desolation, rootlessness, and alienation returned. Only her mother’s sporadic letters, written to assuage her conscience, reminded her that somewhere in the world, existed people she was related to. The letters were all the same. Daily life of the august family was going on brightly. Meg’s mother, relatives and their friends would be having a terrific time on a mega yacht of some Hollywood movie star, or winging their way to the North Pole on a chartered Boeing airliner to look at polar bears.
Meg was losing her country piece by piece, fraction by fraction. Actually, it wasn’t the country she was losing, but her illusions. Fostered back then, years before. Back, when she was spinning in higher circles where there was success, money, and safety. Smugly detached from the reality that went on underneath; among have-nots and underdogs; who, for one reason or another, never made it to the upper echelon.
Loss of her house couldn’t have been anything but hollowing out and horrifying for Meg. Elena ran from her home, from her town and apartment, leaving all her possessions behind. Where as, Meg had to sell, give away and destroy, piece by piece, everything she had once cherished and held dear. The house was placed for sale and it’s contents — furniture; Meg’s favorite tools, with which she and Elena built the solarium and added a story; tableware; potted plants; instruments; keepsakes — was given away to strangers or simply destroyed, wrecked, dumped into a landfill. Absolutely everything was disappearing, rooms were emptying out, Meg and Elena were sleeping on the floor. How could Meg live through this? Why didn’t she howl from pain, giving away some beloved thing or a book for nothing, or heaving it into a forty-yard, rolloff bin? Elena couldn’t fathom. Meg was an inconceivable, unique person. Elena knew it in Kiev. In the ocean she knew it, and she knew it now. Nobody ever, in Elena’s life, did anything of that kind. Nobody ever parted with everything that, for a modern human, defined life itself — a home, and everything it embodied, right down to the furnishings, kitchen and hearth. Mainly, nobody would ever descend from their echelon, with its image of wealth and the right to be among others with the same kind of wealth. In Canada it was unthinkable.
For Elena, Meg was a warrior, a chieftess, a goddess of the Earth who extolled life higher than anything else, who lived by every day, admired every day, every sunset and sunrise, every bird, every living thing and never had enough of them. Elena was never bored with Meg, she couldn’t be. Elena wanted to share with Meg, absolutely everything, and absolutely everything was beautiful, if Meg was near. After meeting Meg the world started to glow, to shimmer for Elena, to promise wondrous gifts. The world had never been so beautiful. Elena had never been so happy and free.
Meg. Megan. – Elena’s eyes stung. She recalled, how back home, in Russia, she would think this name to herself and only rarely pronounce it. Then, for her, Meg was nothing but photographs, words on the screen and a voice in the phone. Now, Meg was sitting right beside Elena, on the divan in their yacht. She was real.
Meg and Elena were spending that evening, like every other one together: then, it was dinner in the galley while watching an episode of BBC’s “Paradise.” There could be nothing better in the world: pizza on the table from their favorite store, “Trader Joe’s,” enticing amber beer, and to the right, there was Meg in her pajamas that were so dear to Elena. Elena’s eyes stung again. No matter how many years were passing, Elena kept leaning towards Meg at the table, nuzzling her neck, feeling her close. The miracle that Elena found, twelve years ago, that was refusing to fade, wasn’t just finding Meg, but was something inside herself. No matter what awaited the two of them in the future; no matter what tomorrow would bring; there was no better life for Elena, if the evening went on like this — with dinner and Meg beside her.