Parallel -- in English Translation
Prologue – First Contact
Reality 1 -- Oregon coast, USA, 2012
She wanted to cry, but the tears wouldn't come; there was no point, she was completely alone. On her left, somewhere to the East, lay the Oregon coastline. Damn fog — impenetrable, solid, colorless — how she loathed it, how deeply it terrified her. Following seas shoved her forward. The wind was relentless, it would not let up. The time of year didn't matter, the seas here were always ruled by ferociously, cold winds and monstrous waves. Several miles to port, these waves hammered and tore at the shore.
Six years since being flung by a storm into Juan de Fuca strait, Elena and Meg found themselves fighting with the Pacific once again. This time, heading South along the West coast to California. Elena glanced to her left. Through a gap in the impenetrable grayness, a flash of yellow caught her eye. She was seeing sand dunes, riven with stripes of dark vegetation — Oregon's Pacific coast. Elena wondered why, here and now, the fog should part and grant her a few precious minutes to gaze at the unreachable land. Land she couldn't even dream of setting foot upon. This shore was deadly. North America's Pacific coast was notorious for it's constant storms, freezing temperatures and huge waves. The unbroken, sheer coastline offered almost no safe harbors, or refuge from the sea.
Elena and Meg had to endure, at least, a few more days of suffocating fog before encountering any human settlement or opportunity for rest. For Elena, time stopped. Nothing else existed for her now, only the expanse of lifeless fog and the white sliver of a vessel drowning in it.
Bottomless despair flooded her mind, overwhelmed every thought. Hour after hour, as though in a fevered delirium, she gazed at the waves and peered into the mist. Plunging into this band of fog, a couple of days ago, Elena was in a free-fall of disorientation. The world was gone, with it's continents and it's civilizations. Only the outline of the coast on the chart plotter and their course line proved that Elena and Meg, indeed existed. That they were on Earth, and not floating in the atmosphere of a gas giant — the only substance being water, embodied in droplets of fog.
To pass the time without feeling disconnected from the world, Elena grabbed a player she had loaded with Russian songs. To her left she could still see the yellow strip of coast — there was something to catch the eye. Something to distract her from the fear and desolation, and let her imagine life on land going on, plants, and sunshine.
Elena had never felt so hopeless, facing the sea, as she did at that time. It was worse than anything she had experienced getting to Canada, or afterwards, waiting in limbo. The voyage to Canada hadn't been anywhere near as terrifying. Back then, she and Meg had been together, fighting their way home. Sailing and life on the high seas were completely new to her. All she could see was victory, triumph and cloudless skies ahead.
Reality crept in gradually. The love boat was breaking up on the rocks of cynical bureaucratic contempt, and even Canadian, petty spitefulness. This was something a year of existence with Meg, and knowing nothing but love, respect and compassion couldn't possibly prepare Elena for. In only the company of each other, they couldn't anticipate the life that awaited them on land, among people. On their journey to Canada, survival was immediate, there was no room for speculation about the future. Meg and Elena were on the run; first from Russia, and then, as though from the whole world, just to be themselves, just to be together.
Elena looked disdainfully at the indistinct, beige stripe in a distance. She sneered, remembering Meg's mother telling her how beautiful the coast of Oregon is. Not that she and Meg would see any more of it than these few, taunting glimpses. In her last, rare letter to Meg, her mother extolled the virtues of this scenic coast. It was her way of denying anything threatening or real in her daughter's life. “Oh, how beautiful it is!” was Meg's mother's response to her saying that she is taking a tiny vessel down one of the world's most deadly coast lines.
Holding her collar against the biting wind, Elena struggled against a flood of dark thoughts. Shaking from the cold, seeing no more than 20 meters ahead, buffeted by heartless waves, it was impossible to imagine anything good. Yet this wasn't the worst. What was hollowing her out was knowing that she had no home. That nobody on the planet was waiting for her. That in reality, there was nowhere to go. For the foreseeable future, the ocean had become her only sanctuary.
Luckily, there was Meg. As before, Elena and Meg were inseparable, and were surviving only because they were together. Elena was afraid to wonder what would have happened to her, had Meg disappeared one day. That would be the end. Besides Meg, Elena had nobody in the whole world. She had only Meg, and perhaps, as always, this very yacht.
Song after song played through Elena's headphones. One of her favorite movie soundtracks came on next.
“Damn it…” Elena's heart ached. She fell in love with that melody when she was a little girl. At the time, the series was playing on Soviet television. Every time the closing credits ran, Elena froze, enraptured by the music. It was a mysterious and visceral force, a wondrous miracle that convinced the little girl, she was safe, that tomorrow was full of promise, and that she was loved. Everything beautiful, Elena had experienced in her seven short years of life, was embodied in this enticing, alluring, inspiring piece of music. The piece was irrefutable proof, goodness and love, were real.
Her tears came in a torrent. Elena couldn't stop them, she didn't even try. “Mama, mamochka, where are you?” Elena screamed inside herself. She wouldn't let Meg watch her crumble. “Where are you?”
Is it all lost? Could this be it, the end? Will I never be acknowledged by my mother? My life, my achievements, my dreams, my very essence? No matter how many years went by, Elena clung to the belief that the day would come, when her mother would reach out to her, say the words that would change everything. Erase all the wrongs she inflicted because none of it would matter any more. Elena's childhood wouldn't have been a lie, and her mother's love would have been confirmed.
At that moment, what Elena needed more than anything, was to know that her mother cared about her and knew what she was going through. That she wasn't alone, that she had come from somewhere. That she had a family, had a past. Still, on the same small sailboat; surviving on the ocean; stripped of any land to call, home; with only seven, tiny, backwards, Caribbean states whose shores she — still only a refugee — was allowed to set foot upon. That's when the reality of it dawned on Elena: her mother was gone from her life. From then on, her home was Meg and their tiny yacht upon the endless ocean.
The fog was closing in. Swallowing up the shoreline until only a horizontal gash remained, before it too was erased. Reality was again a featureless, bone chilling, curtain of white nothingness. In it, the two of them were reaching for the sun on their floating island — their yacht; which rising and falling on the waves, was tracking slowly southward.
Leaden waves were crashing onto the rocky Oregon shore. The wind, relentless, blew from the northwest.
* * *
Reality 2 -- Ivanovo, Russia, 2005
Yelena lay there, jolted from sleep. She stared into the dark, reliving the visceral emotions and memories of a dream too real to be just a nightmare. Was it a sailboat? Was it an ocean? An unfamiliar coastline in an alien world? Disturbing and clammy dread had her sitting, bolt upright.
She was alone in the apartment. It was Saturday morning, the wee hours — one of Yelena's treasured, blissful nights, when she could be herself. When she was free of her keepers. For two nights and two days, she lived for no one but herself; could finally listen to her heart; could let herself heal. She could convince herself that her life and destiny wasn't as foreboding, that she had a chance of a happy outcome.
With some difficulty, Yelena pried her crusty eyelids apart. She'd spent the night crying herself to sleep, wondering what it all meant. Was it all over? Had it even begun, had there been anything at all? Other than her and Natalia, nobody knew anything about them and their precious meetings. Their fleeting relationship would die without ever seeing the light of day, expressed only as whispers in the twilight, hidden from the world. Without witnesses, could it even be a relationship? It was more of a month-long, secret mission, destined to fail. Natalia and Yelena were its only operatives and witnesses. Once again, all that remained was the void.
Yelena got up from the hide-a-bed, crossed the rug and sat at her desk. Now that she was in the dark, it was easier to listen to her heart, to wallow in her pain. No need to boot the computer, there would be no more fiery messages or invitations from Natalia. Yelena almost wished she hadn't found her in the chat room, online after she'd said she'd be with her parents at their communal garden plot outside the city. If she hadn't caught her, Yelena would still be floating in the uncertain euphoria of her clandestine connection with that woman. Everything was beautiful when they were seeing each other. Nothing was impossible.
Of course, it couldn't end well. Yelena had no way of seeing the future, but she felt it, deep down, where mind always defers to reality and tramples affairs of the heart. They would never let them be together. They would stomp on their affection for each other, they would denigrate and destroy them, each in their own way. Yelena had her parents against her. Natalia's husband and family tore at her with threats to take away her children, to have her tossed from her job by revealing her depravity. Yelena knew it was why Natalia had to break it off with her. Pinned to the wall, she could only capitulate.
Yelena's situation wasn't any better. She had one more night alone, and then, her parents would come back from their own rural garden plot. Everything would go back to normal: Yelena would again become the wax doll her mother was shaping her into; a wax doll with a wax future. A nightmare she fell asleep with every night. Although her pain got more acute every day, it wasn't apparent to Yelena that her future was dictated by her mother.
Why a sailboat? Where did that come from? Yelena wondered, switching on the desk lamp. She had never seen a yacht, had never been to sea. What could spark that vivid dream? Maybe it was a movie, she thought, but no, there had been nothing like that on TV. The sea and sailing were completely alien to her. The closest she had come to it was on an all-inclusive to the Turkish coast last summer. There she'd seen a forest of masts in a distant marina. It was on that trip, her first time out of Russia, first time away from everyone she knew, that she was overcome by an unbridled, primal lust for freedom. Like a wild animal, following her senses, choosing her own path. That she was chaperoned by her loathsome boyfriend, Dima, only made that feeling stronger.
No, Yelena had nothing around her connected to the sea. Maybe just the little, sailor figurine, perched whimsically on her grade-school abacus. She picked it up, remembered buying it on an bus tour to Saint Petersburg's famous Aurora battle-cruiser. She imagined the jolly little fellow was probably a boatswain from his imperious stance. Leaning casually with one booted leg up, and elbows on his knee, he looked cunningly back at Yelena, as though he had answers to all the mysteries in the world.
She put the figurine back down on his perch, turned off the light and crawled back into bed. Drifting off to sleep, she willed the nightmare vision that woke her, not to take her back to that place, where nothing existed but the sea, a sailboat, and fear.