She turned a page to the story of Yurka and Genka:
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Yurka was my love of innocence, she wrote. But both of them could not make me feel cared for, in every aspect of my life. With Victor I love feeling helpless.
She lived in a communal apartment with an unsmiling old woman, a drinking couple, and Genka a college student.
Yurka was a type they called the New Russian, a daring oil-bank entrepreneur. He was her boyfriend.
Genka studied social statistics at the university, or, more exactly, he was supposed to study social statistics. Instead, since he fell in love with Katya, that is Tewtie to you and me, he had been studying the statistics of Yurka’s visits and sleepovers.
Genka’s friend came over often, finding him writing odes to fair maidens, only to stiffen up whenever he heard footsteps going up the stairs. Genka knew the thuds of Yurka entering her room, the jangles of her fussing in the kitchen to bring him a sandwich, and the bumps of Yurka loving her in the night.
The mornings for Genka were the time of humiliation. Genka once complained to his friend that Yurka, clean-shaven and looking like a million petrodollars, strode pointedly, rather than ran down the stairs, ignoring Genka or anyone else curious enough to peek into the hallway.
Genka’s friend often came over with his guitar, offering to write music to Genka’s lyrics. The jam sessions yielded songs of misery. Misery only made Genka drink. After Genka’s friend would leave, Genka would wobble to Kitty’s door, pry it open, and stare at the girl sleeping the sleep of a flowering virgin, to quote his sonnet She Sleeps In Beauty. The spying was painful and made Genka cry. He often stumbled back to his room, read Bulgakov, Bakunin, composed more anthems of his platonic cuckoldom, and, whimpering, fell asleep. He would wake up at odd hours of the day, as miserable as ever, in the pool of drool and in the fumes of vomit.
When Yurka’s flowers - intoxicating, enchanting, foreign hybrids - would wilt, she would throw them into the garbage can in the kitchen. Genka saved them, preserving them in vodka, which to him became hallowed. He never shared it with his guitar-playing friend, and drank it alone. He even wrote Someone’s Bloom, Someone’s Pain, a poem that eventually made him shrug from the realization that he might be poisoning himself with Kitty’s unwanted blossoms.
It all changed. Genka’s whimpers must have been heard in heaven, because one evening he met Kitty slinking down the communal hallway, hiding tears, away from the curious doors of the nosey old woman and the warring couple. All that Genka could say was to offer her a cup of tea, poured just for her.
The tea coup swung the scales in his favor. From the painful bits of what little she could share with him, he cringed to find out how deceived she was in this impossibly dreamy first love, and how naive she had been to offer her innocence and butterfly dreams of a tender girl to the self-made petroleum banker.
The scrawny, stubbly Genka won her over with the charm of a poor student, as he told her, because bohemia and the heart-broken women are a match made by muses.
“Afterwards I decided to pursue figure skating,” she said.
“And Genka?” I asked.
He became a boozer. He slept at the ice rink, waking up for my rehearsals.”
“Is he still there?”
“I don’t know. Why?”
“Let’s go dance.”
“To that ice rink.”
“Great!” she applauded my idea, jumping on me in her voluptuous enthusiasm.
“I’d love being watched by your ex-boyfriends.”