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ANNA KARENINA'S LAST WISH By Yelena Tylkina
Anna Karenina rushes toward me through milky clouds of steam from a passenger locomotive from which, only a moment ago, she disembarks and kisses me on both cheeks three times in the Russian manner. The insane noise of Moscow�s train station is overwhelming and I hear only bits and pieces of Anna�s enthusiastic greeting and something about her adventures in Paris. I laugh, showing her in sign language that I can�t hear a thing, Anna laughs back in understanding and agreement. She looks stunning in her Parisian purple, silk dress with ruffles and lace, powder-pink suede gloves with purple, lilac and coral embroidery of fantastic vegetation. The indigo velvet had designs of bouquets of miniature flowers with black shiny crystals on the hem. A pink veil covered over half of Anna�s face, the latest in chic fashion of the mid- nineteenth century. The elegant, pale brunette shook my arms like a schoolgirl, and her �black currant� eyes sparkled with the dew of happiness to be in my company, at home, in Russia.
Engaged in enthusiastic chatter about the shameless French, with their insane habits like parading openly with lovers in society and making love standing up under the trees in parks and alleys, Anna and I wander out from the train station into an open field of countryside. The warm afternoon in early fall inspires us to walk. The air is fresh and aromatic with the perfume of wild grass, and playful rays of sunshine tickle our faces while the horizon seems endless. On the side of the road, the rustle of white birches resembles young virgins whispering their innocent secrets to the wind. The wide, open space of the Russian landscape moves Anna to tears. She buries her face in her palms and leans on my shoulder, seeking attention. I comfort her through a gentle hug and pet her head in return.
�I missed Russia, my family, husband, son. What else is there in life? �Anna says, wiping her lonesome tear. I twist my face into a fake smile. Since I am a 21st century, bi �sexual, intellectual, artistic, Jewish, body- builder mama of a poverty stricken proletarian background, I have mixed emotions about my place on earth, especially, getting stuck in nineteen century Russia. I take Anna under her arm to continue our leisurely walk. Anna expressed her admiration of my eccentric wardrobe: a Western cowboy costume of a floral print over wool herringbone tweed frock coat with horn buttons, a velvet fuchsia vest, jade, black iris jeans, a cotton poet�s shirt with a ruffled collar, stamped leather, gold heart buckle belt and jeweled and embellished, like an imperial crown, cowboy boots in chocolate calf leather, all crowned with a black cowboy hat. My embellished boots looked ridiculous on a dusty country road, sparkling from the reflecting sun into mini explosions, scaring people around into prayers and curses with three spits over their left shoulder and three crosses over their forehead and chest for heaven�s protection from a bad omens or the evil eye.
�You are creating a spectacle by wearing your jewels in the wrong places.� Anna confided to me. Anna was defiantly flirting with the idea to be �the talk of the season� in society for her brave and adventurous nature. But, if not for her sweet, feminine beauty, I would have died from boredom on the spot.
The cow�s moo�s reached our ears and we burst into laughter, warning each other about the dangers that may lie under our feet, and that we had to watch out. The elixir of life - fresh air - made Anna dizzy and she expressed her wish to take a ride home, because women in her position - the chosen class - did not engage in strenuous physical activity and the fresh air could put too much color in her cheeks. God forbid that she might look like a peasant upon her arrival from Paris. Society keeps its stern, watchful eye on every little detail. Since Catherine the Great, a pearl complexion and solemn demeanor was the trademark of the blue blood.
The rutted road was bustling with muddy streams of pilgrims. There were monks dragging their black cassocks on the ground, transferring hay on carts, peasant men wearing oily sheepskin coats in brown or tobacco and bast-fiber shoes, peasant women in wide, earth tone skirts with heads covered in wool kerchiefs, and horsemen in the uniforms of the czarist army hurrying along with their tasks. The only specs of color on the dusty road were the Gypsies, but not one, solitary, person of Anna�s status with an elegant carriage to give as a ride.
The spoiled society lady begins to show difficulty and capriciously regrets our extravagant idea to wander into the country without supervision. I have a hard time convincing Anna to take a ride in a peasant cart. She probably prefers to ride on my back to her private residence, but not when I am wearing overprized designer boots. This is not the Champs d� Elysee promenade full of bored gentlemen seeking entertainment or diversion of any kind, or St. Petersburg with careless hussars throwing their coats on muddy puddles in front of beautiful ladies, to help them cross a street.
Our dispute came to an end by placing Anna and I on a cart full of aromatic, fluffy hay for five kopecks flat. A sly peasant hid his payment under his tongue and vivaciously whipped his horse. � Hey, Sivka! Move you rascal! We have Boyars in a hurry!� The appaloosa neighed and pulled the cart forward bravely despite the extra weight.
Anna�s ego was damaged by these simple experiences. She pouted her lips like a baby and refused to talk to me. To me, the peaceful ride through countryside was a treat, so I made myself comfortable on the hay by stretching my body and looking up to the sky at the fantastic formations of clouds changing shape from a rabbit to a dragon, from a dragon to a castle. Suddenly, Anna pushed hard in to my ribs and cried:� A museum! Culture in the middle of nowhere!�
I rose up from the very comfortable, relaxing position of laying flat on my back to see what all the excitement was about. Approximately thirty yards away from the road was a steel and concrete Cubist architectural wonder with a sign in Gothic script:
Exhibit of Collections of Freaky Things.
� Maybe they serve refreshments. I�m thirsty.� Anna exclaimed and insisted on visiting the museum. I jumped from the cart first and helped delicate Anna to reach the ground safely by giving her my back to use as a ladder.
� What a klutz!� I said to myself when Anna managed to tear her dress on the edge of the cart.
� I can�t go like this to a museum, people would laugh at me.� Anna was ready to cry again, poking at a hole in her dress, and added.� I�m ruined!� Truly, the sensitivity of the chosen class over superficial thing kills any joy in life. I wanted to slap the spoiled bitch, Anna Karenina, so much that my arms began to ache.
The museum was a rainbow colored labyrinth with some unimpressive graffiti on the walls at the entrance hall, but no art objects inside, whatsoever. Confused groups of people, wearing costumes from every era of our human history, including contemporary chic and very futuristic styles, were wandering inside the museum and asking each other: �Where�s the exit?� In a while, all the people disappeared. Anna and I were wandering inside the Museum for hours and hours to the echo of our footsteps.
Weary, hungry and scared we saw a door with a sign �Live Exhibition�. Finally, we could ask someone how to get out of this odd, empty place. To hell with my overpriced boots I thought and kicked the door open.
The room was an amazing construction of a simulated seashore with a pool especially designed to practice surfing. There were lights simulating sunshine and a disco-bar. A few young guys, wearing only shorts, aged from 20 to 25 years old, tall, handsome and athletic, greeted us as if we were best friends. The conversation began and we asked questions and got some surprising answers. There was no way out of this museum. The seven beach boys had been waiting for women�s company for three years now.
� We were hoping for some bad college girls, but got some nice old ladies who are very classy and fresh indeed!� The beach boys were awfully frank.
� Yeah, over ten years difference in age could be a big deal but, in this special case, and after such long period of loneliness, grandmas may be the way to go.� I commented to myself. � Boys, you could call me �Friday� and Anna, �Summer Break.� I add laughing.
Life was apparently good here in the� Live Exhibition� room. The boys had everything they wanted: the latest food, drinks, music, video games, or anything. Of course, we girls could continue to search for an exit and other exhibition rooms, or just settle in and begin enjoying life.
I look around and see Anna already dancing barefoot with two slender Latinos. She was in pink t-shirt with a sparkling slogan � Hotel California� and white shorts over her deeply suntanned skin that emanated a sublime glow. Her wild hair and the dark purple line around her glossy lips freaks me out.
� How did you get the sun tan?� I screamed. Anna pointed at the blond boy in neon- orange shorts, who was shaking a tube with self tanning cream.� Are you medium skin tone?� The blonde asked. �We have natural skin tone enhancer. We use only organic products here!�
� Daiquiris? Or Martinis? You don�t look like a beer person,� asks another blue eyed, golden locks. I moved my lips in silence, totally stunned by whole scene.
�I feel that lady Friday is a Pomegranate Martini person, please, porfavor, pozaluysta� says one black young man who introduces himself as Dmitry and offers me his help in choosing a beverage. He was soft-spoken and very handsome with exquisite bone structure, elegant and refined even in shorts and sandals. He kissed my hand and smiled. His smile was like an open treasure chest: sparkling, precious and free. I tenderly pet his face.
� You�re as pretty as a night sky full of stars.� I tell him.
� Would you like to be my moon?� Dmitry asked.
I blush from the exuberant comfort of the improvised flirtation. I was ashamed how mach I wanted to stay in the �Live Exhibition� room.
�But what about rest of the world, art, politics, etc.?� I tried to appear overly intellectual. But, whom am I kidding? Anna was already making out with two guys simultaneously with a third massaging her feet. She, the upper crust prissy, finally got connected with her desires. Maybe this is the place to be. No mother Russia, no judgmental family and societal obligations. Women, at their sexual peaks, and with their intense needs, taken care of by a group of young and enthusiastic volunteers.
I gulped down the Martini like a glass of lemonade and stuck my tongue in to Dmitry�s mouth. The kiss was like a sip of hot chocolate, sophisticated, sensitive and passionate. Now, time was mine exclusively. I wanted to be someone�s special priority.