Sunday, March 15, 2009
I am fading, wasting away. I am unpopular because even to my people I am not a subject thought fondly of.
But now there is a war. A war that may help me. There is a child, one who may learn to love me and trust me. She has such sadness in her future. Perhaps I can help her. Perhaps she will help me in return. She is good, and strong, and adaptable.
Katerine looked around her at her New World. That’s what everyonecalled it. Her parents were so excited to start anew. “No moreSnow!” They would declare. “No more Putin!” But Katerine wasseven, and the snow wasn’t so bad. The days it was dangerous she gotto stay inside. And Putin was just another old man who said a lot ofboring things. Besides, this “New World” looked just like the old. Snow was covering New York. February was cold here too. Airplanewindows clouded from Katerine’s breath as they began to descend. Shesaw buildings that were different, but it was still snowy and cloudy. Had they really only flown a little ways and her nap was very short? Maybe it was just another part of Russia.
Katerine knew that that was not how it really was, but it was fun toimagine. She daydreamed that Peotr would be waiting for her when shegot off the plane, on break from the army. But that was impossible. Asimpossible as ever seeing her beloved Russia again. Her brother Peotrwas killed in the push to claim Georgia. He was never coming back. Itwas the catalyst that brought her parents to the United States, but itwould be a long time before Katerine would understand that.
Katerine was jerked by her mother. “Wake up sleepy head! We’rechanging planes. Only eight more hours to California!” and Katerinegot up, trudged out of the plane and walked sedately behind her parents.She could hear them whispering about her, how she had no energy itseemed. Her mother said that perhaps traveling tires Katerine. Perhaps it does, Katerine thought.
Another plane ride, more daydreaming of Russia and Peotr. Katerinenever noticed when she fell asleep. In her dreams she saw images of abeautiful woman clothed in ice and snow. Her hair was made of barrenbranches, her face of craggy rock. There were stars in her eyes and anancient feeling. Katerine recognized her from the stories told by theold woman who did not go to church. “Koljada” Katerine breathed inher sleep. Peotr kept appearing with her, covered in his cloth of snow.He looked pale, but not how mama looked when she was pale. Peotr hadno dark circles under his eyes, neither did he look like his lips werecracking. In fact, he looked like normal, if someone had whitewashedhim. Katerine called for him over and over again, every time she sawhim. The last time, he turned and smiled at her and put a finger to hislips for quiet. The she was being woken again, this time to look at anocean of homes. Nowhere Katerine looked was there tall buildings orgiant apartment complexes. Instead, there were trees and sunshine andhomes! Real homes! Katerine forgot her dreams.
Months passed, and as much as she loved the sunshine and the warmth andshirts with short sleeves, she was not adjusting well. Her sleep wasalways troubled. She dreamed of snow often. The more she loved the sunand green of California’s southern suburbs the worse the dreams got. She would wake up shivering in the middle of the night. When herparents would come in the next morning they would find her sweatingunder piles of extra blankets.
One night was particularly bad and her parents were woken by screamingcoming from Katerine’s room. She was screaming for Peotr. When theywoke her, she remembered nothing of her dream, but she seemed to growdespondent after that. She stopped running through the sprinklers intank tops and shorts. Stopped playing in the street with new-foundfriends. She stopped being a normal seven year old.
So one day in May they took her to the beach. The water was warm andthe sand floating in the tide sparkled like glitter. It was verypretty. Katerine loved it. She shrieked with delight when the tideknoked her over, scrambled on rocks to look for sea urchins andanemones. She even made a pile of sand she assured her parents was acastle. Her parents were relieved, and Katerine felt better. It was asif the ocean had breathed life into her. They decided to take her tothe ocean every couple weeks, even though it was an hour drive in goodtraffic either way. Katerine was all they had left after Peotr died,and she was worth anything.
But when they tried to take her the next time she began to cry,terrified, and almost became hysterical until they promised to not takeher any more. They did not understand, and neither did Katerine. Onlythat she was scared of the ocean. Her memory of that one day was sobeautiful, she could not reconcile it with the trepidation she felt. Her sleep had seemed good, her dreams pleasant, her friends were good toher and she was good back, she did well in school. Everything was fineunless someone mentioned the ocean. So no one did except in schoolwhere she learned about fish. It wasn’t the same though. Fish werein every ocean. She was even able to go with her classmates to theaquarium field trip. But when one of her friends she was having abirthday party at the beach, Katerine stopped talking to her. Sheavoided her at all costs and refused to go to the party.
Katerine’s own birthday was coming up, and she decided she wanted aparty at the pizza place, with the jungle gym full of tubes to climbthrough and a ball pit to swim around in and lots of pizza (not likeback home pizza though). Her parents did everything they could toaccommodate her, they even sent out invitations in primary colors withher mother’s terrible English written on them. Katerine asked for oneCyrillic for Peotr. They gave her one, just to keep. She was stillgrieving after all. It hadn’t even been a year. And remembering thedead was never wrong. He may not have died in a good war, but he diedin war just the same.
Katerine’s parents decided not to make her go to the beach birthdayparty. Katerine felt left out when everyone came home and talked abouthow much fun they had, but made a face every time they mentionedactually going in the water. She changed the subject often with talk ofher own birthday party and everyone was getting excited about that too. The day before her parents too Katerine shopping for a new outfit. Shefound lots of things, but nothing for just that special day. “Eightis a big number, you know.” She would say seriously when turning downyet another lovely outfit. “It has to be just right.”
All through the mall they tramped, looking, looking. Katerine foundnothing that would do. Her mother asked her if she’d like to look atother stores, maybe another mall, but Katerine suddenly knew what shewanted. Her mother had a snowy white sweater. It was fluffy and soft. She asked her mother if she could wear that, borrow it. Her motherlaughed. “Silly! That’s too big for you, and this is June inCalifornia! It’s too hot for a sweater.”
But Katerine was insistent. Her mother finally broke down and gave herthe sweater, but she insisted on making it fit Katerine first. She tookin the sides, but left it long, like a dress, and took the sleeves uptill they were just little caps, like half a snowball on each shoulder. With Katerine’s long dark brown hair and big brown eyes and pale skin,she looked beautiful, like a little snow angel. Katerine put jeans onunderneath and low boots and looked lovely and mature, her mother caughta glimpse of the woman she’d become.
The party went without a hitch. Other parents stayed and Katerine's parents got to know their neighbors. That night they all went for ice cream before bed. Katerine had coconut flavor with almonds. She loved the sunshine flavor of it.
On the way home, her parent's Camry was hit head on by a drunk. Neither of her parents had remembered their set belt, which was strange sine they were very paranoid about getting a ticket over it. The drunk didn't wear his either. All three adults involved were cut to pieces from broken glass, but that was nothing compared to their landing in the broken glass. All three died in a pile together, looking like freshly butchered meat.
Katerine went to live at a foster home. Her foster parents were nice, American, and disturbed by the fact that she continually talked to her parents and someone named Peotr. Koljada was often whispered reverently in her sleep. They told her counselor about it, but he said it was just a coping mechanism.
Two weeks later they were at the beach. Her foster parents were with her on a boat. Her foster mother hit her head and went over. Katerine saw and called for her foster father. He was too late. Bereaved, her foster father decided he could no longer foster any child. He wanted to be alone. When Katerine was picked up from the home, he hugged her goodbye, a long heartfelt hug. Then, once the door was closed, there was a loud boom. Police had to be called and a social worker took Katerine away.
Katerine bounced from foster home to foster home, but she paid little attention to the living. Koljada was with her, and she was able to see and speak to her dead. Her comfort in life was the snowy arms of the Goddess and the voices of her brother and parents. Katerine grew up, went to college on the state's dime, and became a medical examiner. She was able to talk to the dead that landed on her table, and get information for where to look. She excelled at her job and refused promotions. She lived well, did what she could for the dead, and worshiped the Goddess who gave her what she needed to help others. The goddess grew strong and began to help others similarly. Her festival grew popularity again in Russia.
I was right. She is good and strong. And she LOVES me. And I love her. It feels wonderful. She gives me strength and I give her comfort. Symbiotic, the way it should be. She has brought so much to me, and now, I'll bring her to me. She is old, her body is weary and I have not the power to remove the cancer from her body. But I can make her passing easy, and in a moment, she will truly be in my arms.