Things that I can’t write about right now

I didn’t notice how I started crying. I had been cutting down a story about deaths in a Russian orphanage specifically designed for the children of female inmates – children born in captivity, like tiger cubs in a zoo (though tiger cubs generally get better treatment). Space on the page was limited, 300 words or so needed to go. I was busy making my usual choices – cut down on some of the details? Trim some of the longer quotes? – when I was surprised to find tears cascading down my face.

“Well, damn,” a voice said inside my head.

Someone passed along a link to the infamous video of Judge William Adams beating his screaming, terrified daughter. I was roughly a minute and a half through before I had to turn it off and look at pictures of cats on the internet.

The voice inside my head became less charitable. “How do you expect to cover the news anymore?” It snapped. “Oh em gee, I’m a mommy now! Somebody get me to cover the more appropriate stories! Like the Moore-Kutcher divorce!”

I pretended as though I didn’t hear and scoured the internet for cheap offers on televisions (“Skyrim” is out and I NEED a new TV).

That voice and I – we’ll need to have a chat eventually, though. We will have to reach some sort of impasse. Our constant bickering is bound to get people to start looking at us kinda funny.

In my last play, I made fun of the “hormonal mommy syndrome,” or, rather, society’s reactions to it – but I am also one of those people who makes fun of the things she believes in (see my previous post on religion, for example). I also refuse to believe that hormones are 100% to blame for increased sensitivity following the birth of a child – after all, you end up getting a completely different perspective on life, and it can take a long while to get used to it.

As I dress my child for bed, I hold and kiss his flailing little arms and legs, the little arms and legs that formed inside me for all of those months, and I marvel at the fact that anyone could ever want to harm this pudgy, energetic little body – whether through deliberate neglect, or worse. I am amazed that violence should even exist outside of movies and video games, somehow tricking my own brain into blotting out the entire concept behind how the human race has come to dominate planet Earth. I go full Godwin on myself – wasn’t Hitler once a helpless, toothless, adorable being who grinned at his mother as she picked him up from his crib? Nature has made me invest heavily into life, and so I find it harder to contemplate violent death.

Young filmmaker Madina Mustafyina, part of the same project that allowed my husband to shoot “Katya, Vitya, Dima,” shot a documentary about a family of bums living outside a village in Kazakhstan. These two odious alcoholics have somehow managed to give birth to a pretty little girl, Milana. Seven-year-old Milana and her parents live in the woods. The mother experiences random, completely unpredictable bouts of primitive aggression. She hits the daughter right on camera. The daughter screams and begs and promises to be good. Later, Milana takes sadistic pleasure in trying to feed a captured bird to a dog. “I will kill you!” She rages at the bird. The bird – small, helpless, dirty – is Milana herself.

When Milana’s mother gets extremely drunk (as opposed to her usual state of being, which oscillates between somewhat drunk and very drunk) and stalks off into the woods to hang herself, Milana screams and begs the other adults to stop her, which they eventually do.

Would Milana have been better off in an orphanage? You know, the sort of place where she would be neglected by the underpaid staff and possibly allowed to choke on her own vomit? What does it say about our world when a small child like Milana essentially has two choices: batshit parents or a batshit state care system? The questions hang in the air. Not even “Skyrim” quite drowns them out at the moment.

These are the things that I can’t write about right now. I’m writing about them anyway.

September 2011 is over

I can’t believe that it’s actually over, and I’m expecting to wake up at any point in October and somehow wind up back in September.

I went back to work full time and Alexey nearly finished his film. My mother’s been sunning herself on various beaches of the world, so there’s been zero help at home and we’re spending nearly all of the money we have on our nanny, Nina Ivanovna, who’s not above doing the laundry and the dishes, thank Sweet Baby Jesus.

I somehow managed to write up a new version of my play and sent it off to Modern Drama Week in Kiev – though I think I’d be OK with the fact that a play that premiered in Moscow doesn’t get read in Kiev, if they need me to make room for the newest batch of authors, or just don’t like the play, which is set in Moscow, altogether. Kiev is still where all things began – plays, scripts, and this love affair with Alexey.

The result of the love affair has trouble napping during the day when I’m around, so I put him in his basket, stick it on the floor of the bathroom, and let the water run a little bit. Though I try to use the water sparingly, I have nightmares about the water bill. White noise from the fan just doesn’t seem to do the trick.

The play’s Moscow premiere was alright. I would have asked for something better – my husband cut the two scenes with guns, reading through the synopsis for them instead. You just don’t do that with guns. In his opinion, the problem with the reading was the pace. Still, people got up and said incredibly complimentary things, which surprised me. My so-called generation is classed as the one that came “after the fire-breathing Yury Klavdiev” – i.e., comparatively speaking, we are not as exciting or interesting – but I wouldn’t put, say, Marina Krapivina or Olga Strizhak in that category at all, for example. I’ve been surrounded by interesting people, who are doing interesting things. Perhaps I can learn by example.

In spite of all of these exciting things happening – plays, movies, newspapers, friends, Lyovka slowly learning to lift his head, etc., September has been a tiring, demoralizing month. I feel like the entire Moscow Victory Day Parade has flattened me under wheels and boots – and then turned around and flattened me all over again.

What doesn’t help is that I know that things are about to get more complicated from here on out. The movie will need to have a life beyond the Advanced School of Journalism, beyond Moscow. I’ll have to devote October to English subtitles, among other things.

Fatigue is the ultimate relationship-destroyer. Long before there’s stuff being tossed out of apartment windows, there is fatigue, the gray watchman at the foot of the bed.

Although I’ve fallen into a rhythm – work, baby, work, baby, with occasional flashes of husband-time – it’s not enough, because there is no Natalia-time. Getting to pleasure-read on the metro on the way to and from work does not count. I refuse to believe that it counts. The banya counts, on the other hand – I need more banya in my life.

Then there’s the jealousy of Alexey’s friends and colleagues. If we’re late to some event, I can count on being pulled aside for a little chat about “clipping his wings” and so on – as if my goddamn home life is these people’s business. The fact that we have an infant at home fails to register. Alexey tries to be everywhere at once, and it results in disaster for both of us.

The thing that unites us is the fact that Lyovka has begun to develop a personality. He grins when you come to get him out of his crib, he tries to grab his little green dog rattle. It’s very hard in the beginning, when they’re so small that they kind of don’t register you half the time. Now that Lyovka is constantly chatting away in baby language, communication is being established. Alexey speaks to him in Russian, I do it in English. The nosy neighbors are amazed.

I’m writing about nudism at the moment. Autumn is a third of the way done. Alexey’s off on tour to Poland in just a few days. The trees in Novogireyevo are raining red and yellow. I don’t know what’s going to happen next – I just know that September is over.