Font: Lucida Bright (part of the large Lucida family of fonts)
Year created: 1991
Chapter: “Lyuba Hits Rock Bottom”
Book: The Twelfth Time: Lyuba and Ivan on the Rocks
Written: 22-26 September 2011
Computer created on: 2008 15-inch MacBook Pro
File format: Word 2004
This is Chapter 34 of my second Russian historical novel, the penultimate chapter of Part I, “Lower East Side Blues.” Throughout the last four years, Lyuba and Ivan’s living situation has gotten increasingly worse and worse, and Lyuba finally reaches the point where she can’t take it anymore. While her four children are suffering from whooping cough, she decides she’s had enough and leaves the quarantined tenement for her old friends Alya and Anya in Greenwich Village.
After two weeks with Alya and Anya, who have been quarantined as well just to be safe (since whooping cough is a dangerous, contagious disease, contrary to the woo-filled, historical revisionist, anti-science propaganda of the anti-vaccination cult), Lyuba returns home to the same dirty, small tenement and poor money. She can’t take it anymore and attempts suicide. After this, Ivan is finally woken up to how seriously their marriage is in trouble, and he agrees to a temporary separation to start after Orthodox Christmas.
The only f-words in the entire book (at least in English) come in this chapter, all five of them from Lyuba’s mouth. I had my Atlantic City characters cussing way too frequently in the old days. The words lost their impact when they were constantly uttered, even if it was meant as a spoof on young people whose every other word is a swear. Now I save them for when it’s really relevant and makes a big impact. Given her shattered emotional and mental state, who could blame her for using the f word on her own husband?
Some highlights, so to speak:
Lyuba holds Kátya’s hands as she takes another whooping cough. “I know you must be really scared because it feels like you can’t breathe, but you’re going to get over this the same way you’ve gotten over other sicknesses. Most children have this disease, and there’s no vaccine against it yet.”
“Don’t blame me,” Iván says as he holds a cold compress over Dárya’s forehead. “It’s your fault for taking them over to see that crazy woman so much. They all caught it from her best friend’s bastard.”
Iván rushes over to Fédya when he starts violently coughing. “I know just the thing to clear up your lungs and throat. We’re going to go to the washroom, and I’ll turn the hot water on all the way to make lots of steam. It cured your big sister when she had croup back in Russia.”
Iván walks Fédya to the washroom as he starts violently coughing again. Lyuba looks down at her daughters and out at the mess in the apartment. As much as she hates to leave her children when they’re sick, she can’t stand being cooped up here a minute longer. And it’s late enough in the afternoon for Álya and Ánya to be home from work.
“I have some friends you don’t know about. Modern women are entitled to conduct their own affairs and not tell their husbands all the details.” Lyuba bends down to hug her daughters, then goes to hug Fédya.
Lyuba looks down at Borís. “I’m here to visit friends of mine, not that it’s any concern of yours. Are you embarrassed I’m almost six feet tall in boots, while you’re closer to the ground even in boots?”
Borís rubs his hands together in glee as Lyuba continues up the street, more convinced than ever that she’ll be putty in his hands with the passage of a little more time. He can’t wait to hear the news of the Konevs’ divorce, so he can finally marry his dream woman and regain legal paternity of Tatyana. In the meantime, he heads off to an expensive toy store.
“I just want out of this terrible life Iván forced me into. I have no more hope we’re ever going to Minnesota. That man quit another job to spend all his time taking care of the kids. Well, he’s the only one with them now. Since he enjoys childcare and housework so much, he can be the only one responsible for it. He’ll soon see what I went through when he was spending all his time at the factory.”
“He needs to get a job,” Álya says as she plugs in a mixer. “It’s not normal for an able-bodied grownup to be willfully unemployed. If he wants to do the housewife thing so badly, he could at least let you work in his place. How can he claim to love you and the kids more than anything while letting you languish in poverty?”
“You’re scaring me,” Álya says. “Why don’t you stay here a bit longer, till you’re no longer saying and thinking such terrible things. You never want to send a letter or make a phonecall in the heat of anger for the same reason. If you go home now, you might do or say something you’ll live to regret.”
Lyuba pulls free of him. “You know what, Iván, you can go fuck yourself. I’m so tired of hearing your pathetic excuses for why you won’t work and why we’re not with our friends in Minnesota. You’ve said them so many times I think you believe them. Now go on and take our kids and get the fuck out of my sight. I’m so disgusted at your behavior for the last four years, I don’t even want to look at you ever again.”
“I can still hardly bear to look at you. It’s going to take a lot for us to get back to the happy way we used to be. You’ve failed me as a husband in so many ways. I don’t even like you anymore.”