Me and Johnny were invited for Maria’s weeding. Maria was a school friend and invited many people to celebrate her and Orlando marriage back in her home town, city of Mirniy, in Russia’s east. After I left to live in Norway, this was a rare opportunity to finally go and see my old friends.
The weeding was set up in a lovely hall, the music was loud, everyone took off their shoes and danced barefoot. We danced so easily, we felt so full of joy. I wish we did it more often, I wish we did this years ago. Now, being older, I was so free and relaxed I did not care about who thinks what, how do we look and move, nothing compared to the worrying times of the school.
I wanted to have fun, wanted to be with people I knew for so long. While dancing, I suddenly noticed another familiar face, face which looked a bit bored. It was someone I fell in love with about 18 years ago, he could not love me back but now none of us cared, now I was with Johnny and after all, it was such a long time ago. Still in his jacket and with his backpack, Anatoly was standing in the corner watching everyone else dancing, it felt that he was a bit late and may have just arrived…
I came closer and smiled:
‘Hi!’ – I said
‘Hi, Anna! Long time no see, ah?’ – Anatoly said.
‘Correct! ‘– I said smiling, whilst still moving and dancing.
I quickly took his hand and tried to make him dance, he felt blocked by his clothes so we both went to remove his jacket and the bag. We carefully laid it in the corner and moved to the middle of the dance floor.
We danced slow, fast. Swing, waltz. We did not talk for years but it did not matter. I have never seen him dancing so well neither I ever seen so much joy in his eyes. After some time, we were dancing so fast we fell strangely on the floor, laughing.
‘That is not why we were dancing! – to end up on the floor?!- we said when laying down together and laughing out loud.
When music has slowed down for a little, I decided to pop to the bathroom. Still smiling, I walked in. It was a huge space and I went into one of the further cubicles. Suddenly, for unknown me reason, I felt very dizzy, very floppy, like the ground left me for a minute or two.
I could not tell what was happening. I put my pants back and slowly opened the door. I left the cubicle. I did not recall hearing any noise, my ears felt blocked. Yet, the air felt vibrating with sounds, floor was vibrating with sounds, doors were vibrating too. People were everywhere, some seem to be fleeing, some seemed to be just standing still and watching. People lying on the toilet floor, then weird eyes looking at me – approving me and letting me go. ‘What the hell is going on?” – I thought to myself.
I left the toilets into the main area, which now looked destroyed. People with guns were patrolling the space and guests were spread to the corners. Scared. Some lied down without breath. Old ladies were holding guns. They were not the kind of a tall man you expect to see with a gun, not looking all strong and scary you would normally see at massacre… Yet, there was something in their eyes which frightens you to death, makes you feel cold, some idea which brought them in here, the reason why they were destroying the event, pushing the people with hostility…
I kept walking down from the toilet, I wanted to reach the corner where we left our bags
With escalating fear I was trying to locate Anatoly’s bag. ‘Please be there’- I cried inside. I saw it, I took it fast. I did not know if he was okay. I did not yet know who was guilty one here and who could be saved. My mind felt frozen and I barely knew what to think about.
I saw Anatoly coming out, I had his bag but I could not pass it to him even though we were within a hand-shake distance. People with guns would not let me do anything. Only to head towards the exit they were pointing at.
‘You! You ,there! Don’t deviate from the line! Just go down!’ – a woman shouted at me.
As I was leaving the venue, more and more of them appeared to be on a side. Some wearing old suits. Suits that looked very Slavic, red colors, weird hats, it felt like a worst nightmare came true, like I was transported in one of those movies made about history of Russia.
‘What about Johnny?’ I said to myself looking around…I lost track of him when we started dancing. My heart started beating much faster..’Johnny?’- I realized he might be dead, taken, tortured. Tears came to my eyes. I could not believe I was now part of this.
‘What is happening? Why this is happening?’ – I managed to pronounce just a few words, when it felt that no-one was pointing the guns at us anymore…
‘These are locals, they are too local, too obsessed with their Russianness, they turned so xenophobic they can hardly know what they are doing…they just go and destroy gatherings of people who are not anyhow Slavic’ – a man I could not recall from the weeding was now talking to me – ‘..they hated that Maria brought Orlando, they frightened her. If she was to go with the wedding in the main town hall, they promised to come and destroy it, they knew there will be foreigners, they were ready – Maria thought they will spare them for the sake of love, for the sake of love… Ah, Maria..’– the stranger took a deep breath…
‘Why no one stops them? Why no one stops them? This is so unhuman!’ – I said impatiently, still trembling and shaking. ‘Such things would never happen in Europe!’
‘You better do not say this out loud’ – he told me – ‘Who cares about what is happening in the tiny city of Mirniy, look at us, barely seen on the map, its not Moscow for you, not Petersburg, not your precious Europe.. No one cares… now, here we are…’ – he said his final words and started walking away from me with his head down, hands in his pockets..