I'm feeling so anticlimactic now. I spent the first two days back in St. Pete constantly reminding myself it wasn't September anymore, not even October: Beslan was over, Kyiv was such a wonderful distraction, a different life, etc. The main reason for these flashbacks was the couch on which I'd spent last fall, insomniac most of the time, writing this blog like crazy: now I knew I wanted to write about Kyiv, not Beslan and Russia, but I couldn't, because the room was the same as it had been then, and I had to sit on the same couch. So I decided to busy myself with reading and with my little photo backlog, and it worked beautifully: I've managed to catch up with my present self, I've managed to feel cozy and snug in our wonderful St. Pete apartment. I didn't feel like writing about Kyiv, not yet, but I knew it'd change soon. And now, for the second night in a row, I can't sleep again. I haven't had a single insomnia in Kyiv and Istanbul - I've forgotten what it feels like. To make things much worse, Mishah snores. He didn't snore in Istanbul. How should an insomniac cope with a snoring husband? I don't know.
What's also terribly anticlimactic are the babushkas, the old women - not just the ones on the news, but the real ones, ubiquitous. When I first came to St. Pete, I discovered I loved taking pictures of them: their faces and all the stories, all the drama they held. In a way, I sublimated not having been lucky with grandmothers of my own. It lasted a few months, until St. Pete got too dark and gloomy. Since then, the only things I feel looking at the miserable babushkas are pity and horror. At the market today/yesterday, one babushka asked me for money to buy some bread, and I gave her 10 rubles (30 cents), and she looked happy and grateful. Then I stood next to another one, who was considering buying a big tomato - she was talking to herself, sort of happily, "Oh, these are the beautiful ones, I'll buy one here, I guess," but the saleswoman told her not to touch the tomatoes piled up for exhibit, and the babushka asked if the ones for sale were as big and beautiful, and the saleswoman said they were small, but the babushka decided to buy one anyway, and the saleswoman asked if she'd like to buy two, and the babushka said, "No, just one. I don't have enough money." And the third babushka I saw at the market today/yesterday was yelling at some poor meat seller - she was screaming so furiously that her face seemed to have nothing but a huge mouth on it, open wide, like a shark's jaws, disgusting. And it all reminded me of the text I wrote about this same market back in March - it was published on the International Women's Day in The Morning News - and I told myself today/yesterday, Veronica, stop paying attention, you've already written about it. The anticlimactic part of it is that I spent two months in Kyiv, admiring the brave young people changing Ukraine right before my eyes, and now I'm back in the country where young people shave their heads, get drunk, paint swastikas on the walls and then go and kill 9-year-old Tajik girls - while their grandmothers rally against Putin because he's robbing them of what little they have.
It looks like we'll be moving back to Moscow at the end of January. I think two years in St. Pete is more than enough. I can't wait to return to Ukraine, though. Never thought I'd feel this way - but I do.
To end this insomnia entry on a good note, here's one of my favorite St. Pete babushka pictures, with the comment on how I ran into her:
Sept. 23, 2003
A Dignified Babushka: Anna Akhmatova looked nameless, too, in her old age
She and her friend, an old lady with a cigarette, must have seen me shooting Matviyenko, Putin and the air conditioner ads nearby.
"Come over here and take a picture of me," she called out.
Her friend stepped aside when I approached. "She doesn't like to be photographed," was the explanation.
But her friend was curious: she stood behind me as I was shooting and commented: "All your pictures appear on that little screen right away!"
I came up to show her what I thought was the best shot and suddenly she seemed flustered: "Oh, I'm not gonna be able to see anything there!" She didn't realize the picture was on the monitor, not inside the camera or something. She loved it.
I wished her and her friend good health, and they wished all the best to me.
On this picture, she reminds me of the aged Anna Akhmatova, just a little bit: surprisingly graceful and still full of life and good humor.