“I also want to be in demand when I’m eighty years old, to be engaged in hobbies, to get back home late and not to sit in front of the TV all evenings long and take sleeping pills. I want to work, meet with friends and party! To have a cup of coffee with Natalka every Tuesday and a glass of prosecco with Vika every Friday. To be piled up with work every day but to go to the sea on weekends and to spend several months in Toscana, Barcelona, Los-Angeles or Hawaii in winter. Either at thirty or fifty or eighty.”
I was going home after a play with a strange name “Vasya Must Call” with Ada Rogovtseva in the leading role. It was the first time I drove home in my own car. From the left bank of the river to the right. I drove slowly as if I were a citizen of Paris where 50 km/h is a usual thing but not our “you buy a driving licence and can’t drive”. Kyivan drivers, especially taxi drivers didn’t like it, that’s why they incessantly honked me all evening, with all their might. But how the driving instructor Victor Hryhorovych (a holy man, he had taught so many ladies to drive – failed to count), who taught me all rises and slopes of Tatarka and Lukianivka, traffic junctures of Petrivka, weird enters and exits to the Pivdennyi bridge and a new turn to the metro bridge, said, “Don’t pay attention to honks. If you are driving right – the rest is not your business. Go on, Olenka, go on, there is a gas station around the corner, get there, we have to fill up, after you, I’m gonna teach three your… colleagues… blondes”.
Viktor Hryhorovych was pale in such moments and wouldn’t have minded to down a snifter but it wasn’t allowed. It’s a job. Nervous and hard. Teaching the blondes to drive in traffic jams and on bumpy roads of the big city. But he himself chose it, nobody forced him, didn’t he? After all, stress is a bonus to the opportunity of taking the rides from dawn to dusk with pretty ladies.
Viktor Hryhorovych’s wills are sacred and that’s why I didn’t pay attention to the honk fireworks and decided (I can create an explanation to anything in the world) that all drivers in Kyiv just wanted to either get acquainted with me or to express their excitement of my super political correct driving style.
“How does she do this? She looks stunning, acts on the stage, casts in the series and movies, takes part in enterprises and goes on tours around the country. How does Ada Rogovtseva recite these long difficult texts? Being eighty years old. It’s already now I don’t remember anything, I jot down information into five notebooks, phone and calendar in laptop but somehow make one appointment in different spots of the city. I take out the phone to check the date every five minutes. Yesterday, for example, I forgot to lock the doors to the apartment when I came out to the shop. And names, when it goes to people’s names… I forgot them after the first second of acquittance. Thank God, I remember my own name and where I live.”
In fact, Kyiv at 10 pm is magnificent! If not paying attention to the taxi drivers, it’s the dream-city of every woman – a careful and calm gentleman. During the day it is an eternal whirl of events, people, meetings, conversations, phone calls and e-mails which don’t give you a chance for living calmly, not hurrying up somewhere. It’s impossible to live calmly in Kyiv, silence and peacefulness just don’t fit it.
“To chat with Ada Rogovtseva. In the play, some Vasya must have called her. He couldn’t be called but he could do it. And he did call. And in a way nobody could hear it but her. But we often want to call someone who is impossible to be called. Maybe, she knows the ways how to get in touch with these people?”
Viber notification signal: “You’ve got the new contact”.
“Well-well, who is so advanced here? Who has been touched by civilization? Oh no, I’m driving, no phones. The rules can’t be violated. I’ll get home and see. Ada Rogovtseva, Ada Rogovtseva. I also want a job which I can do at any age. To eighty years, minimum. And then, what a surprise, someone will invent the elixir of youth. Therefore, there is a chance that it won’t be the end at the last number, and at eighty I will look twenty-nine and a half, and the story of Benjamin Button with a countdown of years will become a reality. Moreover, I don’t celebrate my birthday, therefore I have all chances. It is said that one who doesn’t remember how old she is and doesn’t celebrate her “happy birthday”, always looks younger”.
The light has blinked. The gasoline. Who would doubt! After all, I mentioned the driving instructor, and it’s always “the rain sign”. I mean, the gasoline was about to end. “Just on time. It’s evening, I’m tired, the thoughts swirl around my head that it’s going to blow up. But hell, let it be so. Bless God Viktor Hryhorovych, he said that the cars are like children, they claim their own on the spot without long conversations about the meaning of life and they won’t wait when you are going to feed them.”
I went to the gas station and decided to have some coffee. Coffee with a well-whipped foam which all praise. Yes-yes, at night. Who said that coffee can be drunk only in the morning before work in a decent cafe and not at night at a gas station on the way home?
“Who is there in Viber? WHO?!”
We call such a state “caught like a deer in daylight”. You can’t move, it’s chilling inside, wooden and it’s scary from realizing that the underworld exists and we know nothing about it.
“You always liked joking, dad, but not like that. This is absolutely exquisite torture. Your phone is turned off for five years and lies in the drawer of my desk in my mother’s apartment! What the hell is going on? It’s impossible to call you! Wait, but in the play, Ada Rogovtseva called her Vasia in the world from where there’s no return. Why can’t I do it? Here he is, online. Dad…”
I don’t know how many times (hundred, two hundred or million times) I wanted to call him during all these five years. The best friend and adviser even in slippery girlish matters. But it was impossible to do. For five years. But right now I had the new contact in Viber signed as “Daddy”. He was online that’s why I, with trembling hands, typed: “Dad! Dad! Daddy! Is it you?” I pressed to send. And only after this I noticed the photo. A man. Looks like forty years old. Quite possible to be someone’s dad. But obviously not mine. “The message is read”.
“Dear girl, I see that you’re a girl. Perhaps, I am a dad, but apparently not yours. Where did you get my phone number? And why dad? By the way, I am Borys.”
“Not funny at all. My father is also Borys. Was. I also have a question – where did you get his phone number?”
“I bought it today. Activated it recently. Who are you?”
“This is phone number of my dad. He died. Five years ago. I have his phone number in my contacts. I couldn’t delete it when the dad was gone.”
“Sorry for your dad. And for you. It seems I know what it means: mobile operators have a rule: if the phone number isn’t operated for more than three years it goes for sale. It means I bought your father’s phone number. Interesting, how many people will write to me ‘Hello, haven’t seen you for ages!’ And it will be not about me.”
Nobody will write. He talked only to me in Viber. I thought that I went mad or this is someone’s evil joke. Sorry. Good night.”
At that moment I was the happiest person in the world. Because I understood one simple thing: it was the way I wanted to. Almost everything. I asked someone out there who is above the heavens, so dad called me. Didn’t I? Here you are, sign in here. Here he is, online, he can call me. Borys, by the way. Someone else’s father, but who cares now? I realized that for most of my questions there is one very simple answer: do! Do you want a job to give heat at eighty as if at twenty? Take a decision, quit an uninteresting job, look for what you like, and don’t waste time on unnecessary people. I thought if I ever had to talk to someone whom it was impossible to talk to, it would be the first sign of madness and I would be very ill. But it turned out to be all way different, and counterpart of Ada Rogovtseva in this strange play didn’t lose her mind.
“Signs, signs,” my dad said, “watch the signs, we often don’t notice them and then wonder why everything went wrong.” I sighed with relief and wrote: “Excuse me, Borys, one more question. Give the answer right now, OK? What do you do? What is your job?”
“I am a journalist, a TV presenter, came to Kyiv to present my book about life in Peru. I lived there for several years. Why?”
And why was I not surprised? I smiled and wrote the answer.
“Do you know, my dear dad, while there was no connection with you, I imagined that you live in South America, somewhere in Peru.”
“Why in Peru?”
“To realize that there is no you was very painful. And to assume that you are somewhere else on the Earth, where you simply can not be called alleviated pain and reduced the number of tears a day. I have the last question, daddy, and I won’t disturb you with trifles: have you ever met with Ada Rogovtseva?”
“I don’t know her in person but once I’ve written the article about her. Why? Do you want to meet with her? I can look for some contacts.”
“Thanks, daddy! I mean, Borys, thank you. No, I don’t need the phone number of Ada Rogovtseva. I already know everything she could tell me.”
“Daughter, will you come to my presentation? I invite you as a very important guest. We’re relatives, after all.”
“I’ll come, but under one term. I’ll interview you. I’ll try to do so The New-York Times, The Washington Post and The Daily Telegraph write about you.”
“Are you a journalist, daughter?”
“Not yet, but I am about to change something in my life right now. I think you’d like what I write same as – where it could be published. And this is the least I can do for you.”
“How will I recognize you? Photo in Viber is a bit vague and unclear.”
“Childhood photos, dad, where we are together. I haven’t changed from that time.”
Illustration by Nastasia Petrova