by Valery Petrovskiy
We had our seats in the sixth row, and she fell asleep: it was a capital offence from her side. A big jazz band was playing, and we sat exactly in the middle of the hall. It was inconceivable to sleep to the beat of a mighty contrabass, howling of the saxophones and squawk of the thrombi.
So, when she declared that she was going to her friend’s wedding, I said nothing. And my fellow Armen stated that we would come there later too. And if he uttered that he would do it by all means. The wedding was fixed on Saturday, and it was a research day for us, students. We were not much interested in study and preferred to master Moscow. I was tall and lean, and Armen looked stumpy and thickset, if you saw film “Mimino” you can easily envision both of us.
In short, Armen made a wager that we’d come to Gorky City and stroke hands with my girl-friend. On Saturday morning it was chilly and uncomfortable in Gorky as in any strange city in winter. It was a shot of “Mimino” picture with us waiting at a frozen alley, Armen concealing his nose in a thick red knitted scarf. In a dwelling house my girl-friend’s parents lived nobody was in but a mad dog in the courtyard. Because of the cold we did folk dancing, something between Russian “chechetka” and Caucasian “assa”, until an elderly housewife appeared and saved our lives.
The girl had gone to the wedding in the morning and left a note with an address. Her Mom invited us to tea, but we were fool enough to refuse. We hurried for a bouquet to a market place. Armen said that we could have no wedding present, but a bunch of flowers we were to get whenever. And the roses were splendid! We travelled with the flowers all over the wintry city to find the apartment in a distant bedroom district.
The wedding caroused in a Russian way, with songs to resound all over the landing of a high house. There was no mistake; they have been feasting not for the first hour!
“Let them finish the song!” Armen said. “We’d better not cut a song short. And now press the button!” I pushed it and we were admitted into a hallway with winter outwear to hang all around. Armen appealed to the folks in a drawing room, “Are you waiting for Moscow guests there?” Females’ chorus responded to his call with much joy.
Solo is inherent to jazz. “It’s your turn now”, said Armen. We entered with a splendid bouquet of roses still living after the outdoor frost, and I had to present it with a befitting dignity. And I was skilled enough to wish the newlyweds all that’s supposed in that case, because we studied journalism in Moscow. And my girlfriend, a bridesmaid then, was listening about true love, family hearth and many babies to have. Smiling a mild smile she listened to all that I never had said to her and that she would never have got with me. Life is life: she was in love with me, and I had my wife at home.
We danced until all the guests left, then listened to the music and touched on jazz item. I promised the newlywed a jazz album with big black guys’ music. On the black-and-white pictures they were rejoicing to something unknown to me showing all their snow white teeth. The newlyweds aspired to the joy of life too and soon after the wedding party were going to leave Russia for Israel. Whose Granny guaranteed them the right for the Promised Land, I didn’t get.
…At home when I was packing the promised jazz album my wife made a scene. I had no right to take out anything but trash. Though it was my album, my wife saw it in a different way, she wouldn’t let anything slip. Instead I bought to her a book of Soviet jazz that didn’t excite me, a voluminous folio with some regular pictures where musicians looked like tin soldiers while jazz is improvisation, unpredictability, and inconsistency.
As for Armen he had met a girl in Gorky City, and mailed her a dressmaking magazine afterwards.