Pauls Bankovskis // Cheka, Bombs and Rock'n'Roll / Translated by B. Rubess// Latvian Literature 2.
-Cheka, Bombs and Rock'n'Roll / Translated by B. Rubess// Latvian Literature 2. Atēna Publishers Ltd. (2002)
I like tall and slender men with strong legs and firm chins; I like imported products; I like to win, to eat chocolates (“Squirrels" and "Red Poppies") and to take baths; I like the smell of burning wood, I like dogs, cats, and animals in general; I like songs by Raimonds Pauls and springtime, and sunny days, too.
I don't like fat men and big bottoms; women wearing lots of makeup or the stench of diesel fuel; menstruating or people who spit on the street or lie; headaches, colds and fog, army men and high-heeled shoes, perms and flowery housecoats; black coffee and vodka, butter¬milk and raw meat, the stench of hangovers and the dentist.
Eva dreamily inspected the box of perfume Jorens bought for her at the "KaDeWe" department store. Genuine French perfume. She touched the letters C, H, A, N, E and L with her fingertips.
The shiny white cardboard, its various folds, the print - they were all like her father's childhood memories, in which everything was preternaturally tidy, harmonious and arranged on carefully wiped shelves. This is a thing from the Ulmanis years, father would say dreamily. It happened during the Ulmanis years. Eva wasn't sure how those years differed from the present. She thought that Ulmanis was a synonym for "ancient."
As soon as the train changed its wheels and crossed the border of barbed wire beyond which the friendly and more or less familiar socialist world ended and the jungle of savage cap¬italism began, Eva was gripped by fear. Ever since the first grades of primary school she'd known that beneath the shiny surface of capitalism lurked famine, poverty and crime. The only where she felt somewhat safe were the Olympic pool and the dressing rooms, which were nearly the same as anywhere else, except maybe they were cleaner, whiter and better-smelling. Still the blissful fatigue creeping into her body after a training session, standing in a hot shower and yielding to a blast of countless tiny rivulets, was identical in Riga, Moscow and Prague.
"Kallas, you cra... " - her team-mate Lyuda cried out; her cry was cut short by the metallic voice announcing the next station; the doors slammed shut, the train swooshed into the underground; only once she had emerged into daylight, wandering aimlessly in front of the Zoo station, Eva realized that she was lost, alone in the middle of a hostile world.
Next to her someone said something, probably in German; Eva didn't understand the question but, just to be safe, turned to run; brakes squealed; someone grabbed her and pulled beck by the elbow; the stranger smiled.
"Thank you," Eva mumbled.
He began to speak again; Eva shrugged indecisively; they approached a ruined church, in sparkling shop window, amongst the mirrors, crystal glass and light bulbs, a white cardboard ¬box rested on a small pillow, and Eva knew that, without this box, the rest of her life had no meaning.
"Turn off the light." Lyuda angrily rolled over in bed.
The sun glittered behind the thick curtains.
Dropping into sleep, Eva heard...
Dzyuba, doctor for the elite Soviet swimming team, paced by the room of the head coach, panting, pounding desperately on the door. The blows rang loudly down the empty corridors of the hotel. Dzyuba threw an anxious glance over his shoulder, his left eyelid twitching nervously. The commotion should have roused the entire hotel, but there wasn't even the tiniest sign of life. Even the coach's room was as silent as a grave.
"What's that fucking racket?" - a hoarse voice spoke up eventually.
"I-I-I-t's me" - in his agitation Dzyuba was afflicted by a speech impediment he'd had since early childhood. The unruly eyelid was a genetic defect which sometimes made Dzyuba look silly, but at other times - menacing. He cocked his head and listened closely. Though bare skin gleamed amidst the dark and silvery hair on the back of his skull, with the help of a hairdresser and careful grooming Dzyuba was able to create the illusion that he was still a long way from bald. At the moment it seemed his hair loss had abated somewhat. The hairdo was preserved.
The coach tried to pull on his pants while jumping on one foot. He tripped and cursed furiously. Something fell over and broke into pieces.
"Ivan Mametovich, s-s-s-omething has happened..." - Dzyuba squeezed into Ivan Mametovich Taneyev's room and stopped short.
"Fyodor Yeyseyevich, I'll explain in a minute" - Ivan Mametovich tried to push Dzyuba back out of the room with his square and naked chest, matted with dark black hairs. Though the coach's muscles were slowly turning flabby, at fifty he was still handsome and broad-shouldered.
Already in Moscow the coach had figured out that Dzyuba had as much knowledge of sports medicine as he did of ballet. Yet he saw no reason for concern. The achievements of the elite team over the last year were once again nothing but outstanding. Ivan Mame¬tovich was unlikely to share the fate of his predecessor. During the Olympic Games in Bar¬celona, and then in Munich, the Soviet team won fewer medals than they had in Utrecht. Those responsible were thrown out on their asses. Heads rolled, one after another. Even in his most horrific alcoholic nightmares Ivan Mametovich could not have foreseen that his career might be hurt by something this banal and ridiculous. Bracing himself, the coach squeezed his narrow eyes shut, eyes of the sons of the steppes of Kazakhstan, and shook his strangely round head (whence the nickname Snowman) in despair.
Standing on tiptoe, Dzyuba, peered into the room over the coach's shoulders, and realized, with malicious glee, why panic flared in Ivan Mametovich's eyes. In the rumpled bed he could see two dishevelled beings - a blonde and a brunette. Catching Dzyuba's eye, they perked up, smiling stupidly. Dzyuba decided the brunette was not bad.
"It's a misunderstanding, a mistake" - Ivan Mametovich stammered and had no idea that, actualy, there were more mistakes than in the 1905 revolution. In fact, Dzyuba (who had a little knowledge of medicine, after all, because he'd once studied to be a para¬medic in Russia) was in charge of each and every one of the members of the Soviet dele¬gation. "Fyodor Yeyseyevich, let me introduce you to comrades Hanna and Anna..."
"W-w w-we'll have a special talk about that later" - Dzyuba snapped. "Get dressed."
Eva crouched, jumped, made a slender somersault and soundlessly slipped into the bluish depths; she swam without moving a hand or foot; the girl turned into a large fish, a div¬ing bird which shot down with folded wings like a rock, deeper and deeper; the sky shone with a steady, scintillating light; Jorens floundered next to her; he swam dopy-style, sputtering and thrashing in the water desperately...
...someone knocking insistently. Eva sat up with a start. "Lyuda, I'm scared."
"Nonsense" - Lyuda growled and crawled out of bed. At times it seemed to Eva that the freckled girl (Lyuda had so many freckles that at times they looked like a sunburn or some skin problem) nursed a grudge against her. As if it was Eva s fault that Lyuda had only two silver medals, when she had three and one bronze.
"Where the fuck is Kallas?" Ivan Mametovich stormed into the room with another guy, whom Lyuda called a "chekist" - a member of the secret police. Its written on their faces. Yet you couldn't really believe everything Lyuda said - she saw chekists every¬where. They're trying to catch me at something.
"Here." Eva spoke up. If the coach used only your surname, it meant big trouble.
"As of tomorrow's, more precisely today's competitions, you are not participating," Ivan Mametovich announced. "Nor the day after that."
"But..." - Eva gasped.
"I fucking said so, get it? And not one step out of this hotel until your departure!" Ivan Mametovich's voice broke. The coach turned away, something telltale shimmered in the stocky man's eyes. He knew that at this moment he was punishing himself, too. With¬out a gold medal - no matter whether Eva Kallas or Lyuda Beryozkina won it - without it, he'd better not show his face in Moscow. But no one else, except for Eva, could hope to win that medal in these championship games. Dzyuba lumbered over to the mirror and shoved Eva's perfume box into his pocket. The letters F, E, D, Y and A were tattooed on the knuckles of his right hand. Eva was about to protest, but choked on a stinging lump of tears in her throat. She pulled the blanket over her head and rolled up into a ball.
"Not one step out of this h-h-hotel," Dzyuba ordered, winked at astonished Lyuda and slammed the door shut.
Dzyuba escorted Eva up to the queue fidgeting at the window of passport control, and even waved. They looked like a married couple, or like lovers who must part and don't want to extend their misery with long goodbyes. Up to now they'd travelled only by train or by bus. Therefore, climbing up the ladder and diving into the silver body of the airplane, she was gripped by the same awesome fear as on her first walk along the Berlin Wall on the Western side. The engines began to wail sharply, the landscape outside the window flashed by faster and faster. The nose of the airplane tilted up, and the same force pushing Eva back into her chair made the ominously vibrating steel, plastic and aluminium box tear away from the gray runway and rise to a height of several kilometres in the freezing cold air. In the innards of the airplane something mysterious crackled, hummed and wailed. Eva's ears fell shut, nausea swelled in her stomach, and she unwrapped the rock candy called "Start."
What crime did I commit? They questioned me about Jorens, wanting to know what we talked about and what I said to him; why doesn't anybody believe me?
How did you converse, if you didn't speak each other's languages?
Why did he give you perfume?
Did he try to persuade you to stay in the West?
How can Eva explain that they understood each other almost without any words?
How can she ever tell her dad?
Translated by Baņuta Rubess