I fly to Moscow with Tamara, sell my Gazprom shares and buy myself a new car, a Lada Zhiguli model 15—we drive it to Novy Urengoy. I go to the city of Nadym and get a job there as chief engineer at some company. They want me to fill out the paperwork to get licenses to open an FTL, I work from home, do the paperwork, spend all my working hours and my free time with Tamara. We drive to Yekaterinburg to get one of the licenses and to Moscow to get another.
I arrive at the site as chief engineer and it turns out it’s all gone to shit—there’s no water, nothing to eat, the water from the shower is boiling hot. The main thing is I miss my wife, I can’t work, I’m hammered the whole time, and after a month I quit.
I get a job as the manager of an FTL in Novy Urengoy. I take a plane to Yekaterinburg and then to Moscow for those same licenses, this time with a driver. Along with the licenses I also have to buy a Bukhanka van and drive back in it. The driver and I travel to his home in Cheboksary, get loaded, I find some woman there.
We arrive in Novy Urengoy in the Bukhanka, and I spend the whole time getting hammered. I went to a bar and met the lowlife there who had been screwing my first wife and I’d taken her away from him. He was now a “businessman,” and on recollecting the incident had his stooges smash my face in.
On another occasion I go to a different bar and I get my face smashed in again, this time so they can take my mink hat. It had just become impossible to live!
I take Tamara and we go for a trip in the car. We drove to her city, stayed there four days, I spent all four nights in the cooler, life really wasn’t going anywhere.
We went to the Emmaus hostel near Tver and bought a motor boat. At the hostel they tried to shame me: “How much can one man drink?” “Have you no shame?” “Keep the noise down!” This sort of thing. I get a can of petrol out of the boot of my car and say if I hear anything else like that from you I’ll douse your damned Emmaus in petrol and burn it down! This seemed to get them off my back, they never mentioned anything about shame after that.
Tamara and I are making shashlik out in the countryside, by the river. It’s night outside, the wife is giving me grief, so we go back to the hostel. I’m so drunk I can’t see the road.
She’s aggravating me so much I start the car sharply in reverse. The car flips over a cliff edge and plunges into the river. Some fishermen pull me and my wife out of the car, only the cat gets left inside.
I go to Tver, get a tow-truck, fish out the car, the cat turns out to be alive, it just starts biting. I take my car to the garage and wait while they do their thing.
We’ve arrived in Novy Urengoy and I’m afraid to go outside, I stay inside, I’ve got the shakes, I have no life anymore, we have to get divorced, my wife is all in tears, and so am I.
“I don’t want to leave you, infect me with your AIDS and we’ll die together, I don’t want to live anymore!”
I take the tests, I don’t have anything. This girl from Cheboksary I met on a business trip flies over to see me in Novy Urengoy, the three of us sit in the kitchen drinking, my wife has bought the ticket for this girl, and she’s run off.
My wife is going crazy and I am too, we fight every day.
My wife takes a train home, the door of the train carriage is open, she’s crying.
I’m just howling like a wolf at the top of my voice, and I can’t get my head round any of it.
I drive my car drunk, smack into a bridge, damage the car, do some sort of repairs, drive to Moscow, take it into a shop and buy a new Chevrolet Niva.
That’s it, I can’t live any longer and I don’t want to. I remember the old lady’s idea that there’s no such thing as “I can’t,” there is only “you have to,” but I didn’t have to, and that was the whole point! I’m drinking the whole time, and I’ve got the shakes constantly. A worker of mine moves into my two-room apartment with me, he also has the shakes, we get hammered together, he sleeps in one room and I in the other. The driver fills up with diesel, as though we have to go somewhere, I sign off an authorization form for him as though we’ve gone, he drives to the station, sells the diesel and we buy vodka.
I went to an over thirties night to find a woman, and I couldn’t hold out for ten minutes even, I drank a gin and tonic and don’t remember a thing.
I went back to the same night again after a while, didn’t manage to get in because some woman attacked me. I ask, “Who are you? What do you want from me?” She says last time I got smashed on gin and don’t remember a damn thing but she’s been coming to this night every time and waiting for me.
Alright, well, it wouldn’t hurt for me to have at least some other living soul. The woman is well over forty, works as a caretaker, her name’s Laila.
My worker has moved into a dormitory, my driver quit.
I live with Laila, she’s a widow and has turned out to be a good woman. We go to the over-thirties night, Laila dances the Lezghinka, everyone applauds, she looks great when she dances.
Some kind person has knifed three tires on my Chevrolet Niva.
We go to meet Laila’s kids, I’m recovering a little, I get the tires fixed. The kids are twice my size—kids my ass!—but I’m perfectly behaved.
My mother calls from Moscow, asks how long I’m planning to live like this. Is there any way out? My life’s over now and I don’t want a damn thing. My mother says I could sell the two-room apartment I’m living in and buy a studio outside Moscow, that I could change everything, that I’m only thirty-two.
Mom, you must be joking—I’m thirty-two? It just couldn’t be!
I call her:
“Come here and sell it, I can’t make head or tail of the damn thing.”
“I’ll come in two weeks, sort yourself out and put the apartment in order.”
It’s easy to say “put it in order” but how do you do that?
I go after my worker, we get hammered together, we go to the apartment and put everything in order together. We buy brooms and everything we need, divide the apartment into square meters and clean precisely one square meter at a time, then a shot of vodka and a pickle. And then we do another square meter, and another shot of vodka. We did this for two weeks until it was all cleaned. Laila came and washed the curtains.
My mother has arrived, we’re sitting in the kitchen, I’m drinking vodka. Another week and I reach a more or less respectable state. I bring Laila jam, mushrooms, pickles—dozens of jars—all prepared by Tamara. It comes time to go to Moscow, I come back round by the time I get there, Laila is crying.
I have to travel through Tamara’s city. I stopped off at hers to give her three thousand rubles, I had to. How beautiful she still was! We sat in the car in silence for half an hour, and then I drove on.
I have arrived in Moscow with exactly one thousand rubles in my pocket, and I don’t know what to do. I buy vodka, cigarettes, juice, I open up the yellow pages and call anyone I can. They say come today, take fifty thousand in advance and get yourself to work in Sakhalin. Fifty thousand? For that I’d go to the North Pole!