From Russia With Love

Today as I was packing for my upcoming trip I was reminiscing about my trip to Russia (the one I mentioned like every other blog post). My boss made a comment today about how I will on the lookout for love while traveling and then I got to thinking about my blog and then the time that some guy in Russia had my number and how awful it was. This is that story.

In my program, we had 9 people. 2 guys and 7 girls. One Russia Day (a made up holiday (literally it’s only existed for not that long and Russian’s aren’t super patriotic about it)) we decided that the 6 of us girls will go out to make Russian friends and drink. The boys wanted to go do their own thing and it’s wasn’t really the 7th girl’s scene, which is totally fine. So we go to this street that turns out to be super sketchy and at a loss at where to go we text our program leader for a recommendation for a bar (Cause it’s Russia and our program leader was super chill). She suggested this bar called SPBar (I think it stood for St. Petersburg Bar, so creative Russia) which is actually a chain in Russia.

We show up and pull out all forms of IDs, Russian passports, American passports, copies of passports, hell someone may of had a birth certificate just hanging out. They let us all in and we’re about to sit at a table when a waiter abruptly stops us and tell us we can’t sit there because the two guys at the table next to us were waiting for friends, confused we asked where we could sit (in this pretty empty room) and the two guys said it was fine and we could sit there. We tried sitting again and the waiter got upset and told us we couldn’t sit there. Still confused we had to explain that the guys next to us said that it was okay if we sat there, so the waiter huffed and let us sit down.

The two previously mentioned guys, Ivan and Sasha, decided to take the booth behind us. My friend Mary was on such a quest to find Russian friends that she got the balls to go over to them and ask for a beer recommendation (You go girl) and came back with her beauty and charming ways. The guys were charmed. Sasha (tall, full jaw, blondish hair, pretty cute), decided to engage with us. Me, being the only person who could fluently converse, starting talking to Sasha. He found out we were students and told us that he and his friend, Ivan (dark, brutish, the type of guy you see as an evil character in Russian stories) and him were also students. They looked like they were 30 but whatever. I was over 20. My marriage prime was way past me.

So we get to talking and Sasha tells me how beautiful Mary is and how his heart stopped when she came over to ask him. So he suggested that all of us should move to a Sushi Bar. Russians loveeee sushi bars I had come to learn. So the six of us girls ordered a vodka shot, drank our beers, and decided to go to the Sushi Bar with Sasha and Ivan. Before we leave we talk about how it would be so nice to walk the white nights and spend time together. So I have Sasha my number so we could all keep in touch. Mistake. They seem like great guys right? Charming? Sweet? Wonderful? WRONG.

We get to the sushi bar and I continue translating between the groups and Sasha orders us more vodka. We take some more shots, with drawn out toasts of course, and then things start to get a little bad. Sasha and Ivan start bitching about how American’s only thing that Russian’s drink vodka and have bears. We get upset that they think that and defend with that no we don’t think that and there are American stereotypes that are highly believed as well. Then Sasha starts getting upset with my friend Betsy, saying she’s too butch. Betsy gets upset, very sarcastically starts saying things to him, which makes Sasha even more upset (Russian men DO NOT like sarcasm) and then tells him how she has a boyfriend back home. Sasha uses the line, if he’s not here then you don’t have a boyfriend (Russian male mentality at it’s finest). We obviously all got upset.

Sasha then thinks it’s a great idea to propose to Mary. Literally, in the less than 2 hours that he knew her he was going to marry her. Papers and all. So serious about it. Mary explained, in very broken Russian, that she needed to finish school and get her career started. Sasha scoffed and said that he could pay for her. Mary kept telling him that she needed to finish school and Sasha at one point turned to me and said “I don’t understand, I can provide for her.” Cause god forbid a woman has a career.

We’re upset. We’re hammered. We want to leave. So we decided to leave and take the bus home. Oh course the chivalrous men that Sasha and Ivan are they of course had to walk us there, because god forbid 6 women find a bus station. We stop in front of the Church of Spilled blood, take a photo together, and continue walking. On this walk I start telling Ivan (who beside his dark facade seemed really great compared to Sasha) how I miss being independent, we don’t need them to walk us to the bus, that we don’t need men to watch over us. Ivan tells me how in America it might be okay for a guy to just peace but in Russia they want to make sure that we get somewhere safe. Which is an internal struggle. On one side it’s nice to feel safe and protected, but on the other I can be my own person and am independent. How do the two go together? But I digress…

Ivan tells me how he’s really interested in our friend Claire but alas Claire also has a boyfriend. Ivan was upset that it seemed like all of us had boyfriend. So he took an interest in me and I take zero interest back. But hey I’m the third option, single girl so why not. I would come around eventually, right? Sasha and Ivan run into some guy, take shots (in the middle of the street) with him and then continue following us. My friend Jackie is yelling at them, in broken Russian very drunk, that we don’t need them, to leave and that we can find our way back. Mary still mesmerized, and drunk, is still very into Sasha so she sticks by his side on our walk to the bus. We finally make it to the bus and THANK GOD that as the bus pulls up and the doors its doors our two GUY friends are serendipitously on the bus. I have never believed in a lord until that moment. I’m pretty sure there was a beaming light of glory around them. We had other guys looking out for us, so the two Russian guys had no excuse to come with us. I was actually getting nervous because I didn’t want Ivan finding out where I lived.

So we get on the bus and on this trip I have a dumb phone. I get a text from Ivan. That bastard Sasha gave him my number. So Ivan starts telling me how great it was to see me and how wonderful I am etc. I say goodnight because I’m exhausted and want to go to bed. But Ivan keeps going. Can I take a second to pause and explain how hard it is to text in RUSSIAN on a t9 keypad? It’s a skill man. Anyways, he tells me how we should meet up and then I do the only thing I can think to say to a Russian man who is a misogynist:  I tell him I have a boyfriend. Because that’s the only way. Ivan then starts asking if my boyfriend loves me and telling me how he will care more for me and be so great. But readers, my imaginary boyfriend is the shit. Not only does he care for me, he fucking loves me. I relay this information to Ivan. Finally after a series of interrogations Ivan asks the ultimate question: Would my boyfriend die for me. Readers, of course my imaginary boyfriend is going to die for me, why wouldn’t he? He has no tangible body to be scared of losing, he just lives in the realms of my mind, and if he disappears it’s not hurting anyone. Finally, Ivan having enough tells me what a guy my boyfriend is and that I’m lucky to have him. Damn straight.

So I don’t hear from Ivan for about three days and then I get text messages from him, slews of them, and I just ignored them. He told me to respond, how it makes him feel like a child to text me and be ignored, to say something, and finally to him getting angry. But I knew better than to engage because there’s nothing worse than engaging again. I knew it would be an endless cycle. If I even responded with even a “don’t talk to me” it opens the flood gates of groveling, insensate texting, and convincing me to see him. I just stayed quiet and a week later I took out the sim card, returned to Moscow, and broke up with my imaginary boyfriend.

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