As my mentor Mr. Ramirez recently said about women: "They've all got three fuckin' holes, man. And after awhile two of those fuckin holes get all dry and loose and you don't wanna fuck 'em anymore, while the third hole just keeps going 'Blah-blah-blah-blah-blah.'"
I danced with Anastasia. I bought her the only tequila in her life she'd ever drunk, and the only she ever will drink. She inhaled four glasses one after the other, saying it was the most exotic kaif she'd ever imagined. Ilya and I bought a bottle of champagne for the table where her two other friends were sitting. The champagne bottle cost 120 rubles. We were big shots. Once the bottle arrived, suddenly a flock of dyevs descended on the table like pigeons. Chuvashia was reminding me of life in the early Yeltsin years, when everything was cheap and it was good to be an American.
I asked Anastasia to leave with me. She told me that she was staying until 5 a.m., when the busses started running again. I told her I wanted to leave now. She offered to leave at 3 a.m. I said, "No. Let's leave now." She asked for an hour. I said, "Let's leave now." She told me to wait by the bathroom.
Three minutes later, we were out the door. A quick taxi ride and we were at her apartment. She lived on Prospekt Mira, in one of those apartment block forests, on the first floor.
"We only have a one-room apartment," she said ashamed.
Her parents and sister were in the country, and she was leaving to join them tomorrow. Tonight the apartment was all ours. "I want to make you food, but all we have are potatoes. And jam."
"That's okay," I said.
"Here, look at these," she said, handing me a stack of half-destroyed photo albums. Some were in a shitty little box with old pictures of her mother and father on one side, and Anastasia and her sister on the other.
The pictures were amazing. Nastya was only 19 yet her childhood photos, from the early-mid 1980s, were all black and white, some colored in with colored pencils. They looked like ancient photos, daguerreotypes.
In her mother's school pictures from the late Brezhnev years, I noticed that the Chuvash women were all grim and unappealing, with hairdos little changed from the Volga! Volga! years.
In Anastasia's class photos, nearly all the girls were stunning. What had happened?
She took a shower. A very long shower. Even though there was no hot water. I walked into the kitchen for a look -- there was a bed tucked against the wall in the front of the kitchen, with a yellow shower curtain pulled back for privacy.
Anastasia came out of the bathroom. She pranced around the one room apartment in a towel that was too small for her frame and kept coming undone. She pretended to be scandalized every time it opened. She fed me homemade strawberry and cherry jam from a spoon. Then we lay down in her bed. Her Chuvash snapper was sopping wet when I touched it. I mumbled a small thank-you prayer to the Turkic peoples of the world.
The next morning, she left me her address and asked me to write her.
"Why don't you give me your phone number?" I asked.
"We don't have a phone," she said, embarrassed.
"Will you be coming to Moscow?"
"I've never been there," she said. "I went to Kazan once though. I made a friend there, a Tatar girl. We write each other often. We're very good friends. She'll come visit me next month."
We had to sneak stealthily out of her podezd so that the neighbors didn't see her with a hairy foreigner. On our way out the entrance, she pointed to a faded mural of Lenin. "We still have communists here," she said, laughing.
We crossed the courtyards, a railroad track, and made our way to the bus station, where I grabbed a taxi. We kissed goodbye. I'm sure I'll never see her again, poor Anastasia.
"We have great sluts here, don't we!" the taxi driver screamed, sizing up Anastasia as we pulled out.
"Yeah, they're beautiful."
"Oh yeah, they're beautiful all right, blya!" he said, growing more animated. "Up until the 1970s, blya, all the Chuvash girls, blya, were short and slant-eyed, blya. Then they built the hydroelectric damn, blya, on the Volga, blya, in Novy Cheboskary, blya. People, blya, came from all over, blya: Siberia-blya, the north-blya, the south-blya, Tatarstan-blya. The races all mixed, blya. Now they're all tall and beautiful, blya. O blyad!"