In 1974 I knew that he was a big-time "tsekhovik," as they used to say then -- that is, a businessman and a criminal. But I didn't suspect that he was such a big shot. I'm happy for him.
That summer Elena succeeded in tormenting me. She nagged me about everything I was incapable of doing, that Viktor could but I didn't know how to. Tofik Aliev defended me and explained that Edik is still a young person, he'll learn. It was clear to me that I'd never learn how to bribe, but I was grateful to Tofik. When he was with us I didn't have to arrange anything, he did it himself: in restaurants they brought everything to our table without delay, they cooked our shashlik quickly, they brought the best wines out, and the other bandits didn't bother us. Apart from that he was perhaps the only one who didn't go after Elena. He was in love with his young wife, and his little girl brought him happiness.
What brought me happiness in that last summer in Russia? Not Elena, since we quickly picked up some kind of venereal disease, in all probability from the beach, and spent our time healing. The Zhemchuzhina at that time wasn't even completely built. You could go straight down from the elevator below, to a corridor reeking of fresh cement, and from there straight out onto the beach. They'd hardly had time to take out the boards from the cement which they'd placed there in order to lay the tiling. In the Zhemchuzhina, half of the guests were foreigners -- from the socialist countries for the most part, of course.
But there were also tour groups from the capitalist countries. So, for example, the photograph that appeared later in the newspaper Versiya was taken by a Frenchman, the big-nosed lover of some thin, evil wench in the same photograph. Today that wench should be fifty-five years old, since I'm writing these lines two days before the 22nd of June and on the 22nd, Elena should turn 51 and this wench was older than her. I mention these foreigners not without reason, since Elena and I figured we'd caught our illness from them, having laid on lounge chairs or having sat on plastic seats underneath the umbrellas. The barmen on the Zhemchuzhina's beach brought me much joy. They prepared simply the most stunning martinis. With the possible exception of one Irish picnic I was at in New York.
Everyone was in love with Elena. It wasn't easy being her husband. They tried, in the old Caucasian tradition, to get me drunk and fuck my wife somewhere. It was particularly difficult taking part in all the trips to the mountains where everyone was drinking hard and feasting in the outdoors, around campfires, with shashlik. But I dealt with it: I downed a canister of vodka, and came to my senses in a bed in the Zhemchuzhina with my wife.
The water that summer in the Black Sea was hot. The Frenchman, his thin bitch, Elena and I drove out in the Frenchman's sports car to Gagry. We wanted to go all the way to Sukhumi, have fun there for a few days and then return to the Zhemchuzhina. On the way there, however, they had a horrible fight -- a crazy Russian wench with a peeling nose started to attack the Frenchman's steering wheel, and somewhat south of Gagry we made a sharp U-turn and tore back. We hadn't even reached the little town of Gagry yet.
A postcard from Elena's mother awaited us in Sochi: she informed us that OVIR had sent a notification: we'd been given permission to leave Russia up until September 30th on a PMZh (permanent exile). We got some tickets for a Sochi-Yalta boat and, drunken, along with other drunkards, loaded ourselves on board the ship. A crazy driver in a leather jacket raced us at a crazy speed from Yalta to Koktebel. I wanted to show Elena that I knew my way around here. And I wanted to show off Elena to Maria Nikolaevna (a famous high-society woman). Elena was my war trophy, my occupied city -- that was the only way I could see her. By the end of the next year, 1975, they took my occupied city away from me. I didn't expect that to happen. But even if I'd expected that, still, the pleasure I got from having taken this city was so wonderful that I had to seize it, even if they take it back from you later.