January certainly wasn't exotic.
The snow fell on small-town Southern America and made everything scenic for about a day, before it turned into a layer of slush and mud and ice. The weather hovered slightly above freezing -- not cold enough to justify constant retreat indoors, not warm enough to enjoy being outside for too long. It was relentlessly gray.
My few remaining friends in America are busy with their own shit; none were inclined to hang out much. My mother recovered amazingly quickly and well from her hysterectomy; she didn't need much care, just the occasional trip to the supermarket. I had, however, already turned down a chance of getting a job at a place in the Emirates that needed teachers in January.
I worked on my e-book empire, in which I am producing books under three different aliases. The generally enjoyable creative act of writing was subsumed by the tedious minutiae of self-publishing -- formatting, editing, tweaking cover designs and interior links and adverts. I'd spend half the day in front of the computer listening to podcasts and talk radio, drinking coffee and doing all kind of self-publishing shit until the evening, when I'd watch a movie or TV show on Hulu and go to sleep at 11.30.
I wallowed in my geeky roots. My room on the top floor of the house my mother and stepfather live in is full of geeky stuff -- comic books, throwing stars, samurai swords, action-adventure and horror paperbacks from the 80s.
In fitting in with the local zeitgeist, I started shaving once a week and spending most of my time in sweatpants and hoodies. (I kept exercising, though; an absoultely vital part of the day in middle age, if only to feel a bit better.)
I occasionally walked down the street to the library, which seemed a bastion of civilization in a violent and insane world. Well-funded by donations, it has a variety of educational programs for the various unemployed and unattended who spent the day there (mostly using the computers.)
They even had free coffee and I'd sit and read from the good selection of graphic novels. (AKA comic books.)
The Girlfriend is the opposite of most Russian girls -- shy, honest, reliable, hardworking.
But stubborn. Very stubborn.
We'd still talk on Skype every day.
Our relationship had been floundering since she'd been turned down for the visa. Her coming to America to study at a university seemed like a good idea to her; nothing else I could suggest did.
I'd suggested we go to Cyprus or Prague, or anywhere it was easy for a Russian to get a 3 month visa.
"And what if I can't get a job?"
"I have enough money to support both of us."
"For a while. What happens when the visa expires?"
"Then we go somewhere else, or go out and come back."
"I don't want to live like that! That's your life! I'm sick of packing my bags." Our relationship had never been anything but long-distance -- I spent most of my holiday time with her over the three years I was in Saudi, though that was about three months per year.
"I think you need to live abroad just to see what it's like." Everything I'd seen so far suggested she had absolutely no desire to live anywhere but Russia. The one Russian girl I knew who didn't want to leave the fucking place.
"I don't want to work in a shop or be a babysitter. I have a job here." She's an accountant.
"But that job makes you miserable! You're exhausted all the time."
"It's a normal life!" she said, with the exasperation that so many girls before had expressed to me. A normal life, the one thing I can't offer and barely even understand.
"Look, I could come to Russia, there's a new kind of extended visa where I could stay for six months."
"But then you'll just leave again!"
I sighed. "I told you many times, there is no other choice for us. I can't come live in Russia, unless we move to Moscow or St. Petersberg, maybe. You know I can't work there in Vodkaberg, there are only two schools and I had bad experiences with both of them."
"I don't want to move to Moscow! I don't want to live in a rented flat."
"I have told you many, many times. If we are going to be together, there's no other choice. I have to move around a lot for my jobs, and I can't make a good salary anywhere that I would want to buy a house."
"You don't want a family," she'd accuse.
"I don't want to be divorced! I'm not going to marry you if you're going to be unhappy with the lifestyle that we need to have. Especially, absolutely no children until we've been actually living together somewhere for a couple of years."
"You don't love me," she would say, and begin crying. The eternal battle -- men thinking with their heads and their cocks, women thinking with their hearts.
"You could apply for an American visa again," I'd suggest.
"Do you know what a pain in my ass that was? And they'll just say no again."
"Yes, but there's no other choice!" now expressing my own exasperation. "I warned you so many times over the last few years," I said helplessly. "There's just no easy way for this! You always said we'd worry about it later. Now is that time. You know even if I marry you, it won't change anything. We are from different countries, and there's no changing that there's a tremendous amount of paperwork we'd have to go through, and we'll have to be separated sometimes. It's impossible to give you a normal life, I've told you that many, many times!"
"So you want to break up?"
"Not particularly! But don't you think we should either break up, or be together?"
She'd just cry, and say she was too exhausted to talk about it any more.
And we'd have that same discussion about every three days.
Then towards the end of January, I was contacted by a recruitment company. They were arranging interviews for a position in Saudi Arabia, a VERY high dollar position for one of the state companies; almost twice as much money as my last job. They wanted to interview me in March.
I decided to go to the Dominican Republic in February. I invited my Girlfriend, and she revealed that she had applied for a new job at a bank, and would be passing a series of tests in February.
"So we're breaking up then," I said.
She started crying. "Why do you keep saying that?"
"Because you are making no moves for us to be together."
"You're not even trying to understand me! I need to have a good job!"
"It's not a good job. You'll make like $800 a month. You'd probably make twice that much being a shop girl in Dubai or a babysitter in Cyprus."
"I don't want to live like that!" As always, the exasperation: she was simply never going to understand my life, and I was never going to understand hers. Everything in my life was neprospektivni, as the Russians say. Even if I made money, or a lot of money, it was a bum's life.
It's true; I'm one of the world's richest homeless guys.
"Then we can't be together."
"You don't love me!" she'd cry.
Around and around and around we'd go.
I bought tickets for the Dominican Republic for three weeks in February.
We continued to talk on Skype though; she stubbornly continues to think some magical solution might fall out of the sky and hit us like a meteor. Or, more likely, that I'll stop being stubborn and just mutate into a normal Russian guy with a job in an office and a car and a house who wants a bunch of kids.
Who is that slouching figure walking down the street of small-town America towards the library, his cheap Old Navy hoody shadowing his face?
I heard he used to teach English overseas ...