Sunday, June 02, 2013

Return to Vodkaberg, Part Two: Pterodactyl Girl

Pterodactyl Girl was pretty much a poster-child for the modern Russian dysfunctional family.

(This is her imitating the little ghost girl from THE RING.)

My first meeting with her was one of the more bizarre and heart-rending experiences I had over there. 

Her mom was only about 17 years older than her; they frequently went clubbing together while Grandma tended the house. Mom had been through two marriages and two divorces. One of the guys was described as a "bandit" while the biological father was a hopeless alcoholic, rarely seen.

She was probably not too different than most girls in their early 20s at that time in Russia -- drunk frequently, at clubs often, pretty casual about who she had sex with. But perhaps a bit more prone to wild outbursts, tears, and some insanely funny imitations and surreal non-sequitirs. She was so erratic in her behavior when she was young that at one point doctors thought she might be autistic or schizophrenic.

But no, she's just wacky.

Pterodactyl Girl was, and remains, one of my absolute favorite human beings. I hope that came across in the book VODKABERG. (The nickname came from her habit of doing a loud imitation of a pterodactyl when she wanted attention.)

She lived down the street from me and I saw her several times a week, and often at clubs. It was (largely) platonic, though very affectionate. Our relationship was somewhere between that of a close older brother and younger sister, and Beavis and Butthead.

At the end of VODKABERG, when I left in 2009, she was married to an unpleasant and abusive young man. (Hope that's not too much of a spoiler.)

They had separated the month before I left, but then they got back together.

When I visited Vodkaberg again in 2010, she was in the process of leaving her husband again. She'd hooked up with a guy she'd been in love with before she got married -- he'd formerly been a step-cousin, and by the end of the summer, she'd left her first husband and married this (far nicer) guy.

When I visited Vodkaberg in 2011, she called and said, "You'll be proud of me, I stopped smoking and drinking." And when I met her I saw why -- she was 7 months pregnant.

So, in one of the less-likely happy endings, Pterodactyl Girl 2013 is a happy young mother and wife. (She's 28 now, I think.) I went for walks to the playground and the beach with her and her baby almost every day I was in Vodkaberg. All the enthusiasm that she used to lavish on nightclubbing and drinking she now spends on her daughter.

It was heartwarming, actually. She's young, of course, and who knows what the future will bring, but here, and now, she's happy with her family.

She was glad to see me. She's one of the few people I know who I feel like is always glad to see me, and always makes time for me. She was concerned to hear that I was having problems with my relationship, as she likes my girlfriend fairly well, and definitely feels I need to marry. 

She agreed that the Girlfriend probably should have gone abroad with me, although Pterodactyl Girl is also a Russian girl who doesn't particularly want to leave Russia.

"If you end up living alone somewhere when you're old, don't worry, my family and I will come visit you. Or you can come live with us," she said. 

I know she actually meant it, and I choked up a little when she said that. 

"There might be a weather cataclysm in the future, and Russia will be the only country with fresh water," she added. "You'll be safe with us." 



brian said...

Nice to know there's some happiness, even in Vodkaberg. Hope she and her family keep it together.

Anonymous said...

Great entry! Seems like an amazing person and probably my favorite character in Vodkaberg.

Is she pure Russian? maybe some other ethnic mix accounts for her heart of gold and eccentric personality.

Does she work in a particular field?

Nice to know there is such a thing as happy endings in Russia! Dare i say, you might be tempted to go back :)

English Teacher X said...

I think she's pure Russian, maybe a touch of Ukrainian, if I recall correctly. She just works at a shop, though she managed to eke out a university degree in geography somewhere along the line.

Anonymous said...

That was a very nice piece. Sounds a bit like my life in Argentina; its a complicated affair, but stories like this are why I keep going back.

English Teacher X said...

Well gosh! Glad you guys liked it.

Anonymous said...

Is her mom still feeding on young cubs? Does the girl live apart from her mom and grandma? Did her maternal instinct kicking in make her more religious as well?

English Teacher X said...

They divide their time between the grandma's apartment and the apartment of his parents, though they're looking to buy a place through the new miracle of a mortgage loan. Mom married and divorced husband # 3 in 2011, and was dating a 32-year-old last I saw her.