"I suppose I may begin by asking her name," I said to Anton, and excused myself with a grin.
The Major was reluctant to reveal her name. She explained that they had been discouraged years ago to use their real name at the base. So, rather than lying to people by using a fake name, she said that she decided to simply call herself by her title: The Major.
"My real name is Nina Tuleyev," she volunteered when I stopped prodding. "My real home is far away from here, in a small fishing village on the Black Sea. It's called Tuzly." She told me that when they were children, their parents would take them sometimes to the big delta of the Danube River to watch the birds before their migration north. She explained that for some strange reason, this image of the birds migrating north for the summer got her interested in coming north, herself. "That's probably why I became a veterinarian, and why I signed up later with the Reindeer Research Center. All this happened before the center became what it is now."
"Are there any herds left nearby?" I asked.
"Fourteen," she said. "Would you like to see one?"
"Then you better come with me. Do you still remember the size of your flight suite?"
I told her that I didn't. Strangely, she didn't seem to mind going through the motion once more to find me one that fits.
"Our rickety old workhorse is often used to supply food to the herds in extreme weather," she explained when we were finally in the air. As it was, it didn't take long to find a few herds and to give me an opportunity to use up some film. According to the script, this was my cover story. With Nina as amy guide, it was easy to fulfill this mission. Since I came for pictures, she gave me a gold mine to take my fill. Since I also came to explore her love, and she obviously felt it, she provided the gold herself in countless little ways and gestures, and looks, and smiles.
She also pointed out that she was hoping to find a large herd crossing a frozen lake that we could land on, in order to watch the reindeer close up. Half an hour later, after checking a few lakes she found one. The lake was a large one, the largest we had come to. It was completely covered with a blanket of snow, brilliantly white. As she eased the airplane down in front of the herd, the loose powder swirlled arround, stirred up during the landing. It completely obscured the herd that was comming towards us, which soon surrounded us. The animals appeared like ghosts out of the stirred up ice fog. Nina said that it would be save to get out of the aircraft when they came, since the plane and its people are not unfamiliar to them. Of course she was right. None of the animals seemed in anyway disturbed by the encounter. They stopped briefly and snooped as they came by, just in case there was food forthcoming. When they realized that there was none they wandered off.
It was frightening at first to be so surrounded, but also terribly exciting to stand in this sea of fine animals that came and looked us over and then departed. I embraced Nina out of sheer excitement and gratitude, and with a kiss that said more than just thank you. It all happened spontaiously and naturally.
Her eyes sparkled as if they were reflecting the same excitement that I felt, which evidently was the case. She didn't seem to mind the kiss. She didn't scold me or pull away, but smiled instead in a way I had not seen her smile before.
We remained on the ice for a long while after the animals had come through. We talked and even embraced each other at one point, while we watched the herd slowly disappear in the distance under a cloud if ice fog of their own creating. When there was nothing left of them to see we stolled back to the plane.
Bording the plane wasn't hard. Nina had kept the cargo hatch open. Some snow had blown inside. While helping each other to get back into the plane and clear the snow out, Nina happily managed to return the kiss. After this, of course, it was my turn again. She explained that the engine needed a three-minute warm-up prior to takeoff. Oh, this time that was well utilized by both of us.
We checked on our herd once more after being airborne again, and then searched for others. Miraculously, we made it back to the base in time for supper. The flight suites were quickly shed, and our normal clothes put back on. When the bell rang we were back at our places, but things were not the same as they had been before. Anton was right, she is a beautiful person to be with.
After supper, Nina showed me the station's telescope. It didn't seem to matter that neither of us knew anything about the stars, but the stars were beautiful nevertheless. The sky was so brilliant with them. We just stood there and held each other, and looked up into this great ocean of lights.
As we left, we saw Antonovna come in with another person from the base. She winked at me and walked on.
Nina's private apartment was the largest, according to her rank. It was located on the top floor of the high-rise. One could see across the forest from her place, to a distant lake or meadow. In the moonlight, the landscape became a world of ice castles, ruled by the evil mouse king from the Nutcracker Suite. She even had the music for it. Also, we could see the whole magical world right from her bed. She felt soft, warm, and wonderful. She said, there had never been such a visitor in her castle, as I. She had longed for it, but when she opened her eyes, there was never anyone there. "Now it is different, and it seems so like a dream," she added.
Mostly, we let the music talk for us, we just danced our role to the full, since we knew the outcome already. So it was that the dancing made the evening rich, and this, once again, was unhurried. This time, the magic of the dance was not controlled by the master magician, Drosselmeyer, as dictated by the score. It was love. It was love as it was represented in the design of the ballet. This love was a rich outflow from our hearts that went far beyond what even the best theatrical metaphor could ever symbolize. Our love was greater than that. We were both sure about its reality.
After the music of the ballet ended the melodies lingered on like an echo from the soul. It was a spiritual journey we were on, with beautiful spiritual melodies about ice castles and love with which we allowed ourselves to drift off to sleep.
The alarm clock rang at six AM. Nina got out of bed to turn the heat up and then came back. "We have half an hour," she said, and cuddled up to me. "Why is it that I feel so at ease with you?" she said. "Being with you seems to be the most natural thing in the world. Can you explain that?"
"You feel that way, because that's the way it is. We are not strangers to one another. We are part of the same humanity, with the same feelings, hopes, joys, and aspirations. Why should we not meet each other on this level as two human beings in love with the humanity that we share?"
"You make it sound so simple," said Nina.
"Oh, it is, but it took a lot of work to realize that."
"...that we are more closely connected that we think. You are a scientist, right? As a scientist you work on a platform that has been build up by countless discoveries made by the great pioneers of our past, some of which have lived thousands of years ago. The way you tackle a problem may reflect to some degree how Plato would have approached the problem of making a discovery, or Kepler, or Gauss, or Leibnitz. They are a part of our humanity by which we have become enriched. We have learned from them the process of making discoveries. In a sense, they are still alive in us. Their ideas have become a part of us as we discover their achievements and the process of making discoveries; by which they enrich us further; by which they help us to develop ourselves; by which they help us to shape our world. No person lives truly alone in this larger sphere of our humanity. However, we have become pretty good in isolating ourselves from it, and so we feel alone for that reason. Unfortunately, it is rather hard to overcome the resulting self-isolation and connect up with one another within the sphere of the humanity that we all share. Of course, when we finally manage to do that, the result is wonderful, we feel good about it. Our lives feel richer again."
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