Chapter 7 - In Denial of the Truth.
There were tears in our eyes when the time came the next morning to say good-bye. I kissed Nina, shook hands with many others, hugged Ivan and Leslie, and then we climbed back into the giant snow cat that returned us to 'Oymyakon International Airport' as the driver called our riverbed landing strip in the middle of nowhere.
The same old Antonov-12 was waiting there in the bright sunshine with its engines slowly idling as if the world had stood still for ten days. It had brought more cargo. More wooden boxes with tools, more fuel, more canvass bags, and forty containers of milk. I was beginning to love this old workhorse of the north that came by this place every five days, provided there was a need for it, which there always was. This time it came to take Anton and me back to Yaktusk.
From Yaktusk on we were on our own again. We said farewell to the last people of the North who had become familiar to us. The pilots and the crew of the plane wished us a save journey home. Rostislav was nowhere to be seen, which was a relief.
Our flight south, the next day, strangely, became one of the most pleasant flights that I can remember. And this wasn't so because of any exceptional service on the plane. Actually, there was no service at all. Below us lay this wonderful country that we had developed a special feeling for, a feeling of respect, supported by memories of wonderful moments and also a great fear. I treasured the spirit of the people we had found there, which matched the immensity of the place and its harshness, its timelessness, and its boundless riches.
Huddled together as before, Anton and I shared the window beside us. Looking down, we could see the great white band of the Lena River that snaked its way across the taiga. We started a game. We looked for villages along the riverbank, and tried to name them according to the map in the plane. Some were easily spotted, and others were extremely well concealed beneath the great white carpet that seemed to cover the whole world. But we spotted them nonetheless. There were Pokrovsk, Bestyakh, Sinsk, Kytyl Dyura, Isit, Markha, Uritskoye, Khorintsy, all perfect tongue twisters for an English speaking person.
"Didn't I tell you that Nina is a beautiful person?" Anton interrupted our game and grinned, and then embraced me with a kiss following. "Did you ever imagine that your wife would say something like that," she added, "and be joyous that you had a wonderful affair with another woman?"
I shook my head and said, "No, never! But it's happening, now."
"This would never be possible on any lower level than the universal level, where we touch one another laterally," said Anton.
I just shook my head in disbelieve. "With you, the impossible seems to be not only possible, but oh, so naturally, too."
"That's exciting, isn't it?" Anton added. "And nothing is faked. I am your wife, and I really feel glad for you that you were able to have that day with Nina; that you were able to experience that union. As a matter of fact, it feels wonderful to be able to say that. I just wonder how many women in the world are able to say such a thing and really mean it," she added.
"Not many," I suggested.
"Would Sylvia be able to say that?"
"Sylvia, definitely. She said something like that in Caracas, didn't she? Heather, possibly. Heather bought us the concert tickets, remember? Steve and Ushi, absolutely. Need I go on, Anton?"
"Then they all ought to join us; all of them together. Maybe that should be the criterion," Anton joked and began to smile. "Do you think that will be possible some day?"
"It's possible now," I replied. "Maybe it is even possible on a universal scale."
"You mean that every bride should be joyous if her husband finds a new lover?" said Anton.
"An additional lover, not a new lover, or another lover," I corrected her. "That singularity is destructive. Love needs to expand, and become universal. How else can love expand unless one takes it out of the realm of singularities, and one puts it in its native realm, the universal realm? Indeed, how else can one embrace the principle of universal love that makes us richer?"
"Maybe then they should all join us?" Anton suggested. "Would that be stretching the envelop a bit too far?"
"Of course not," I replied. "The principle is still the same, isn't it?"
Anton paused and grinned. "Someday, this will happen, mark my word."
"It's already a reality," and hugged her again. "It's the reality of everyone's being. Aren't we all human beings of a common humanity? To any other concept than this, one would have to say: What has this got to do with anything?"
Our first major stop on the way to Bratsk was at Oleminsk. Great drifts had formed behind the terminal building. The traditional pillow of snow had been blown off from one side of the roof, all four feet of it. It was a windy place now. The plane vibrated with the sudden gusts. Later, for supper, we stopped at Lensk again. The fare was still the same: steaming hot cabbage, sausages and potatoes. Again we were invited to join the crew. They were the same people, with the same funny jokes and laughter; only there was live music this time. And as before, we flew in the dark after supper, arriving in Bratsk way past midnight.
It appeared that we both focused intentionally on the beauty of the land, searching for things beautiful to focus on as if this could make the terrifying situation that was unfolding in the real world less real, less immediate, less threatening. Maybe we were unconsciously holding on to life and beauty, and the beauty of a humanity that was fast slipping away from us like water slips through one's fingers.
At Bratsk, however, our grand adventure was over. We boarded one of the big jets the next morning and suffered all the familiar boredom of flying high above the weather, with in-flight meal service and cheap drinks. God knows what wonderful times people have passed over in this hurried race against the clock. Indeed, we were in a race against the clock, ourselves. The sense of urgency drifted more and more into the foreground now. Now we had only ourselves left and our love with which to comfort one another. We held on to each other.
Novosibirsk was in full sunshine again. This time we didn't feel like celebrating. A single kiss was all that we could manage in memory of that bright day we had shared before. We switched planes in Novosibirsk onto the direct flight to Moscow. Nicolai had someone waiting for us who brought us to one of the lesser-known hotels. The moment we got to our room, Nicolai was at the door. He looked great. He embraced us, congratulated both of us. He listened patiently to our story, asked questions. We told him about the inscriptions and the burn marks. We even drew pictures of what we had seen. We also recreated the electron scan of the virus for Nicolai. He was both extremely pleased and extremely worried. He examined our drawings for about fifteen minutes and then set fire to them in the hotel's wood burning stove and stirred up the ashes. "I am trained to have a photographic memory," he explained. "In a society that is built on fear, secrecy is essential. In this society everyone is isolated from everyone else, out of fear." Then he started to laugh.
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