Young Voices

I got into the literary circle “Young Voices” thanks to Genka Pantyukhov, my classmate and the son of a physics teacher. We were fond of poetry; he gave me a volume of Yesenin to read. When I brought the book back, Genka said that a literary circle was opening in the Palace of Culture, located not far from the school, and offered to go and find out what it was. Of course, I agreed. Thoughts about embarking on a career as a journalist did not leave me then, and I decided that participation in literary work would be to my advantage.

The whole trouble was that until that moment, I had hardly tried myself in the literary field, apart from the unsuccessful issue of the journal in the sixth grade. It happened so. My attempts to write poetry were ridiculed by my parents, and I would have stopped this lesson earlier, but my friend Bronya, who had an obvious talent for drawing, became interested in chivalry. His room was filled with pictures of knightly tournaments, and then with figures of plasticine and papier-mâché. He brought his products to school. Everyone was enthusiastic, and several battle scenes were even placed on shelves in the history office.

I didn’t succeed. I did not know how to sculpt and draw. But Uncle Zhenya, my father’s brother, gave me a camera at this time, and Armor was struck by a brilliant idea: shooting animated films. However, simplicity of design did not mean simplicity of execution. Two insurmountable obstacles arose. The first was that the usual photographic film gave a negative image, and we needed a positive one. The second is that for shooting even the smallest cartoon, we needed hundreds of meters of film and liters of solution. Neither I, nor Bronya, nor even our third friend, the “rich” Vitka Demchik, had the financial means to purchase such an amount of materials. We were depressed, but found a way out: Bronya offered to release a magazine. I scribbled a “military” story while Bronya wrote it with a calligraphic handwriting in a clean penny notebook and decorated it with colored pencil drawings.

Enchanting success awaited us at the class hour. Nadezhda Sergeevna read my story out loud, commenting on Bronya’s drawings along the way. Then she gave it to our classmates, and the magazine, accompanied by admiring exclamations, went for a stroll around the desks and rows. Finally, everyone came to know our creation. I took it, and we agreed with Bronya that I would first show it to my parents, and then he to his mother. Bronya grew up and was brought up without a father.

My parents were at home. The father lay on the bed and read the magazine Soviet Miner. Besides him, he also had out the newspaper Pravda, but did not read it; the newspaper went straight to the box near toilet. Mother had out the magazine Family and School and Teacher’s Newspaper.

Both parents read Family and School; there were interesting essays in almost every issue. One day, our father, chuckling, read out loud a note written to us in a letter from a child who complained that his parents called him at home by their nickname and not by name. This scene from our life still stands before my eyes, as if it happened yesterday. Laughing, his father said: “And this is about us,” and read the essay. I remember the phrase from the letter: “And here the ‘goat’ came!” How many times have I and my brother been greeted with such a remark from school! Mother echoed Father, adding her comments.

I felt terrified: two people with higher education, moreover my mother with a pedagogical one, laughed ABOUT ME, not realizing this.

All four items were signed by parents because they were forced to do this at work. If the parents were not signing, they would not write anything out of the periodicals.

Once, when I was already in the ninth grade, my mother became generous, and during the subscription campaign, I received five rubles. Without hesitation, I signed up for a six-month subscription to Science and Life, Technology for Youth, and Modeler Designer. When the first issues of these magazines arrived, Father made a huge scandal; in his opinion, I could go to the library and read the magazines there. Arguments that the library was far away, that it had strictly defined working hours, and subscription magazines can be read at home at a convenient time did not help. Some time passed, and Science and Life began to print Arthur Hailey’s novel “Wheels”. MY father began to read them, but did not give money for a subscription for the second half of the year. The following year, the situation repeated itself, with the difference that I collected the money for a six-month subscription myself. The second half of the year did not interest me, since I was going to go to college and did not expect to live in my native home.

Arthur Hailey is my favorite foreign writer.

“We released a magazine with Armor!” I said in a triumphant voice.
My parents were familiar with Wambut’s mother. She worked as a librarian at a school where my mother worked as a teacher of Russian language and literature, and my father worked part-time as a teacher of drawing. Muarents knew about the existence of Broni, that we were studying in the same class and were friends.

Father put aside the number of the Soviet Miner, and I handed him our magazine. He read quickly, grunted, and grinned. His verdict fit into one sentence: “This does not happen. Officers do not go to dismissal. They live freely, in families or in a hostel.” And he offhandedly threw my notebook back. Mother intercepted it. I saw how the parental face began to take an unkind expression and realized that I brought the magazine home in vain. Mother gave me a displeased look and said ominously:

“You decided to disgrace me? Why so many mistakes?”

She sat down at the table, pulled up an ink bottle with red ink, and, dipping a pen into it, began to correct grammatical errors. At the final stage, she put on a bold “deuce” and the words, “Learn to write correctly, and then write stories!” Then she threw the notebook back to me. I was seized with a cruel insult. Boiling with indignation, I grabbed the magazine and threw it into the oven.

The next day, Bronya asked me if I had brought the magazine back. I told everything as it was. My friend grimaced and complained that it would be better if he took the magazine first to his home. I agreed, but nothing could be changed.

A few days later, I was overtaken by spanking and a wild scandal. Mother, furiously turning her eyes, grabbed the belt and began to chase me around the apartment. In her opinion, I still dishonored her by talking about editing errors in the “journal” and its “demise.”

I did not make more attempts at literary work until I heard about Young Voices.

I did not want to go to the recreation center empty-handed. I began to feverishly think that I would present it to the head of the studio, but nothing crossed my mind. I complained to Geschke that I had nothing to go with, but he didn’t bother much and suggested that he go just like that; to see, especially since he also had nothing.

And we went. They welcomed us warmly. The head of the studio, having heard about two boys from the ninth “B” grade of the 101st school, not only accepted us into her team, but also warned that the literary studio includes a drama club, and we can participate in the productions of amateur performances. This immediately interested us, since the question arose: will we kiss girls in these performances?

Classes in the studio took place on Wednesdays and Sundays and were not particularly hard, except when I had to learn the right words by heart. Unfortunately, there were no roles in which to kiss, and this caused some disappointment not only in us, but also in the girls.

Gradually, we all got to know each other. Classes were interesting and lively. The triumph of our meetings was the broadcast about us on Donetsk regional television. I was honored to write a feuilleton by this time, and Genka a poem. We returned to school with the sounds of copper pipes.

Winter holidays came, we began to meet more often, and I noticed one girl who was visiting the studio with us. It will be correct to say that I paid attention to her a little earlier, and, strangely enough, thanks to my father. Once, when he arrived home, he asked me if a certain Tamara Volkova from the 110th school is involved in the life of the studio? I answered in the affirmative, to which Dad said that she sharpened a pencil at a drawing lesson and cut her finger. He also added that she asked my father whether his son was attending the studio, since the names coincided.

In the next lesson, I asked Tamara if her finger had healed. She looked at me with her blue eyes, and my heart was struck.

Many boys took care of Toma, even my friend Genka Pantyukhov, but she gradually got rid of their attention, and I got the opportunity to accompany her home without fear of revenge from competitors.

We met in the park, adjacent to the Palace of Culture, walked in it, went to the cinema. And on March 24, on my birthday, at age 16, I kissed her for the first time. I still remember her soft lips, the smell of simple Soviet perfumes, and the dizziness that I experienced from a kiss.

From the park bells, the song “Ma che freddo fa” was played by Nada Malanima, and my classmates played hole-hol” in a football clearing. Life was beautiful and amazing. The next day at school, my friend Geshka Mordin came up to me, and, shaking his finger and slyly squinting his eyes, he whispered conspiratorially: “But I saw everything!”

But my love with Luda was not destined to develop. It is hard to say who is to blame more: she or I. My passion for photographing, basketball, and shooting left me no free time, and the upcoming exams at the end of the ninth grade enraged my mother, and if she saw me not sitting at the textbook, this definitely caused a scandal.

The basketball coach, trying to fight my thinness, demanded that I enroll in the barbell section and even agreed with her leader, but my mother, hearing that I had to go to training every day, made a huge scandal, and I had to refuse the barbell. The same thing happened with boxing. My parents were so far from sports that they saw in it only an obstacle to normal studies and in every way prevented me from visiting sports sections.

Tamara lived the ordinary life of an ordinary girl. My meetings with her became less frequent, and then completely stopped. My friends told me that her neighbor returned from the army, got a job, and led her to the movies with rapture.

Youthful love had passed.

After many years, I met Toma. She was divorced, her only adult son lived separately. Toma invited me to visit for dinner. But the feelings in my soul did not resurrect, and I received sexual pleasure in abundance from other women. I did not go to visit her.

Brisk Boys

But a holy place does not disappear overnight. Having parted with Toma in the spring, in the fall, I met Lida. This girl was in class a year younger than mine. Her upturned upper lip and pretty face broke my heart. I tried to look after her, but everything was in vain. I took the extreme step by inviting her to the cinema. She did not come, but literally a day later, my friend Geshka Mordin came up to me and bluntly told me to leave Lidka alone. It turned out that this young girl did not just meet with one of the local hooligans, but was his mistress.

I was not afraid of a possible reprisal. In the end, I could complain to my uncles or Vitka and Valera, and they would have broken his of the ribs. Moreover, none in this village knew this boy, and the hooligan would not have guessed which side the trouble had come from. But I felt disgusted. I imagined how the hooligan stripped Lidka and put his cock into her pussy; I felt so disgusted that my love for her died as if she had been killed.

Ironically, after many, many years, life brought me together with this woman in the Internet. She had two adult children, her husband had died of alcoholism, and she was free. Lida rushed to the memory of our school years. I understood what she was getting at. This did not inspire me, I answered with single words and barely restrained myself so as not to be rude to her. She sank to the point that she began to call my daughter and offer her some services. This infuriated me, but the memory of that youthful love for the girl Lida held me back even in this case. I just stopped talking to her.

In my youth I was long, skinny, absurd, and even my successes in studies, literature, photography and basketball did not give me preferences before brisk boys. They led away the young lovers, and I was left with nothing. Subsequently, life put everything in its place, but youth passed earlier.

Girls Don’t Visit Boys

My classes in the literary circle stopped in the winter, when I was on vacation. The chief rescheduled the meeting to another day and another time. At that time, we did not have a home telephone. The girls decided to warn me personally and went to my house. My mother, who was zealously overseeing my morality, read them a notation, in which she made the refrain that girls don’t visit boys.

The first days of school after that turned out to be hell; I was haunted by the giggles of tenth graders and the whisper “Girls don’t go to visit boys.” I tried not to respond to ridicule, time erased the severity of my memories, and everything was gradually forgotten, but it was very annoying.


For all installments from In the Shadow of the Belt, click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Introduction
  2. Chapter 1: Early Childhood
  3. Chapter 2: School? This is Just the Beginning, Baby…
  4. Chapter 3: Cognizing Life
  5. Chapter 4: Football as it Is
  6. Chapter 5: My Friend Sasha Bichukov
  7. Chapter 6: Score
  8. Chapter 7: Again, the Transience of Being, Part 1
  9. Chapter 7: Again, the Transience of Being, Part 2
  10. Chapter 8: Old Colony, Part 1
  11. Chapter 8: Old Colony, Part 2
  12. Chapter 8: Old Colony, Part 3
  13. Chapter 8: Old Colony, Part 4
  14. Chapter 8: Old Colony, Part 5
  15. Chapter 9: School Again, Part 1
  16. Chapter 9: School Again, Part 2