Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Yet Another Seriously Boring Post in Which I Dream

Fairy Tale. n A fictititious, highly fanciful story or explanation.

Dream. n A wild or vain fancy.

Fantasy. n Imagination, esp. when extravagant and unrestrained.

While I've written the story of meeting Andriy before, there are bits and pieces of that story missing. Memory only brought up certain times during the writing of that post. My mind has been working in overdrive in the last five weeks wandering to a place where a happy ending could reside. I'm remembering more things. One month was not enough and yet that one month was filled with so many wonderful moments. June of 1998 was the best month of my life. And the joy was always clouded by the knowledge that on July 1, he would leave.

In a fairy tale, July 1 would never have arrived. Or he would have found the way to stay. Or I would have gotten on that plane with him. Something other than geographical distance getting in the way.

Okay, what is the direction I want this to take? The writing, not the dream, I mean. I guess this is going to be a long post. If you continue reading, thanks. I don't expect it. It is just me going on and on again about a man that I've probably elevated in my mind beyond anything that he could possibly be.

Memories, misty water colored memories. I'm not sure if that is even the right lyric. Okay, moments that have come back to me over these years, again and again. Some small thing will remind me of him. Movies, music, tiny little details. Places.

One night while he was here, my mom got it into her head that a "crazy American" thing to do would be to visit a country bar and see some line dancing. Not entirely sure what she thought country bars were really like in Minnesota, but "Why not!" There's a bar in the town I now live (and actually drive past a few nights a week coming home from karaoke) called "Robert's." It's a dive. My mom heard they played country music. So one night, we all went. Keep in mind that at the time, Andriy and I were both underage. Little details like this never stopped my mom. When we got to the bar, she decided to try and get us in. She even told the person at the door that we were underage. She used some facts even. My mother explained to the woman that she wanted these foreigners to experience a country bar. Promising no liquor (which was a broken promise), she explained that both Andriy and I were from Ukraine and made me pretend that I couldn't speak English. And we were in. Inside, it was a typical dive bar. Loud music, one drunk woman dancing back and forth by herself, and dark lighting. We sat inside, chatting and watching the lack of synchoized line dancing. It was still a good time. We were together.

The third night he was here, my family went to go play billiards at this place called "Fat Boys." It is owned by the man who owned the pool hall I used to go to religiously. Thinking nothing of it, I wore this T-shirt my mom got me. The T-shirt was for a TV show that is still popular today. An American TV show that had not made syndication in Ukraine. Imagine the surprise and shock of a person who doesn't get the reference and sees a young woman wearing a T-shirt that proudly boasts, "I Killed Kenny." Yeah. I still remember his look as he asked me, cautiously, "You killed someone? And you wear a shirt that says it?" Cultural difference.

One evening, we went online (AOL) and my cousin's step-children were online at the same time. They chatted with us for about an hour, asking Andriy question after question. Andriy was having fun with the questions and being inappropriate. I edited the inappropriate comments out (the kids were 8 and 10), but remember his wicked smile as they asked him, "Do you drink milk?" His reply was, "No. I drink Vodka." It's cuter if you imagine it as it was, with the Slavic accent.

Oh, that accent. Lovely. Absolutely lovely. One evening, just the two of us driving back from somewhere (I think it was Target), we were talking about the accents. The conversation probably arose from the "Th-" or "-th" sound in English that is not common in other languages. Native English speakers - did you ever realize there are actually different ways to pronounce this combination of letters within our language? It's just something we pick up. It was something Andriy learned. He was explaining how my first name would sound different if someone didn't know the -th sound. I knew this. I spent a month in Germany during my senior year of high school, living with a girl who called me "Bess" when I knew for a fact she could pronounce my name correctly. The conversation turned to his name. He introduced himself as "Andrew" many times during his visit to people (and uses it sometimes in emails). His first name is not pronounced like the common Andre. Think Andri. Which makes no sense here. The ending sound is not "A" but "E". As we chatted, I demonstrated how someone could butcher his last name, using the "hard, crass American accent" that he had deemed to be common. His last name is correctly pronounced, "Ro-man-shoo-k." I looked at him, saw the gleam in his eyes, and said, "Roman-CHUCK." The horrified look was priceless.

I tried to teach him to drive a stick shift car. What you have to realize is that stick shifts are more common in Europe than here. He knew how to drive. But since his father was fairly prominent in his country, he learned on automatics. To this day, I still don't know how he managed to get the car parked horizontally in a vertical spot. There was a lot of laughter.

There are certain words that are not taught in foreign language classes. While his English teacher did a great job telling him about detailed topics (such as abortion - we actually had a debate one evening), she never did cover certain slang or curse words. Yep. Yup. Common words spoken in the Midwest. He didn't know they were forms of, "Yes." To him, they sounded like a certain Ukrainian word that we would commonly call the F-word. One evening, he actually said, "Why do people keep swearing at me?" That's when I learned a phrase, which I cannot spell but is pronounced, "Yup-for-you-much," that would be quite effective in displaying frustration or anger. The phrase, "C*cks*cker" also ended up being a conversation I will never forget. You really do have to break down the compound word to explain it. Because demonstration was not going to happen.

He doesn't like rootbeer. That surprised me. While we commonly use cherry flavor for medicine, it appears rootbeer flavor is used for medicine in Eastern Europe. Trips to A&W did not happen while he was here.

We made an unique pair. You have to know that I was 19, an American young woman who grew up in the 90's and had been taught my entire life that women are strong, equal to men. He grew up Ukraine and watched the fall of Communism and the rebuilding of his society. His views of men and women roles were different than mine. And the thought of letting me walk though a door by myself or holding the door open for him drove him CRAZY. It wasn't right. Also, the idea of letting me pay for evenings out was insane to him. But he was a guest in my home and I did pay for our evenings out. He'd get so mad. It was adorable.

So, my memory of him is of an ambitious man - going to law school (now graduated and holding a prestigious job in politics), a kind, gentle man, a man willing to learn about different cultures and finding better ways to live, a man with a passion for life, a bit of a work-a-holic, a man who loved to travel, a man with a brilliant laugh, and a man who just symbolized everything I thought was never going to be a reality in a man. I was 19 and had notions that love was a pipedream. I never thought there could be someone out there who was so right.

He is a fairy tale to me - one with a small hope of coming true. I want that fairy tale. Logic takes a backseat to the dream, no matter how unrealistic. Almost 9 years and I'm still completely taken with him. Every man since has been compared to him. And always will be.