I asked her if she was from Russia. She said “Ukraine,” but I was too embarrassed to ask if that was in Russia so I just nodded.
She hand-washed my blouses, and I loved her for that. I wanted to share the five habits of healthy living with her, but I didn’t know her well enough at the time.
· Never eat anything bigger than your head
· Stay away from dairy
· Drink lots of water and always add a flavor packet
· Don’t eat the things you want the most
· Train for a full marathon
My friend Samantha was the one who introduced me to Nadia. Samantha is a voice-over actress who used to be a yoga instructor. She lived in Indonesia for a while and was almost washed away by the tsunami. She tells the story of living in a hut on the beach with a poor family. I can’t imagine an entire family living in a hut, let alone with Samantha because she talks quite a lot. Anyway, the morning of the flood Samantha went to the market. Probably to buy lemon grass. They eat a lot of lemon grass in Indonesia. As she tells it: “I heard screaming and shouting. I saw a thirty foot wall of water rushing down the narrow street, washing away everything and everyone.”
“What did you do?” Everyone asks that. “What did you do?”
“I saw some stairs, and I made a break for them,” she says.
“On the way I picked up a chicken that was crossing my path, and I ran us both to safety.”
“A chicken?” Everyone asks that too. Then she goes into this long thing about God and universal purpose, blah blah blah. Something about micro-universes everywhere and how we are their caretakers, their gods. About responsibility and guidance, knowing when to step in and when to step out. That’s all I remember because I always tune out at that point. Samantha can go on.
When she got back to the States, she went straight into group therapy, or maybe it was A.A. She met Nadia at a meeting and knew instantly that Nadia was her chicken. It sounds strange, but I understand it now. After meeting Nadia and spending time with her, I came to the realization that Nadia is my chicken, too.
Neither Samantha nor I liked Nadia’s boyfriend Boris. Samantha said he had a “cruel aura,” and once he made an anti-gay remark while we were waiting for Nadia to finish wiping the baseboards. She always forgets to do that, and I have to remind her. I offered him some water—with an orange flavor packet, of course,—and we got to chatting about the time he murdered a man. It was back in the Ukraine when he was young, just out of the military. I can’t remember the name of the Ukraine city so I’ll just say Berlin for now. He was in Berlin, working as taxi driver, and late one night he picked up a man at a bar. The man-made an advance. I wasn’t there so I can only tell you what Boris told me. He drove the guy out to a wooded area on the outskirts of town, stopped the car, pulled the man out of the taxi, and strangled him until he was dead. Then he stomped on the man’s head until it was nothing but mush. Then he left the man’s body in the woods and went back to work as if nothing had happened. I asked Boris why he would kill a stranger like that, and Boris said because the man was a homosexual and had winked at him. That was the end of the story. He thanked me for the water, and Nadia walked into the foyer saying she was done—which she wasn’t because, when I checked, there were still smudges all over the baseboards, and I had to stand there and watch her go back over them.
The next week, Nadia showed up with her arm in a sling. She said that Boris had pushed her into a propane barbecue.
“Was it lit?” I wanted to know.
“No,” she said. “It was at Sears.”
I insisted that Nadia move in with me, and she did. Now my house is much cleaner, and I’m saving fifty dollars a week, so it worked out well for both of us.
Samantha calls me from time to time to check up on Nadia. She gives me pointers on how to be the best god I can be. It’s a big responsibility, carrying Nadia to safety, but I don’t mind because she needs direction. She made some fatty potato thing the other night, but I wouldn’t even taste it. I wanted to show by example how a person respects their body. I asked her why she came to the U.S., was it something she’d always dreamed of, lived for? She told me about the man she’d met over the Internet and ended up marrying when she was eighteen. After a few months, he wouldn’t let her leave the house, and she had to make breakfasts for him and his new girlfriend.
Nadia is very strong. She gives me massages, and I started letting her sleep in my bed. She curls up with her back against mine. Sometimes she twitches and cries in her sleep, and it wakes me up. She’d feel badly if she knew. Poor thing. I lie there and watch her. I wonder what it must have been like for her, getting pushed into that barbecue. Then I think about Samantha in a strange country running from some giant wave. Lately, I’ve been wondering what happened to the chicken she rescued. I want to ask Samantha. I want to know if the chicken is okay, because I’m thinking it’s time that Nadia move out.
Header image: “Flag of Ukraine” by України – ДСТУ 4512:2006 – Державний прапор України. Загальні технічні умовиSVG: 2010. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flag_of_Ukraine.svg#/media/File:Flag_of_Ukraine.svg