для читателей старше 18 лет
1. Rain, rain…
It was a wonderful rainy day in July in St. Petersburg, very nice and mysterious. July is usually the warmest month in the city, and even night-time temperatures are so pleasant.
I looked out of the window from the 16th floor of my apartment to admire the sunset.
Grey clouds as a cover partially shadowed the sun rays, the sun peeped out from behind the clouds. I could see glittering golden spires and domes of some St. Petersburg’s cathedrals.
The bird’s-eye view of the city was so impressive, that in a moment I felt like flying.
One more week ended at work, and I enjoyed so long-expected Friday evening at home.
— Pretty soon the Fridays and weekends will not be long-awaited anymore, as all days will become the days-off for me, — I thought.
This was out of my plans, but such ingenious solution had been already found (and applied) by the higher-ups of the corporation I was with for ages. My bosses came to the decision that everyone should understand and accept wise policy of the company, which in the end was to be the answer to the company’s difficulties, just for the sake of its prosperity. As per our bosses, the reorganization of the company was inevitability, and it could be a brand-new start for the better future.
I took a clear view of the situation but I couldn’t understand if indeed the fact of “termination of the employment contract” and layoff would be good for me.
— Not as I would like it to be, but in that case… — I thought, — … the best thing for me is to remain optimistic. Let the loss of the job will be my own jump into the future, succession of events and new incredible adventures!
I sat down in the soft armchair in front of my favorite pinewood desk in my son’s room. We used to call it “Nursery” and later it was renamed into “Youthful room”. Have you ever heard about the room being named like that? Suddenly the phone rang.
— Hello, — I quickly answered. — Hi Eagle! Where are you now? Ok. Ok. I understand. Well, then till midnight… Sure, we’ll have late dinner together… Of course I’ll be waiting for you… No, I’m not going to go to bed… Yes, right. No jokes. OK. Take care, Slava. Thank you for calling. See you soon, my dear boy, bye-bye!
My son wanted to stay longer with his friends, and I didn’t mind. Of course, I was missing him, but that Friday evening his lateness wasn’t bad for me. I could start job searching without any rush, so I quietly turned on the computer.
But what a drag it is to look for a job in the net! Could one really find anything worthy there? I would and would not, but I had to solve the job problem, and the net is one of the ways to do this. Everything was ready and in place. I’ve brought my favorite silver tray with seedless grape on the plate, vanilla ice-cream in the glass and a tiny porcelain cup of fresh brewed coffee with cinnamon. In a minute or so I saw my playful cat at the door, in few seconds he jumped up on my knees.
— Felix, my sweetie, do you miss me? Would you like to join me and eat some grapes or do you prefer ice-cream?
I couldn’t help but petting my red long-haired beautiful cat.
— Here you are! — I gave him some grapes.
Believe or not, but Felix ate grapes and never refused the ice-cream. So … “Let’s start, Felix”, and I began my online job searching, as I had planned before.
— Ho-ho! Knock-knock! Is anything suitable here? No thanks, not for me. … And this is for adults under thirty.
Hmm. I hate reading that.
— And why do they prefer young males? — I was wondering.
— Wow! Isn’t that something? They train teachers for 6 weeks to work with infants with the special method. This unique technique allows baby understand and speak a foreign language in several months after birth.
It’s interesting, — I kept wondering.
— What else? — I read the next ones out loud.
“Hotel business, one must have at least five years’ experience…”
“Private chemistry teacher…”,
“Six-month trial job in the chain of the new opened supermarkets; then the most talented candidates will get a great chance to get manager’s position.”
— Bullshit! And again, males preferred? — I exclaimed loudly.
— What a mess! Part-time jobs, full-time. Translators, interpreters. Assistant Managers, secretaries, and a governess without any intention cheating on the master’s husband.
I had a cup of my delicious coffee and continued to read the job offers.
“Nanny without bad habits for two twin-boys of good stock.” “Expert in drug abuse/addiction. S/he could be a student of Medical school.”
— Some people have all the luck! Why I’m not a young student any longer? Felix, do you have an idea? — And I pet my cat.
“An administrator fluent in German is needed for a three-star hotel.”
“Insurance company invites young enthusiastic people to work in the summer”,
“We are seeking experienced truck and crane drivers.”
— Just for me! This job site is a piece of trash for real!
I couldn’t find anything appropriate to me, and only out of curiosity I read the next job offer:
“Wedding banquet planner and organizer.”
— Not so bad, and certainly it sounds much better and more joyful if compared with a vacant position of a “Burial Service Representative”. But there is no accounting for preferences, right? Hum. What else? Is anything worth to pay attention at?
“If you are a student,” — that definitely doesn’t suit me. “If you are a young energetic person,” — No or yes? Who knows?
My colleagues often call me “Energizer,” moreover, my favorite Dr. Tatarsky always says: “All the people under fifty are considered young.”
Hmm. He is a great doctor, really so! And I have never heard a better thing from any other doctor. It’s an amazing point of view and such a scientific age gradation. But almost all employers look at it otherwise. Maybe, the thing is that it depends on how you look at it?
“If you are under 35…”
“If you are over 40, 50, and 60?”
— No one lives and works so long in Russia, doesn’t s/he? A mean question, sorry.
Why did I ask it? Probably, I was too tired, so I stopped to click and move the mouse. I was ready to turn the computer off.
— OK, enough for today! Felix!
But in spite of my tiredness and desire to finish my daily job searching, at the very last moment I noticed an advertisement that suddenly appeared on the computer screen:
“Would you like to marry a foreigner? Totally Free Dating Site for Women without Ads and without Stupid limitations! No fees, no ads! Ladies only!”
— At last and at least something just for Women without any age limitations.
It was an intriguing tempting offer, and I smiled widely.
2. To Marry a Foreigner?
— Would I like to marry a foreigner? That’s the snag. — At that very moment I was bursting with curiosity, but I had no time to think the matter over.
That internet offer could vanish from my sight just in a second, so I clicked “Yes”.
— I’m not losing anything by clicking “Yes!” Why it should be so worrisome? I’m looking for a job and who knows, maybe now it’s the right time for me to start looking for a boyfriend or even a hubby? What if it’s a sign from above? — I gave myself a sunny smile.
Few minutes later I was registered at the given site. Then, having learnt some technical rules and tested how easy it worked, I decided that it could be fun to use the international dating site, something like a short or long-lasting cat – and-mouse net game.
— Would you like to play adult games, Vika? — I asked myself. — “Why not?” — I heard my inner voice.
Having glanced over dozens of pictures with smiley, happy and satisfied faces of the foreigners — the eligible bachelors and potential candidatures in the future, it occurred to me: “And what if it’s fate, lucky chance, lucky break or big break? And what if it’s a real chance, should I take the opportunity?”
I deepened in such thought.
— Take it easy! — I stopped thinking for a moment and relaxed.
After taking breath I continued to glance through the men’s pictures again. But what I focused my attention at were my possible competitors — the ladies, the fiancées. It was really a double fun! Do not get it wrong, please. I’m straight and absolutely not interested in women, but I just had to satisfy my curiosity, and I opened the “Women’s Gallery”.
Wow! It looked like the gallery was endless. How many women would love to find the partner in life via internet? It was unbelievable. And all of them were striking beauties. It reminded me an auction, and, indeed, it was an online Russian beauty auction, no doubt. But as they say, “Beauty is but skin deep.” Great job, photographers! The females were knockout there, truly.
And I’ve got it: When you’re presented with a chance to “take the bull by the horns”, take advantage of it!
But of course, I was eager to know how the Russian-speaking ladies advertised themselves for marriage! I began to read their profiles.
Elena, Olga, Svetlana, Marina, Natalia, Irina, Stella, Bella, Kristina, Alina, Olesya, Zhanna, Maria, Tatiana, Fatima, Alla, Galina, Veronika and many other women from Russia and former Soviet republics: the Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
From their questionnaires as well as per their own words, it seemed nearly all preferred sushi for breakfast, lunch and dinner; and if they drank something, it was exclusively champagne. Ho-ho! The absolute majority loved either jazz, or classical music (or both), and could listen to it since morning till night. They all strolled through the parks or along the beaches, thumbing through Brodsky’s poems. Fantastic! None forgot to mention Dostoevsky’s novels either, as, apparently, they liked to read it before going to sleep; as well as all wrote about doing yoga for hours for relaxation and being in good spirits. Of course, no bad habits.
Almost all the questionnaires were filled up the same way, and I couldn’t help but laughing: No one showed the true colors. These profiles could certainly amuse you for hours, especially if you knew what is what, but lost time is never found again, unless you are Marcel Proust. Yet even him it took a lifetime and seven books.
— Is it a “Virtual Russian Standard” or just pronounced tendency to fashionably live and be fashionably remembered? — I asked myself. — Of course, it’s the 21st century and the time demands to be up-date and, to large extent, follow the trend. But who said that one should follow somebody’s example blindfold?
I was too strict towards my possible competitors; still, women just copied each other, for sure. That’s why they reminded me pre-programmed robots, whose main goal was to find a foreigner between thirty-five and sixty-five to marry him. Such was online dating at the dawn of Web 2.0! Everything and everyone was for sale, just make a show of your best! Make a show of yourself! And you’ll be able to reach your goal. Well, and what then?
I was intrigued.
Couple of minutes after, being in a very playful mood, I filled my own questionnaire and uploaded few recent pictures. I did it the way I wished. I, definitely, didn’t want to be a new android looking alike to all the other Russian-speaking ladies there. In a week…
3. In a Week
I was busy, and it was not until the late evening of next Friday I got a chance to sit down and use the computer, but I finally got such opportunity, and everything was exactly the same way as I was a week before.
Job searching on my own was boring and overall appeared to lead me nowhere.
That’s why in order to not complicate matters I decided to consult the professionals and put myself in the hands of one of the best employment agencies in the city — a well-known American company.
So that not to be nervous I called them immediately and gave as much information about myself and my job goals, wishes and desires, as I could.
Concerning the dating site. Yes, it was deeply interesting to know what had happened there since last week. But I was neither anxious, nor I remained indifferent about this.
I clicked the button and checked my Internet page.
Eligible bachelors, as it turned out, were very active.
To my great surprise in my inbox I could see dozens of e-mails from enthusiastic foreign admirers.
Of course I was flattered at the quantity of the e-letters for me.
— That’s the start of the adult game, — came into my mind.
Almost all the e-mails were from the hot Finnish guys and expressive Spanish machos. And all of them without exception stated very strong intention to marry me at once. Hmm.
— How does it work in reality? — I reflected on. — Is anyone of the men serious in his intention?
— Why do they look for women so far away from their place of residence? — Such questions came to my mind.
Some of my co-workers, good acquaintances and even my sister succeeded in finding soul mates online and then, pretty soon after, they all were married.
Are they happy?
It’s difficult to say. But as I know, all of them were possessed by and at the same time entertained with an idea of entering into a marriage with a foreigner.
— Do I want to be married? Would I like to marry a foreigner? Do I have a strong wish to find my man in the web? Will it work if I use the internet for this purpose?
I had no answers to all these questions and I couldn’t hear my answers from my heart.
I was absolutely indefinite about that at the very moment and just joyfully proceeded with reading.
Some e-mails were obviously written according to a conventional, stereotyped pattern and looked like a mass e-mailing for the hundreds of sweet Russian brides.
— The player should be, at least, zestful but not just faceless e-mail posting, –was my humble opinion.
I read one e-mail after another, and none of those letters with the attached pictures of the extravagant men; with long detailed description of possible mutual future; with endless marked individual characteristics of the bachelors gave comfort– none of them.
But to tell the truth, it was amusing to read well-edited and thought – through “compositions” by experienced internet love (or lover?) hunters.
To evoke my response especially at that time was unbearably difficult. My heart was broken into pieces by a Russian guy, and I didn’t want to break the silence of it again. Nevertheless, the glimmer of hope was still sparkling inside me, and I hoped to attempt the impossible — to fall in love again.
I also truly believed that if so happens, I would like to be with my man till the end of times and, moreover, probably, I would love to marry him, to follow him and share my life with him, with my new beloved one.
— That’s incredible! — I interrupted my dreams and reading for a second. — I am а person, who lived on dreams, aren’t I?
I managed to escape from answering anyone who had sent me an e-mail, I didn’t write back a word. I didn’t want to simply believe that someone touched me on the raw.
— It is not easy to drag a good man out of the net with the help of mouse. And should I drag anyone out for myself? Hmm, — I laughed, — no, I’m not going to do this. But why not to acquire some experience in the Internet?
I stopped for a while; again, my Felix was a magnet for my attention.
Wow! In a moment I couldn’t believe my eyes: I won a prize online! It was a real prize, and I was only a few clicks away from reserving the cruise with great discounts I’ve always dreamed of.
The friendliness of on-line reservation agents was fabulous.
To make sure, I’ve checked the travel company site, and it was not a spam.
The company was like having your best friend arrange a holiday for you. I had no problems with them by phone or e-mail. Everything ran smoothly and efficiently. I never had to worry about a thing — flights and hire-car they suggested were perfect, hotel recommendations rated high. No pressure or rush.
The reservation manager assured that they would be patiently waiting for the confirmation from my side at any right time for me during the next six months. And that unforeseen prize (travel around) might be the best 21st century trip for me and one of my friends.
It could be a great chance to have an unbelievable, tremendous, sensational ten-day voyage from Florida to Caribbean. It could be a possibility for having super holiday in the United States the second time in my life. It could be a real chance to see my friends in Miami and meet my sister in the United States after so many years apart. It could come true! All these thoughts were going round in my head, driving me mad, but how great! Great!
I felt such a strong wish to go to the United States again, but as a tourist, as I had never done before, so pretty soon with great pleasure I began my preparations and arrangements for the upcoming trip to the States.
I completely forgot about tricky online world for a while.
4. Joy of Refusal
One other day of work in the company was almost at its end. The bosses left and nobody cared about the customers and their problems. Statistics and high standard of service didn’t cause worry any longer either. With the present course of events in the company, namely layoffs, it was clear that everyone was busy searching a new job, and it was quite natural that all my colleagues got so tired with listening and discussing endless weird and scary everyday stories about the job interviews.
No wonder that my bold plan and extreme attempt to obtain a visa to the USA at the very moment of the company’s reorganization struck everyone and arouse group discussion at once. There you are! The real sensation!
The information about my visit to the American Consulate somehow spread like wildfire among all my co-workers. That was the reason why that remarkable day all my colleagues headed by Julia, the secretary, hang on my desk like wasps around jam.
Everyone in my department was looking forward to my coming back from the Consulate with some news.
— Nothing ventured, nothing gained! –pronounced the secretary.
— Vicky has left the office approximately two hours ago. Still there, — said one of my colleagues.
— I wouldn’t run risks as she is doing now. The Consulate knows about layoffs in this company because of its reorganization. Unfair it is here, but where isn’t, I just wonder.
— Irene called them regarding this issue, didn’t she?
— Who knows? Nobody will ever know the truth. She could call them easily in regards of Vika’s wish to get an American visa.
Everyone knows how much Irene loves and hates Vika at the same time.
— Girls, are you talking about “Shaking Dummy?” She is really blockhead! And no one knows what to expect from her now or the next moment. Irene is such a bitch.
— And what, guys? Do you think Vika would love to stay in America permanently?
— Ask her!
— It’s rumored that her relatives have been living permanently in the States for almost ten years already.
— And some of her friends are living in America as well now. Do you remember that young Russian couple from Miami at the recent company’s picnic?
— Yes! The boss introduced the guy as his best friend from America — a bigwig in this company’s Miami office. Probably, he offered Vika a job there. Do you remember that homely man?
— He is not a homely man!
— I know that the invitation Vika got is from that couple. They are friends.
— Do you know that Vika has already been to America?
— Really? When?
— A couple years ago she spent her vacation in California.
— I’ve never heard about this! She is amazing!
— And I’ve heard she had visited New York.
— No, she was in Santa Barbara. Inga, the assistant director, told me.
— You should remember bisexual Inga. She worked before Julia’s time, when “Pinocchio” ruled over the company. Do you remember?
— Of course, we do.
— Vika is a lucky devil!
— Stop being a prophet of doom! Knock on wood!
— I have good eye!
— If she could obtain the visa the very first time and came back home, they will not refuse credence.
— It’s not necessarily so; it depends on many other reasons.
— She has no intention to stay there.
— Are you sure? She could stay there easily after getting her visa today. The consulate officers are not complete fools. They will get the real intention of everyone. Like a hell you can cheat them!
— What the hell does she need it for? She is brimming over with life here. She has everything or almost everything.
— You’ll see! She will stay in America.
— And her son? Will he go to America with her?
— No, he’ll go to the United Kingdom in September with the International Student Exchange Program.
— That’s cool!
— I’ve told you she has clout everywhere!
— You are a real wicked creature, you know? Do you feel envy?
— And what about her apartment?
— Does she have a plan to sell her apartment?
— No, she doesn’t. It’s her favorite dwelling. I haven’t ever heard a word from her concerning a wish to sell it.
— What type of visa is she asking for?
— I have no any idea.
— How long is she really planning to stay in America?
The secretary Julia tried to make the things clear.
— Girls, listen to me! — Julia exclaimed. — She is going to go there just for three weeks and she has filled the application form to obtain a guest visa. I’ve typed and printed a special letter-support on behalf of company’s name for her in order to give it to the American Consulate. By the way, when I asked the boss to sign this letter, he was not happy with this at all. Later on, he gave her his own opinion of the whole situation. Sometimes he is so faint-hearted.
— He is so miserable! He is concerned for his own skin. He doesn’t trust anyone, he is so suspicious. He is afraid she will stay in the States. But she will not stay in America illegally. I know her.
— How could you know and be so sure about her? A week ago she refused from the vacancy in one of the banks, wasn’t it a surprise? We were sure she would grab that opportunity.
— Folks, just a second please. Recently I’ve spoken to one of my closest friends. She knows everything about all the banks in the city. The salary they had suggested to Vika was a bit more than nothing.
— The reason was not in the salary. Vika just has another plan.
— How is she going to live on air?
— Oh, my. She has always been living above her income.
— It’s not your business, dears.
— Well, folks! You’ve had your talk and that’s it! She is attagirl and a very brave one. Is it better to sit cross-legged and play the ass as you used to do?
— So mean… To each his own!
The heated discussion of the local skilful debaters was suddenly interrupted. I appeared in the office, and someone noticed me in the doorway.
The silence followed.
All the girls stood agape and stiffened with astonishment. They fixed the eyes on me.
To clear the air, I gave them my entire disarming smile and loudly said,
— My dear colleagues please relax! The American Consulate refused my US guest visa! I’ve been refused. Do you know why?
At the very same moment I felt how my colleagues breathed again, breathed freely, breathed with relief and then they were all gone in a split second.
— For shame! Oof! — I had no any other words for my sorrow.
The prize, a ten-day sea-voyage around Florida and the Caribbean, was valid for the following eight months, and what? My dream could only come true if I got the American guest visa in six months of time.
I was sure that in order to manage obtaining it, I would have to take into consideration some very important facts — obstacles and appropriated “lucky’ timing; but in what way could I turn a liability into an asset?
My friends from Florida were upset with my failure to get a visa. They tried to support me somehow, by phone with their words of cheer, but they mostly sighed and gasped with a surprise: “Unfair! It’s not good! But next time in six months you’ll get it. No doubts!”
Pretty soon after that phone conversation they disappeared from my life.
I didn’t want to impose my company on them and preferred to take breaking contact with them more or less easy. Yet naturally, when something like that happens in life, it’s hard to feel good about it.
Anyway, step by step my life took its normal course. I couldn’t say that I was in the festive mood, but soon enough I at least was in a good mood at least every other day. From time to time I amused my leisure by staying at home sitting in front of computer and looking for new friends in the web. One day I made a virtual acquaintance with an American man with a good sense of humor, friendly manners and with great ability to express himself in good English.
It happened quickly, unexpectedly, easily and funny.
On the third week of my virtual entertainment on the dating site I dared to write (simultaneously) twenty five short e-mails to the foreigners, who drew my attention for some reason or other.
As I was new at the site, I wanted to explore men’s reaction on my attempts to contact them.
In my e-mails, I tried to find out and emphasize marked individual characteristics of each person. I did it comparatively easily and I was indulgent towards everyone. Since that time the virtual game has indeed started assuming a different, more colorful shadow.
Why did I write to twenty five men but not to a hundred at once?
To tell the truth, I stopped at the 25TH just because I was bored looking for the men’s pictures and reading their profiles.
Later on, I had a good laugh at myself because I couldn’t figure out the author of the e-mail with one normal reply; but I’ve got a lot of different answers with numbers of men’s profiles: civil, equivocal, evasive, vague, glib, witty etc. When I tried to open and look at a man’s profile, I couldn’t.
So after several attempts, I had to ask for help and support from the administrator of the site. He was of considerable assistance to me.
At last, I could identify the person, whose reply seemed to be normal. As it turned out, that was the above-mentioned American man. He was on a business trip in Texas when he got my first e-mail and wrote me just a few words back.