Sunday, 12 May 2013

Wanderlust by Zarina Zabrisky

Read by Lara Genovese

I need help. I suffer horribly. I torture my family, I’m desperate.

I’m dying although I’m perfectly healthy. I never have colds, and my dentist cries like a baby when he sees my flawless teeth. I have the resting heart rate of Martina Navratilova and my abdominals were featured on the cover of Shape magazine. I do a hundred squats and sixty dead lifts every morning. I eat organic, but Wanderlust is eating me from inside like cancer.

Let me give you a little background. Travel is in my blood. When you think about it, it all started when one restless couple was exiled from an exotic tropical resort called Eden to a correctional facility called Earth. Their even more restless offspring kept marching between Egypt and Palestine in a rather confusing manner. Apparently, that wasn’t a long enough trip so next generations moved to Europe, where they were periodically chased from one country to another. Eventually, the most impractical group settled in Russia, a swampy place with disgusting climate and unstable social situation. I was conceived on the Trans-Siberian express, and was born in a desolate town called Vyborg while my mother was cross-country skiing.

My preschool friends wanted to live in crystal palaces; my dream-house was a trailer. They wanted to be princesses; I wanted to be a truck driver. In summer our neighbours took their backpacks and headed for the dacha to grow cucumbers near Moscow. Our family hopped in the car and drove to explore smelly huts in Byelorussia. We couldn’t go further because of the nasty thing called the Iron Curtain. Our party comrades in the Soviet government loved us common citizens. They were scared we would catch a virus and die if abroad unsupervised. They turned out to be right after all, but at the time they overlooked their own safety and soon died of domestic viruses. With nobody to hold it up, the Iron Curtain fell down. East became West. I was eighteen. Naturally, I went travelling.

First I flew to Belgium. I arrived in Antwerp with a small backpack and a big samovar. I was ready: I had taken two years of French. I knew that la cravat meant a tie. I didn’t know anything about customs or passport control: there were no customs in Byelorussia when we travelled there. Petrified, I stood in the immaculately clean arrival area, looking for my Belgian boyfriend: he wasn’t there. No one spoke French, everyone spoke Dutch. Nobody wore les cravates. Nobody cared. I didn’t know where to go. I feared viruses. I sat on my samovar and cried for thirty minutes. Then I decided to fly back to Russia, stood up, stepped forward and bang!!! - bumped my head into a crystal clear glass wall. And Europe turned around and stared at me and my samovar…A friendly Belgian cop took me through the customs and handed me to my boyfriend. I ended up with a black eye, a hatred of customs and the wanderlust virus.

I never stopped wandering. In Paris I stayed in a room the size of my suitcase and ate croissants for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In London I broke up with a British boyfriend by Westminster Abbey. Crows sat on the Abbey; they looked at me with sympathy in their black-currant eyes. In Turkey I gained five pounds. In Nepal I lost ten. There I found out I was allergic to elephants. In Kazakhstan I found out I was allergic to camels. In Scotland I found out I was allergic to sheep. In Ireland I translated for new Russians. I found out I was allergic to new Russians: they looked for prostitutes in Limerick. Didn’t find any. In Chichenitsa, Mexico, wild monkeys stole my bra. I got married in Las Vegas. I danced naked at the carnival in Rio de Janeiro. I had sex on top of the World Trade Center. I was arrested in Israel. I lost my right arm during the street fight in Croatia and my left eye fighting against apartheid in South Africa. Four husbands divorced me as they couldn’t keep pace with my travelling schedule; the fifth was a traveller himself so we lost each other after a week of hiking in Sahara.

I’m dysfunctional. I can’t settle in a house as I’m constantly packing. I sleep with my suitcase by my side. I roam from one room to another at night. I wear a compass in my pocket, and I dress up as Marco Polo for Halloween. I named my son Ulysses. In my dreams I’m hiking on the Sun. No country, no city is good for me.

The Soviet government comrades were right. Unfortunate citizens stricken by the wanderlust will never attain inner peace; they doubt, they spread viruses, they are not good citizens. But there is no need to worry. The comrades are back in the Kremlin. They will take care of the virus.

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