“I love you. I'm blind for you, wild for you. Sick with you. I told you that our first night together when I asked you to marry me, I am telling you now. Everything that's happened to us, everything, is because I crossed the street for you. I worship you. You know that through and through...”
“Alexander, you broke my heart. But for carrying me on your back, for pulling my dying sled, for giving me your last bread, for the body you destroyed for me, for the son you have given me, for the twenty-nine days we lived like Red Birds of Paradise, for all our Naples sands and Napa wines, for all the days you have been my first and last breath, for Orbeli- I will forgive you. ”
“He is lying on dirty straw. He has been beaten so many times, his body is one bloodied bruise; he is filthy, he is hideous, he is a sinner and he is utterly unloved. At any moment, at any instant, he will be put on a train in his shackles and taken through Cerberus's mouth to Hades for the rest of his wretched life. And it is at that precise moment that the light shines from the door of his dark cell #7, and in front of him Tatiana stands, tiny, determined, disbelieving, having returned for him. Having abandoned the infant boy who needs her most to go find the broken beast who needs her most. She stands mutely in front of him and doesn't see the blood, doesn't see the filth, sees only the man, and then he knows; he is not cast out. He is loved.”
“Everything comes at a price. Everthing in your life. The question you have to ask yourself is, what price are you willing to pay?”
“All grimy and sweaty, Alexander drew her to him, his palms on her back, and bending to her and tilting his head, whispered into her mouth, "Tatiasha, I know you won't believe this, but if I'm looking at the sheets when I'm making love to you, we've got a bigger problem than what damn color they are.”
“....and when Tatiana lifted her glistening eyes to him, Alexander was looking down at her with his I’ll-get-on-the-bus-for-you-anytime face.”
“We thought the hard part was over—but we were wrong. Living is the hardest part. Figuring out how to live your life when you’re all busted up inside and out—there is nothing harder.”
“I was blinded by stupidity for a brief moment in our life, for a flicker in the eternity in which you and I live, and I stumbled.”
“I don't want this life to end," said Alexander. "The good, the bad, the everything, the very old, to ever end.”
“The power you have over someone who loves you is greater than any other power you'll ever have.”
“Tatiana had imagined her Alexander since she was a child, before she believed that someone like him was even possible. When she was a little girl, she dreamed of a fine world in which a good man walked its winding roads, perhaps somewhere in his wandering soul searching for her.”
“Have a joke for me Tania," he says, "I could use a joke."
"Hmm." She thinks, looks at him, looks to see where Anthony is. He's far in the back. "Okay, what about this." With a short cough she leans into Alexander and lowers her voice.
"A man and his young girlfriend are driving in a car. The man has never seen his girlfriend naked. She thinks he is driving too slow, so they decide to play a game. For every five miles he goes above 50, she will take off a piece of her clothing. In no time at all, he is flying and she is naked. The man gets so excited that he loses control of the car. It veers off the road and hits a tree. She is unharmed but he is stuck in the car and can’t get out. “Go back on the road and get help,” he tells her. “But I’m naked,” she says. He rummages around and pulls off his shoe. “Here, just put this between your legs to cover yourself.” She does as she is told and runs out to the road. A truck driver, seeing a naked crying woman, stops. “Help me, Help me,” she sobs, “My boyfriend is stuck and I can’t get him out.”
The Truck driver says, “Miss, if he’s that far in, I’m afraid he’s a goner.”
“This is days and days and months and years and all the minutes in between, just you me.”
“Alexander speaks. “Anthony, I’m going to tell you something. In 1941, when I met your mother, she had turned seventeen and was working at the Kirov factory, the largest weapons production facility in the Soviet Union. Do you know what she wore? A ratty brown cardigan that belonged to her grandmother. It was tattered and patched and two sizes too big for her. Even though it was June, she wore her much larger sister’s black skirt that was scratchy wool. The skirt came down to her shins. Her too-big thick black cotton stockings bunched up around her brown work boots. Her hands were covered in black grime she couldn’t scrub off. She smelled of gasoline and nitrocellulose because she had been making bombs and flamethrowers all day. And still I came every day to walk her home.”
“Do you see the Field of Mars, where I walked next to my bride in her white wedding dress, with red sandals in her hands, when we were kids?”
“I see it well.”
“We spent all our days afraid it was too good to be true, Tatiana,” said Alexander. “We were always afraid all we had was a borrowed five minutes from now.”
Her hands went on his face. “That’s all any of us ever has, my love,” she said. “And it all flies by.”
“Yes,” he said, looking at her, at the desert, covered coral and yellow with golden eye and globe mallow. “But what a five minutes it’s been.”
“Whenever you're unsure of yourself, whenever you're in doubt, ask yourself three questions. What do you believe in? What do you hope for? but most important, ask yourself, what do you love?”
“This Zippo read, 'Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil.. for I'm the baddest motherfucker in the valley.”
“Tatiana fretted over him before he left as if he were a five-year-old on his first day of school.
Shura, don't forget to wear your helmet wherever you go, even if it's just down the trail to the river.
Don't forget to bring extra magazines. Look at this combat vest. You can fit more than five hundred rounds. It's unbelievable. Load yourself up with ammo. Bring a few extra cartridges. You don't want to run out.
Don't forget to clean your M-16 every day. You don't want your rifle to jam."
Tatia, this is the third generation of the M-16. It doesn't jam anymore. The gunpowder doesn't burn as much. The rifle is self-cleaning."
When you attach the rocket bandolier, don't tighten it too close to your belt, the friction from bending will chafe you, and then irritation follows, and then infection...
...Bring at least two warning flares for the helicopters. Maybe a smoke bomb, too?"
Gee, I hadn't thought of that."
Bring your Colt - that's your lucky weapon - bring it, as well as the standard -issue Ruger. Oh, and I have personally organized your medical supplies: lots of bandages, four complete emergency kits, two QuickClots - no I decided three. They're light. I got Helena at PMH to write a prescription for morphine, for penicillin, for -"
Alexander put his hand over her mouth. "Tania," he said, "do you want to just go yourself?"
When he took the hand away, she said, "Yes."
He kissed her.
She said, "Spam. Three cans. And keep your canteen always filled with water, in case you can't get to the plasma. It'll help."
And this cross, right around your neck. Do you remember the prayer of the heart?"
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner."
Good. And the wedding band. Right around your finger. Do you remember the wedding prayer?"
Gloria in Excelsis, please just a little more."
Very good. Never take off the steel helmet, ever. Promise?"
You said that already. But yes, Tania."
Do you remember what the most important thing is?"
To always wear a condom."
She smacked his chest.
To stop the bleeding," he said, hugging her.
Yes. To stop the bleeding. Everything else they can fix."
Y Tatiana llora.
—Lo sabes, ¿verdad?—le susurra él—. Te quiero. Estoy ciego por ti, loco por ti. Estoy enfermo de amor por ti. Enfermo de amor por ti. Te lo dije la primera noche que estuvimos juntos, cuando te pedí que te casaras conmigo, y te lo digo ahora. Todo lo que nos ha pasado, absolutamente todo, es porque crucé aquella calle por ti. Te adoro. Lo sabes muy bien. Por cómo te abrazo, por cómo te toco, mis manos en tu cuerpo, Dios, dentro de ti, todo lo que no puedo decirte durante el día, Tatiana, Tania, Tatiasha, amor mío, ¿me sientes? ¿Por qué lloras?
—A eso lo llamo yo susurrar...
Alexander sigue susurrándole, ella llora, ella se entrega en una rendición incondicional y llora y llora. La entrega no resulta fácil, ni para ella ni para él, pero sí hay entrega en el refugio de la noche.”
“We’ll meet again in Lvov, my love and I…” Tatiana hums, eating her ice cream, in our Leningrad, in jasmine June, near Fontanka, the Neva, the Summer Garden, where we are forever young.”
“I know that sometimes the things we carry become too much for us. We are burned down, but somehow we have to pick ourselves up and keep going”
“Here I am, your one man circus freak show, having bled out for mother Russia, having desperately tried to get to you, now on top of you with this scourge marks, and you, who used to love me, who was sympathized, internalized, normalized everything, you are not allowed to turn away from me....this is what I am going to look like until the day I die. I can't get any peace from you ever unless you find away to make peace with this. Make peace with me. Or let me go for good.”
“Where was he, her Alexander, of once? Was he truly gone? The Alexander of the Summer Garden, of their first Lazarevo days, of the hat in his hands, white toothed, peaceful, laughing, languid, stunning Alexander, had he been left far behind?
Well, Tatiana supposed that was only right.
For Alexander believed his Tatiana of once was gone, too. The swimming child Tatiana of the Luga, of the Neva, of the River Kama.
Perhaps on the surface they were still in their twenties, but their hearts were old.”
“Only one bear eats from this honey pot, Tatia”
“That was his moment in Leningrad, on an empty street, when his life became possible—when Alexander became possible. There he stood as he was—a young Red Army officer in dissolution, all his days stamped with no future and all his appetites unrestrained, on patrol the day war started for Russia. He stood with his rifle slung on his shoulder and cast his wanton eyes on her, eating her ice cream all sunny, singing, blonde, blossoming, breathtaking. He gazed at her with his entire unknowable life in front of him, and this is what he was thinking…
To cross the street or not to cross?
To follow her? To hop on the bus, after her? What absolute madness.”
“He was breathing heavily. “I honestly don’t understand what’s wrong with you,” he said. “You’re telling me to pack my bags, to leave our house, knowing you’re going to have a baby?”
“And this surprises you why? Have you seen what’s been happening in our house?”
“Stop talking to me like this in our bed, Tatiana. My white flag is up,” said Alexander. “I have no more.”
“My white flag is up, too, Shura,” she said. “You know when mine went up? June 22, 1941.”
“Alexander moved her off him, laid her down, was over her, was pressed into her, crushing her. Anthony was right there, he didn't care, he was trying to inhale her, trying to absorb her into himself. "All this time you were stepping out in front of me, Tatiana," he said. "Now I finally understand. You hid me on Bethel Island for eight months. For two years you hid me and deceived me - to save me. I am such an idiot," he whispered. "Wretch or not, ravaged or not, in a carapace or not, there you still were, stepping out for me, showing the mute mangled stranger your brave and indifferent face."
Her eyes closed, her arms tightened around his neck. "That stranger is my life," she whispered. They crawled away from Anthony, from their only bed, onto a blanket on the floor, barricading themselves behind the table and chairs. "You left our boy to go find me, and this is what you found..." Alexander whispered, on top of her, pushing inside her, searching for peace.
Crying out underneath him, Tatiana clutched his shoulders.
"This is what you brought back from Sachsenhausen." his movement was tense, deep, needful. Oh God. Now there was comfort. "You thought you were bringing back him, but Tania, you brought back me."
"Shura...you'll have to do..." Her fingers were clamped into his scars.
"In you," said Alexander, lowering his lips to her parted mouth and cleaving their flesh, "are the answers to all things."
All the rivers flowed into the sea and still the sea was not full.”
“Alexander, me has roto el corazón. Pero por haberme llevado a tu espalda, por tirar de mi trineo de muerte, por darme tu último pedazo de pan, por el cuerpo que te destrozaste por
mí, por el hijo que me has dado, por los veintinueve días que vivimos en el paraíso,
por todas nuestras arenas blancas de Naples y nuestros vinos de Napa, por todos los
días que has sido mi primer y mi último aliento, por Orbeli... Te perdonaré.”
“I want amnesia! I want a fucking lobotomy. Could I please never think again? Look what’s happened to us, us, Tania. Don’t you remember how we used to be? Just look what’s happened.”
“¿Es que no te acuerdas de lo que te dije en Berlín, cuando estábamos perdidos en el bosque, luchando para rebelarnos contra nuestro destino?
—Sí —le contestó Tatiana, rodeándole el cuello con las manos, cerrando los ojos—. Dijiste que ya me habías dejado marchar una vez, que viviríamos juntos o moriríamos juntos.
—Eso es —dijo Alexander—. Y esta vez, viviremos juntos.”
“...there was some kind of connection between the capacity to love and the capacity to love *running*. The engineering was certainly the same: both depended on loosening your grip on your own desires, putting aside what you wanted and appreciating what you've got, being patient and forgiving and... undemanding...maybe we shouldn't be surprised that getting better at one could make you better at the other.”
“Father Dominic, however is a way better mediator than I am. Well, maybe not better. But different, certainly. See, he really feels that ghosts are best handled with gentle guidance and earnest advice-same as the living. I'm more in favor of a sort of get-to-the-point approach that tends to involve my fists.”
“Pull yourself together, bitch. He's just a guy.”
“I want to chase the dawn with you.”
“I don’t know how to be silent when my heart is speaking.”
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