This is the sad part of belonging to two different places at once: I am always not there. Leaving always hurts so badly, that even though I'm only leaving home to go home, home is always the place that hurts, the place I have left. Coming home to San Francisco, I have to age 10 years and start worrying about things like voting, dirty dishes, balls of dust gathering under the bed, continuing lack of income. And once again, St. Petersburg with its frost-bitten snowless asphalt-covered yards and dusky suburbs becomes a place of magic and imagination, the place where I have been cradled and cared for, where I am always a child.
Yesterday lasted for more than 40 hours. I woke up Sunday morning at the country house, and after breakfast with my parents, spent an hour on the grounds sweeping the fallen leaves and pine needles. It was so cold that the leaves were frozen to the grass, and, armed with a flimsy rake with missing teeth that belonged my grandparents, I wasn't as much sweeping as tearing them off the ground. My mom had to work -- she was trying to prepare for an exhibit in France -- so we drove to the city early, dropped her off, then my dad and I went home, and my dad read while I started packing. I called my aunt Maya to say good-bye and we had a fight. "Something was off this time," she told me. "You're not the same." I got angry. "You say this every time!" I yelled. And she does. And my visits are always the same. And even this fight was a part of the script, of a performance of our relationship. Around 7 pm, friends and family started showing up to say good-bye. My dad got alarmed that we had no food in the house, so he ran out to buy three logs of kolbasa (Russian variety of processed meat) and two cakes. My mom came home just in time to fix a broken espresso machine. I played with four little girls, ranging from 1,5 to 17 years of age. Everyone left around 10 pm, and my parents went to sleep. I said good-bye to my mom: she had a long day coming up and could not see me off in the morning. I called my aunt Maya again and made up with her. My brother showed up at 1 am, and so did my friend Johnnie and his wife Tanya. We drank more tea and talked about random things, including what it would take for them to come visit me in San Francisco. At 3 am we said good-byes and they left, and at 4 am my dad woke up and drove me to the airport.
I snoozed for an hour or two on a short flight to Munich, just long enough to have strength to play tourist again during my 7 hour layover. It was raining in Munich, and the rain didn't let off the entire time I was there. I took S-Bahn downtown, had a breakfast of warm semmeln, cheese and coffee, then went to the Neue Pinakoteka and wandered around until I found my favorite sunflowers. I discovered Van Gogh on my first visit to Munich, when I was 13 years old. I had a print of them plastered to the wallpaper of my bedroom -- the print, the wallpaper, and the room are now gone; they were removed a few years ago when my parents were renovating the apartment. This time, I didn't linger in front of Van Gogh. It was too sad. I went to the Marienplatz, had another sandwich, spoke German with a friendly woman who wanted to know what I was reading, then took the train back to the airport. The direct flight to San Francisco took 12 hours. I slept, read, half-watched movies. "Coco avant Chanel" with Audrey Tautou was the best one of the bunch. Dave picked me up at the airport -- and then I was home.