Last winter I was on the road for a couple of months touring with The Moscow Ballet. The cast, who were all Russian, I didn’t have to deal with much. They traveled on a separate bus and had their own world, apart from the crew. Thank God. Being the merch girl, I think I had the best job on that tour because I was the only crew member who didn’t have to deal with the dancer’s or the children. Laura, one of the costumer’s, basically called me a cold-hearted bitch on the regular because I didn’t have a soft spot for the 95 screaming little people running around everyday with snot dripping down their faces and whining about their costumes not fitting properly while simultaneously messing up my display with their orange, cheetos encrusted hands. While I would love to continue with more on what that job was like, I’m going to save that for another day and get to my point. It amazes me how much we rely on language, but how much we can do without it if we are just patient, and listen with our hearts instead of our ears.
There were nine of us crew members and we lived together on one bus. Two of the nine were Russian, the rest of us, American. Sonya, one of the costumers, and just a beautiful human being, understood English well enough to get by on a basic, needs only basis. Igor, the sound engineer, started the tour knowing ZERO English. Witnessing his English improve quite literally on the daily, was astounding. By the end of the tour he could speak it as well as Sonya.
Igor and I are TIGHT. I can’t explain how, because obviously, if him and I can’t even have a coherent, linguistic conversation, trying to describe our relationship using language is futile. Though trust me when I say, we’re bonded. Due to the language barrier, Igor and the rest of us grew to MASTER the game of charades.
One charades game was me explaining what “69” is. That was fun. There’s no being modest when trying to school a Russian on sex position terminology. The gestures for “blow-job” and “eating-out” were easy, but trying to explain that these acts happened simultaneously was the hard part. It involved mock demonstrations and minor acrobats on the bus. While I would have rather not demeaned myself, no one else seemed up for the job, so I took it upon myself to make sure that Igor is now educated in the area of 69. You’re welcome, Russia.
Another fun charades game happened on the last day of the tour. I had climbed up onto the counter to retrieve a granola bar or whatever road food I had accessible, making my ass almost directly at eye level, and Igor sort of felt me up. While that sounds completely violating, it was playful and ok because it was him. Not everyone could get away with that. I jokingly said, “Oh Igor! You just made me feel some kind of way!” Even though I know he didn’t understand what the fuck that meant, (since that’s a slang phrase from a stupid rap song), he didn’t need to understand the direct translation. He understood the context. It’s amazing what you can pick up on just with voice inflection, personality and body language. Igor then went on to point to his crotch, and say something about Russia. WHAT?! We need a game of charades. Go!
He raises his hand from the ground to his head, and then made some sort of explosion sound while simulating something coming from his ears. Huh? You’re bleeding from your ears? Nope. Wrong answer.
So he proceeds to point to his ring finger that has his wedding ring on it, and say “home to Russia,” and make humping motions, followed again by the confusing explosion/ear bleeding motion. Lightbulb! I got it! And I started cracking up.
He was telling us that he can’t wait to get back to Russia to be with his wife because he is up to his ears in testosterone and so horny that he is about to explode. Charades has never been so fun.
On a more serious note, we all knew that Igor was part of the special forces in Russia, but what his job was exactly, or what duties he performed is still unknown. We just know that he was a badass. The tour went to Washington D.C. for a show, so we all made an after hours visit to the Lincoln Memorial. It was beautiful at night. I love that city.
All nine of us were together, it was freezing out, and Igor and I were walking arm and arm, partly because it was so cold and partly because we’re BFF’s. Gradually, the sidewalk wall began to rise… I didn’t think much of it at first; barely noticed. Then all became quiet.
For just a few seconds, I think we all were silenced, when we realized we were walking through the Vietnam Memorial. I had no idea. It just happens if you’re not expecting it. It starts off as just a small, foot tall wall next to the sidewalk, then it gradually becomes taller and taller until its’ black granite is towering over you, like a nightmare or a tangible representation of impending doom. It was a true experience. I felt it. With Igor at my side, I felt him feel it too. It was a very distinct sense that I think you only experience a few times in life. That feeling of your soul merging with another, for just a moment in time.
We all continued walking in silence. No words needed; we all understood. By the end of the wall, after being immersed in the endless names of faceless men we’ll never know, Igor managed to get out, “I’m sorry for them.”
Hearing him say that, a non-American man, but a man who obviously knows what it means to be brothers in arms, it made my heart swell. It reminded me that even though we all come from different places, dream for different reasons and fight for different causes, we all have the same heart. I just squeezed him and shook my head, yes. That was one of the most memorable moments on that tour, and neither language nor charades was really involved.
With the lifestyle I’ve led so far, I have known SO MANY goddamn people who I don’t anymore. I’ve traveled a lot… moved a lot… loved and lost a lot… so I’ve learned to appreciate the people you know while you know them. There are people I miss, that I was once bitter about not knowing and keeping in touch with anymore, but now I’m just glad I got to know them when I did. I may never see Igor again, but we had the winter of 2013 together, and now we’re bonded for life.