Words by Robert Lewis Heron
Illustration by Veronique Diriker
- A short story I recently completed which is going to be published in a book of 'Thoughts On Me Too" by Veronique Diriker.
To be honest, my Russian childhood was nothing to write home about. A complete non-event. Boring—placid—uneventful. You could say it was a complete waste of time. My time.
I tell a lie. I once remember a birthday where a so-called friend turned up. Lasted all of sixty minutes. She presented her gift—a chocolate bar—ate a half potato, drank a half-glass of water, then made some feeble excuse about having to walk her neighbor’s dog. I put it down to me playing my favorite scratchy Barry Manilow LP.
So what? It was my birthday party and I’m entitled…
I know what you are thinking…you have LPs?
“Sure, I have LPs. Not everyone can buy technology. American iPhone.”
“What did you say, Nikita?” asked mother.
Russian rubles sound so much like Russian rubble…trash. I want to be a movie star. Kiss George Clooney. Have a YouTube following like a Kardashian? Big boobs, buns, bank account. Then I buy American iPhone.
My life only became interesting once I had mastered the art of invisibility. Nothing magical, nothing superhero-ish. No, just the ability to enter spaces where people gathered, and walk through without anyone taking much notice…invisible, boring, unimportant, female…invisible.
“Is the borscht soup ready, Nikita?”
“I wish you had called me, Mandy.”
“Stop with the Manilow songs. Manilow…Manilow…Manilow,” she said. “Enough with Manilow already.”
“Looks like we made it.”
“Stop, Nikita. No more Manilow references.”
“Well, all because you like ABBA. I’m stuck with Nikita. Lucky not Fernando.”
“You know that’s not why I called you Nikita.”
“Third aunty twice removed…blah…blah…blah. I don’t believe you,” I said.
“You think what you want, but it is true. She was war hero. She stood and fought the Nazis. Killed so many. She managed to blow up ammunition compound. She is hero.”
“And anyway. Manilow? Seriously?”
“He’s all the LPs I have. Manilow and some Ukrainian folk-music crap.”
“Radio. We have radio. Forget LP. Listen to radio…”
That night my life changed forever. My small battery-operated transistor radio kicked into life and kicked my life into gear. Only AM signal but enough to let me hear Beatles, Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath, Punk, Pink, Pussy Riot…arrrrgggghhhhhhhhh.
* * *
My decision to become less invisible started with something unique. My first tattoo hidden from view by placing behind left earlobe. I considered bullshit consequences of negative neighbor comments to my mother…’What has happened to sweet Niki? - So non-conformist! - So, revolting! - So not like her! - Sweet little girls should not have tattoos.’
However, as American’s say, things in life can change on a dime. Change on a ruble. Change on a penny. Change is good for soul.
-Radio: “…and Russia’s female punk band Pussy Riot get two years imprisonment for hooliganism over Putin protest at church site…”
What is this? Three women sing songs and get arrested?
-Radio: “…a trial seen around the world as an emblem of Russia’s intolerance of dissent…”
No. I must do something. I’m not invisible. I’m a woman with a mind.
-Radio: “…a wave of small raucous protests across Europe and North America in support of the feminist rockers, who have been dubbed prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International...”
Yes. Fight. Stand up. Be counted. We are here. We are women. I am woman.
-Radio: “…hundreds of Pussy Riot supporters waiting outside the Moscow courtroom chanted “down with the police state” when the sentence was announced. Dozens were detained, including several opposition leaders…”
I soon found my place on the streets of Moscow with other women, girls…united. Thoughts of hurting mother’s feeling faded. Tattoos, piercings, hair color, my body, my life. Perhaps decisions to remain passive, quiet, reserved are no longer the female norm. No more socially accepted behavior…especially female passivity…no longer acceptable. We have a voice, and we want to be heard…no…we shall be heard!
…Nikita shall be heard…