because none of us is fucking up like we think we are, is what i'm trying to say

Monday, 23 October 2017

The Death of Stalin

We went to see The Death of Stalin on Friday night, reunited as we were after three weeks apart and many utterances that we'll never go that many nights without each other again. I lived in Russia, once. I lived many places before. Once. But it was Russia I thought about, for reasons obvious, as I sat next to an Italian who laughed louder than anyone else in the knee-to-knee, packed-in-tight cinema, and who, in the quiet bits, used a stage whisper of a voice to say, "Baby, what? What did he say?" It's a trait that is partly endearing and mostly embarrassing, and that reminds me of taking thirty-one Italian teenagers to see The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre the summer I got my nose pierced, desperately trying to make them - the Italian teenagers - understand that talking that way, the whole way through, isn't how it is done in England, where even our standing ovations are polite. 
The film made me think of those months in the snow, when I learned that to drink neat vodka you must alternate it with eating something salty, and that if the Russians go home and you and the only other two British people you know there stay out and continue to drink vodka, you're absolutely drinking too much. So much so that you'll be taken on a drive that lasts hours and hours, miles and miles, the next day, and have to use the international sign language of panicked eyes and pointing to your stomach and then into your throat to tell the son of your English school director that you really must move from the back to sit up front. Before you move you'll see your colleague missed a spot behind her earlobe when wiping up her vomit last night. Or early this morning. You nearly make it the entire journey without throwing up, until the lone service station has only herring or golubtsy for lunch and no toilet paper in the loo, and it all becomes a bit much and you, too, get regurgitated dill behind your ear.
This is a photograph of the view as we made the long, treacherous journey:
I just scrolled back to October 2014 on Instagram for this, which is also back to the year the beauty PR job I got let go from (ultimately seeing me move to... Russia. It's all linked, you see) had paid for me to do some insane weight loss treatment that saw me fit into a UK size 10 jean, down from a UK size 16, in four months. Sometimes I see pictures of myself from back then, jawline sharp and the tops of my thighs strangers to each other, and I think, gosh, it was very nice being thin. And then I remind myself that I wasn't any happier, and I still couldn't get a man called Paolo to love me back. That was another reason I moved to Russia.

this first appeared in my occasional newsletter, How to Eat an Elephant. You can subscribe here.

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