There Once Lived a Mother Who Loved Her Children, Until They Moved Back In

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Authors: Ludmilla Petrushevskaya
club of the University of Transport, she told me, like it was nothing. S. declared that he hates all-nighters. Lenka bought them two tickets, which included a glass of champagne, a party favor, an American movie, a dance party, and a costume ball. The tickets are sold out, she said. She didn’t have enough money for three. I was invited to come along anyway; someone might have an extra ticket. But I’ll need a costume: she’ll be a gypsy, he a pirate. After this announcement I crawled home like a punished dog. Granny and Mama were fighting. Grandma was screaming that I don’t go to bed all night, can’t get up on time for my exams. They should be yelling about their precious Andrey, who smokes.
January 1. Sensational news. Lenka and S. weren’t at the club. I was there at ten sharp, like an idiot, in Granny’s black dress and with a rose in my hair: Granny had dressed me as Carmen. I bought a ticket without any trouble and then shivered in the half-empty hall, watching a so-called concert and a ridiculous dance party until almost midnight. Then bought a glass of champagne, drank it, and left. At home, Mama and Granny were finishing their annual brawl in front of the television. The subject, as usual, was Andrey: he hadn’t been home for three days, called earlier, Mama grabbed the phone and really gave it to him—that Granny was going to have a heart attack, they had to call an ambulance, and so on. He hung up, of course, and Granny didn’t get a chance to speak to her Only One.
January 5. Lenka showed up at the review before the dialectical materialism exam; told me she’d decided not to go to the costume ball, instead got on the train and spent New Year’s in Leningrad with her relatives: little kids squealed, not wanting to go to bed, and Lenka had to discipline them. Tears and misery all over our fair land. S. wasn’t at the review.
January 8. I received a C; will have to take it again. There’ll be screaming at home—I may lose my stipend. As always, S. answered first, got an A, and left. Lenka reports that S. called her and told her that he had been at his high school friend’s for New Year’s; Lenka says he must be gay. We had such a laugh.
January 15. S. came to the library with T.I., who is a junior. Everyone knows she’s a slut. They kept smiling at each other, and then S. put his coat over her shoulders. Lenka sat red as a beet, trying to smile. Later we smoked in the bathroom; she cried. I didn’t cry, just felt empty inside. Life is a bore, ladies and gentlemen. S., I love you, even though you don’t see me. I’d like to give him my photo with just one word: Remember. T.I. is an old slut, twenty years old. I turned seventeen in December. S. will be seventeen in February. He went to first grade at six. Lenka is nineteen. Life’s not going to be easy for her, because she’s so heavy. She’s on a diet now. She has pimples all over her forehead; I do, too, sometimes, but around my nose. She smokes a lot. And she’s already slept with boys. She says she knows just as much about sexual positions and such things as the slut T.I. Lenka’s convinced S. is gay.
January 18. I’m in bed, pretending to study. Am recording Mama’s conversation with Granny in the kitchen. It’s teatime.
Mama: You! You’ve broken all the dishes!
Granny: Me? Me? God help me! What dishes? When?
Mama: Here, look! This cup’s missing its handle! There is a plate missing! Where will I buy new ones?
Granny: It wasn’t me! Help! Somebody help! Here, I swear on my knees I didn’t break anything. (Slowly gets down on her knees.) Here. I swear!
Mama: Oh, stop it, will you. Get up, come on now, get up. It’s not a big deal, after all; it’s just a plate.
Granny: Help me! (Long moan.) What have I ever broken? (Gets up huffing and puffing, then continues tearfully.) When you broke my blue cup—
Mama: Here we go. Try to remember your difficult childhood, too.
Granny: The only thing I ever broke is the spout on the teapot.

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