Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Single File, or, Walks I have Taken/ People I Have Known

 Dilijan is in the middle of a wet, verdant explosion. Davor and I took a walk around though the meager lanes of the town one night, enjoying the cool air and the tintinnabulations of the river moving quietly through the dark. We had just crossed a vacant lot when we were suddenly accosted by a rather large man.
"Do you LIKE to night?" In perfect English, slightly drawn out and, curiously, without any trace of affect, almost like you would imagine a computer to speak.
"Uh, yeah, you?" I think Davor answered this guy, as I was feeling rather laconic.
"Yes, and to have a fun. Do you like beer?"
Davor answers, "Yeah, shot [which you probably remember is Armenian for 'a lot']" I was kind of annoyed that he answered this way as I knew this would lead to an invitation to drink beer with this guy, which I had no desire to do. And, of course, his response is,
"We can walk around and drink a beer and have fun tonight," which in the dark, in the company of this 2 and 1/2 meter guy who talks like a robot and seems to insist on walking directly behind, rather than to the side of me, does not strike me as being 'fun.' Still, maybe I was being unfair, I decided he, like, well, anyone else I've ever met around here, was probably a decent guy, meant well, but came off a little aggressive.
"So, what do you do here?" I tried, hoping to warm up to this guy a little.
"I don't like to talk about it."
Hmmm, ok I guess that's not going anywhere, still I persisted, "Why, is it boring?"
I looked at Davor, "Mafioso, KGB," I said, loud enough so that he could he could hear me, hoping this guy would get the joke and realize how weird his response sounded. Only he didn't even acknowledge my comment.
"I'm going to buy some beer for us here," he said pointing at a store. "I'll meet you here later, after you come back from seeing the hotel, under this tree [Davor had mentioned to him that we were going to see a resort hotel (unfinished) at the top of the hill]."
After we left this guy behind we began to joke about him, not in a mean way, just ribbing him for suddenly appearing right beside us in the dark, talking with no affect and spurning any talk of what he did for a living. We weren't afraid of the guy or even unnerved by him, it was just funny to consider the other odd things he might say, should we see him later, in that icy voice of his and as we walked on we lampooned him, for lack of anything else to talk about.
Davor and I walked around the hotel area for a little while, which is actually a really interesting part of Dilijan, there's a mock-Roman amphitheater up there and a promenade (of sorts) with interesting sculptures crowing all the balustrades along the walk.
As we walked our conversation gradually shifted away from the guy we had met earlier and we talked about various things until we forgot all about our new friend, presumably waiting under a dark tree with beers for us. I began to feel bad, which led us back to joking about the guy, we imagined him down there drinking all the beers alone and crying ( I know, not exactly a pleasant thing, but, at the time, it seemed funny, it's not like we wished this fate on him, sometimes exaggeration is just funny in and of itself). We decided to go back down and see if he was still waiting. He wasn't and I could tell Davor, who was getting pretty tired, was not exactly put off by this.
We continued walking back up to the place where we were staying, joking about this and that, the guy kept coming back into the conversation, we imagined seeing him on the bus to Vanadzor the next day, a fierce look of rage in his eye, saying something like "I waited for you all night!"
About the time that we were laughing over this, the subject of our jest appeared from the bushes (yeah, totally appeared, no noise, just a slight whisper of parting branches and he was behind us).
Our friend walked behind us for a while without saying anything. At some point, I remember asking Davor how long we were going to keep walking in this awkward single-file fashion without acknowledging him.
"It's dark," was all Davor said, which I took to mean, 'he doesn't know that we know that he's there and, at this point, it would be weird to turn around and acknowledge him.'
But as we walked on, this guy's presence began to weigh upon me, he was practically looming over me, not saying anything, how could he possibly think we hadn't seen him, and why wasn't he saying anything.
Just when I was about to turn around and say something, he sidled up to me, "Hi, guys, me again."
"Oh hey, man," I said, revealed that he finally said something.
"Here are your beers," he said handing me a plastic bag with cans of 'Botchka' and 'Baltika' in it.
Immediately I felt bad, "Where's yours?" I asked, knowing the answer.
"I drank it already." Meaning, 'I drank it thinking you guys probably weren't coming back.'
I began to feel more talkative, perhaps because I felt bad, perhaps because laughing with Davor for a while had opened me up a little more. "So," I tried, "you sure you won't tell us anything about what you do, not even a hint?"
"No," was his only response and he tried to change the direction of the conversation by asking, "Where did you walk to?"
"All around the main square," I answered.
"I know lots of good places to see in the dark," he said, again in that icy tone, "would you like to go? We could have FUN," as he said this he gestured vaguely toward the wooded area just beyond the road.
I quickly switched topics trying not to laugh, as with Davor right there, I knew we were both thinking the same thing, viz. 'shit, this guy says weird things.'
"Well," I asked, "when you say 'fun' what do you mean? What's fun?" As I finished my question a speeding car flew down the road. "Is that fun?" I said, pointing to the car, "driving fast?"
"Yes," he answered after a minute of stoic deliberation.
"What else?" I prompted.
"To have a walk, to drink a beer," he responded, seeming to take prompts of the things that were immediately around him, before adding, sotto voce, "and of course, to have sex."
I knew we were going to get to this eventually.
Before I knew what I was doing I found myself saying "yeah, but it can't be that easy here, right? I mean this place is pretty conservative." Usually, I don't prompt people like this, but after having to play the audience to a number of stories of sexual conquest I thought maybe I'd finally try to call someone on what could be a bluff.
"Well," he answered, taking time to chose the correct words, "when there's a, uh, human being, that likes that same kind of, uh, fun that I do, than, uh, we can have fun...together."
I didn't know what to say, but I began to understand that life must be kinda' rough for this guy. Davor asked if he liked it in Dilijan. He responded that he'd be much happier somewhere else, especially Latvia, not Lithuania, not Estonia, but Latvia, only Latvia, I guess he must've met someone from Latvia at some point.
I'm sure, by this point, the guy, had figured out that Davor and I didn't like the same kind of fun that he did, but, if he was disappointed, he didn't show it at all. We sat down on a bench together, talked a little more about life in Dilijan and Armenia in general. Davor and I recommended a few scholarship programs that would look pretty favorably on someone who spoke English as well as this guy. He listened half-heatedly, as though he wasn't really interested in applying for them, or already thought it to be hopeless. We sat quietly for a few minutes before finishing our beers and saying good night.
When Davor and I got back into the apartment building he asked, "So, he was gay, right?"

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