( Russia, 1990s )
Photo by Dimych
We stopped for lunch not far from Balagoe – a small township located half way from St Petersburg to Moscow.
“Take care. There are lots of Gipsies living in this area. Don’t stare at them, otherwise they might think that you are ‘challenging’ them. They are very hot-blooded and quick to grab their knives and axes. A young lad from St. Petersburg was killed here last year,” – said Ivan, unpacking the bag with our lunch.
“Well, this is a long story. Gypsy lads are not allowed to touch Gipsy girls until they marry them. They still have a tradition of hanging out bloodstained sheets after the first night, you see. And gipsy girls are not allowed to bare their bodies in public, even arms and legs. Only their faces can be seen. However before Gipsy lads settle with Gipsy girls they like having fun with local Russian girls, who are perceived as easily accessible. Look at the way Russian girls are dressed, exposing everything they possibly can. They like getting male attention, don’t they? Unfortunately they are playing with fire. As the result, from time to time Gipsy lads get into troubles with local Russian guys.”
“Gosh, sounds more like a story about wild beasts rather than human beings. And it is only 300 kilometers from St. Petersburg!!!”
Ivan was just about to take the last sandwich from the bag, when I quickly grabbed it and took a big bite.
“Well, we were much wilder ‘beasts’ in the past too. A few generations ago the bride’s virginity was a matter of communal importance in Russia and, until it had been confirmed, either by the finger of the matchmaker or by the presence of bloodstains on the sheets, the honour of her household would remain in doubt.” He gave me a wink.
“Yuck! This fact has never been mentioned in our school textbooks! I bet cows were treated nicer in those days than girls. At least, cows did not have fingers poked into their private parts.”
“And at the wedding feast guests sometimes acted as witnesses to the bride’s deflowering” – continued Ivan.
“What?!” – a peace of sandwich stuck in my mouth. “Right, I see. You are telling me all of this only because you want to get hold of this sandwich, don’t you? Don’t even hope – no matter what our ancestors did in the past, I am going to finish this sandwich.” I bravely took another bite and inspected my shabby jeans and short-sleeved top.
“Would you mind to take your shirt off?”
“Come on, take it off. Believe me, Gipsy lads won’t get into fight with me over your beautiful arms,” I put Ivan’s shirt on.
“Can I borrow your cap as well?”
“Go for it.”
I tucked my long hair under Ivan’s cap.
“Can I have a go at the steering wheel now?”
“Are you sure?” Ivan did not seem to trust my driving skills.
“Not, but just want to get a taste of it. Please.”
“All right. Just a little bit.”
We packed our bags and hopped onto Ivan’s moped. We did not get far, when suddenly the front wheel skidded and we both flew into the air.
“Ouch”, – something hot touched my leg.
“How are you?” – asked Ivan.
“Fine,” – I slowly got up off the ground, checking my bruised body.
“Look what you’ve done?” – Ivan was almost crying, inspecting his moped. I managed to pull out every single wire on it.
“And what on earth happened to you? Why did you drive it right into this heap of sand in the middle of the road?”
“I could not see it.”
“Why could not you see it?”
“Because I did not have my glasses on?”
“Where are your glasses then?”
“In my bag?”
“Why are they in your bag?”
“They did not look good with my new outfit.”
“What?” – Ivan gasped in disbelief.
“They did not look good with that cap.” …
( Photo by Sfa )