I rarely know what I’ll write for #2MinutesGo Fridays…but this is what poured from me yesterday. I hope you’ll come visit some week and write, read, or comment!
It had been a good week for the restaurant but not for me. I wanted to plead a headache and tired feet and go home, but my maître d’ enjoyed our weekly ritual and I didn’t want to disappoint him. “Tell me,” he said, after we’d nearly emptied our first glasses of wine. “Would you ever go back to Russia?”
“What’s the point? There’s nothing to go back to.”
“I would go back,” he said. “I want to experience where my parents came from.” Ever since seeing some silly Hallmark card of a movie, Dmitri has been enamored of the idea of discovering one’s roots, of reconnecting with the soil from which one had sprouted. But he was born in Brighton Beach, to Russian immigrants, and has never known another country. I’ve had enough of roots and soil. That poor, pathetic village where I’d spent my childhood might have given birth to me, but after it betrayed me, I felt no compunction to return. That soil and I owe each other nothing.
“Bloom where you’re planted.” I refilled our glasses and waved a hand around my state-of-the-art kitchen. “Here, I bloom. Not in some field of mud and chicken shit which is now probably a shopping mall.”
“Yes.” He gave me a small and telling smile. “It’s wonderful here, the best restaurant in the neighborhood.”
“But you think I’m missing something.”
I took his silence as a yes and gulped half my wine—not the best pinot noir we’ve ever served but hardly the worst—then clicked the glass back to the counter more gently than I wanted to. Hell, if I were alone, I’d have flung it against the wall. “Ask your parents what they’re missing. Ask them why they left.”
His jaw tightened. “Perhaps it is time to close. I’ll call you a cab.”
I let out a long sigh as if it could expel the bitterness from my body. He was right to be angry with me. He didn’t deserve the business end of my metaphorical knife. How was he to know that Sergei had left me for his twenty-five-year-old girlfriend in Moscow? My personal life was nobody’s business, especially those in my employ. “I’m sorry. It must be the wine.”
Dmitri nodded and crossed to the register. “No need to apologize. Maybe it was not a good year for the grapes.”
I stopped him before he could pick up the phone. “Dmitri. If you would ever like to take your vacation there, I would be happy to give you the extra time. And a little bonus.”
His eyebrows rose. “Really. Extra time and a bonus to go back to ‘nothing’?”
“Who knows?” I shrugged. “For you it might be different. Maybe they have not yet built a shopping mall.”
He accepted my peace offering, and as I got into the cab, I watched him disappear into the night. Hoping that if he did decide to make the trip, he would find fulfillment. Unlike what Russia had given me—the scars I never revealed, a jail sentence I could never unremember. No. They would never have me back. Even if I desired to return. I would continue to grow where I had planted myself. True, I could no longer bear fruit like a twenty-five-year-old, but I would dig my roots harder into my adopted soil and bloom with a goddamn passion.
I’d love to know where this story came from. I was four when we arrived in Australia so returning to Hungary at 21 laid a lot of ghosts for me. I returned a true ‘Aussie’. Sometimes you have to leave in order to know where you roots truly are. 🙂
What a moment that must have been for you. Seeing what was there and deciding where your roots were. I sometimes wonder what my ancestors’ homelands would look like now. I’ve been living with this character for a few years—she’s in my next novel—but I never knew this story before. It takes place long before the novel starts.
Yeah, I first visited in 1973-4 and Hungary was still a scary, communist regime back then. The stories my parents told about ‘home’ suddenly seemed like a child’s fairytale. I’m still proud of being a ‘Magyar’, but that cultural pride harks back to the wild tribesmen who took over the country from horseback with bows in their hands. And the cooking! Everything else though is from Australia.
Have you ever considered going back and seeing your cultural roots?
[and when is the next novel coming out? -cough-]
I didn’t hear much good about my ancestors’ homelands. The Cossacks et al made it quite an unfriendly place, I was told. My grandmother told me that where she lived is now Lvov in Poland. I’m not sure where the Russian side is from. And next novel is out for beta reading. I really hope to have it out by the end of the year, but that depends on what kind of feedback I get. This one has a LOT of moving parts and a large cast.
Nice scene, Laurie. It caught my eye. My husband’s grandfather was named Dmitri from Halych Ukraine (close to Lviv) and my mother-in-law was born there. They came to America in 1949. The city Lviv went through a number of name changes and was called Lvov or Lwow back then while under Polish law. I’ve been brushing up on my history lately for my next story.
I wonder if your character, Dmitri, will be taking a trip soon? Would like to read more #keepwriting
Thank you, Elisabeth! Hey, our families could be connected, somewhere back there. I’d love to write more about Dmitri. He’s interesting. And #keepwriting
Great piece, Laurie! ❤
I love how you don't use any dialogue tags, it makes the story so much more vivid
Nice 🙂 That is one fierce woman.
She is! She tried to take over the whole novel. Maybe I should give her one of her own.
Thank you, Natalie!