So once this one time I’m walking down the street and suddenly I notice that women aren’t looking at me.
Used to be – I’d come out looking like, you know, some kind of stallion, and I’m getting these looks, air kisses, benevolent smiles, giggles and facial contortions.
And suddenly, there’s nothing. Nothing of the sort!
That is a pity, I think to myself. I mean, after all, a woman plays a certain role in one’s personal life.
This one bourgeois economist, or I think he was a chemist, had this original idea that not only in terms of personal life, but whatever we do, we do for women. That means, then, that all the battles, the glory, wealth, honors, trading up apartment-wise, and buying big-ticket clothing items like overcoats, and so on and the like – all of this is done for women.
Well, of course he did go overboard there, the bastard – lied an entire sackful he did, to please bourgeois society – but as far as personal life, I agree with all of that completely.
It’s true that a woman plays a bit of a role in our personal lives.
Say you go to see a movie together. Then it’s not such a shame if it turns out to be bad. You can, you know, squeeze her little hand, say a couple of nonsensical things, and it all makes up for modern art and the scant personal life.
So, imagine how I feel when once this one time I see that women aren’t looking at me!
What the hell is that? I think. Why aren’t these dames looking my way? What’s the reason? What do they need that I don’t have?
So, I get home and throw myself at the mirror. I see that there’s this disheveled mug in it. And a kind of a deathly look. And there’s no color flashing about in the cheeks.
“Right, now I understand!” I say to myself. “I have to bring the food intake up a notch. Gotta fill my colorless form up with blood.”
And so I rush to buy all kinds of food.
I buy butter and sausage. I buy cocoa and so on.
All of this is eaten, drunk and devoured basically non-stop. And in a short time I again look indecently fresh and vitalized.
And looking like this, I glide the streets. Yet I notice that women still aren’t looking at me.
“Oh,” I say to myself, “have I, perhaps, acquired a rotten gait? Maybe I’m lacking in acrobatics and exercise, the hanging on rings and the jumping about? Maybe I have a shortage of large muscles that women have a habit of admiring?”
So then I buy a hanging trapeze. I buy rings and weights and some kind of special contraption.
I’m spinning like a sonofabitch on all these rings and apparatuses. Mornings I use the contraption. I chop the neighbors’ firewood for free.
Finally, I sign up at a sports club. I row boats and boaties. I swim outside into the month of November. And I actually almost drown once while I’m at it. I get the bright idea to dive in a deep spot and, not reaching the bottom, start swallowing water ‘cause I can’t really swim.
I waste half-a-year on all this business. I put my life in danger. Twice I crack my head when I fall off the trapeze.
I bravely bear all of this, and one fine day, tanned and strong, like a spring I come out into the street to meet with the long-forgotten, approving smile of a woman.
But again I fail to find it.
Then I begin to sleep with the window open. The fresh air infiltrates my lungs. My cheeks are flush with color. My mug turns rose-colored and red. And, for some reason, takes on a shade of purple.
Once, I take my purple mug to the theatre. And in the theatre, like an idiot, I stalk the female population, inciting sharp criticism and crude hints from the men, and even pushing and shoving in the chest.
And in the end, I see two or three pathetic smiles, with which I am hardly satisfied.
Right there in the theatre I approach a large mirror and lovingly look at my powerful figure and chest, which, with a flexing, now yields seventy-five centimeters in circumference.
I bend my arms, straighten my noble back, and position my legs this way and that.
And am, frankly, amazed by the fickleness and the nose-turning on the part of the women, who are either spoiled silly, or the devil knows what it is they need.
I’m adoring myself in this large mirror and suddenly notice that my clothes are not that great. I’ll be honest – my clothes are poor, and even horrible. The ultra-short trousers with bubbling at the knees send me into a state of dismay and even shuddering.
But I am rendered practically dumbfounded when I look at my lower extremities, the description of which has no place in a work of literature.
“Oh, now I get it!” I say to myself. “This is what’s ruining my personal life – I dress badly.”
And depressed, on half-bent legs, I return home, promising myself to change the way I dress.
And so, I hurriedly construct a new wardrobe for myself. I have a blazer made according to the latest fashion, from a swath of purple drapery. And I buy myself a pair of trousers in the ‘Oxford’ style, made from two joined riding breeches. I walk around in this costume, as if in a hot air balloon, much aggrieved by such fashion.
I buy an overcoat at a flea market, and this overcoat has shoulders so wide that shoulders this wide simply don’t exist on our planet.
And one weekend, I come out onto Tverskoi Boulevard looking like this. I come out onto Tverskoi Boulevard and perform like a trained camel. I walk here and there, turn my shoulders and make dancing motions with my feet.
Women look at me askance, with a mixture of amazement and fear.
The men, they look less askance. Their comments are voiced; the crude and uncultured comments of people unable to comprehend the whole situation.
Here and there I hear them:
“Woah, get a load of the scarecrow! Man, look at the get-up on that bastard. That’s just a shame!” they say. “Guy’s got three miles of fabric on him.”
They pepper me with mockery and laugh at me.
I walk down the boulevard, as if through a formation, with very vague hopes of anything.
And suddenly, near the Pushkin monument, I notice a well-dressed lady looking at me ever so tenderly, and even slyly.
I smile in return and thrice round the Pushkin monument, making figures with my feet. After which I take a seat on the bench opposite hers.
This well-dressed lady with remnants of a faded beauty is looking at me. Her eyes lovingly glide along my nice figure and face, which expresses all the best there is in the world.
I cock my head, shrug, and mentally admire the bourgeois economist’s elegant philosophical theory of the value of women.
I wink at Pushkin, as if to say: “Here we go, Aleksandr Sergeyevich, the ice is broken.”
Again I look toward the lady, who, now, I see, practically follows my every motion with an unflinching stare.
And then, for some reason, I begin to fear these unblinking eyes. I’m already sorry that this creature finds me attractive. And already I want to leave. And already I want to round the monument in order to get on the trolley and just go wherever it will take me, somewhere to the outskirts, where the general public isn’t quite so unblinking.
But all of a sudden, this nice lady approaches me and says:
“Pardon me, sir… I’m so uncomfortable,” she says, “saying this. But my husband had an overcoat stolen that was just like yours. Could you be so kind and show me the lining?”
“Sure, of course,” I think, “she’s not gonna start talking to me just like that; she needs a reason.”
I open my overcoat, while flexing and fanning out my chest as much as I can. Having examined the lining, the lady raises a heart-rending squeal and starts to scream. Of course it’s her overcoat! The stolen overcoat, in which this scoundrel – I, that is – is currently draped.
Her moans are killing me. I wish I could die right then and there in the new pants and overcoat.
We go to the police station, where a report is filed. They ask me questions, to which I give honest answers. And when I am asked, in passing, how old I am, I tell them my age, and this practically three-digit number makes me shudder.
“Oh, so that’s why no one is looking at me!” I say to myself. “I’ve simply grown old. And I wanted to blame my wardrobe for the shortcomings of my personal life.”
I hand over the flea-market-bought stolen overcoat and, with no overcoat and my heart in disarray, I come out into the street.
“That’s all right, I’ll get by without that!” I say to myself. “My personal life will consist of toil. I’ll work. I will make myself useful to people. Women aren’t the only hope there is in this world.”
I scornfully deride the words of the bourgeois academic.
“Baloney!” I say. “Idle philosophizing. Typical western nonsense!”
I laugh. I spit left and right. And turn the other way when I see a woman passing.
But here’s the curious thing: this little incident happened two years ago. And although in these two years I’ve probably gotten even older, still, this past summer I met this one personage, and believe it or not, she really likes me. And the most important, and the funniest thing is – this summer I dressed as badly as possible. I wore God-knows-what-kind-of-pants and walked around in training shoes with holes in them.
And nevertheless, this had no effect on love. And I am happy and content over it, and we’re even marrying soon on account of the mutual feeling.
And I hope that what you’re going to read in the next story won’t happen to us.