Yoharie: Love Back (part four)
“Twist and bump.”
Val clipped three into the crown of his hair, and had Sasha, so instructed, do the ones in back. Everyone needs loft. This is how you get the bangs to stand away from your forehead, so they look good, instead of…
Too long, too straight, too…too. There was a certain soft-boy look, a floppy, popstar, man-gamin optic. Which, Val agreed, was a little hateful. Let your hair dry, she said, with the clips in, finger comb it to a piecey crest.
“But, Giarma, what does she do?”
“Nothing. She kind of knows how everything is supposed to be done, but…right now…she just hangs out with Trevor.”
They were getting ready to drive to Trevor’s. Then, Everest at the IMAX, an hour away; place to eat, TBD. Val’s chipping in a couple hundred towards household expenses was welcome enough, despite (or leaving aside) the little problem…
Val’s inviting relatives—
(And what, of things Giarma knew how to do, might she introduce to disturb Arkady’s peace…?)
“You wanna start giving me rides?” had been the opener, the question that made Sasha not just someone (cute) in the kitchen at Plenty House, but a passer of the first test. Val had never heard anyone put a label on Sasha—but Sasha didn’t read gay, while Val aggressively read fluid.
Company literature spoke of Christian values. Plenty House, though, was publicity shy, picketer-averse. Val expected Donk to fire him on his own error, at the usual dual climax of fed-up. He easily got there, surrounded by people who made sure you saw them recoil, a handful of curious Tinas, and the one or two who saw themselves heroically correct.
Sasha, spitting his chickens, hadn’t turned around. “You have a car, so you and me can work something out. I oughta stop mooching off my Dad…he’s gonna get himself in trouble.”
This was funny to Sasha; he laughed at private knowledge. “Twenty-one?”
In the 90s, the mismatched couple that were Sasha’s parents had emigrated from Moscow to the west coast, to Portland, Oregon, a nation away from where Sasha’s mother found work. As director of a medical lab in Hagerstown, Maryland. Sasha’s father was a licensed cabbie. He at length had declared personal bankruptcy and become an Uber driver. Irina Matalova left her husband when Sasha was nine years old, and there had been no thought of him leaving school, made to live in a country foreign to him.
“She’s in Moscow?”
“It seems sad.”
“Shut up. Your parents are split.”
“But we’re Yoharies. Yeah, I don’t know…” He answered Sasha’s doubting eye. “I lived my whole life kind of thinking there wasn’t any such thing in my family…moms and dads, all at once. But I root for other people.”
“No such thing for a Matalov either. Give up.”
It wasn’t much, soul’s-journey-wise, to conclude you didn’t know people. You invented thoughts to fill other people’s heads. Where it mattered most, where you wanted the knowing to be love, you could still decide you were being communicated with, when you weren’t.
Chronologically, Val had first been fired. He had picked up Sasha for a couple of months, their conversation easy. Sasha’s playlists were all guitar solos, and like a boyfriend, he’d said after a while, “You should come up to my room. I can play something for you.” He joked, “All I need is a song and a band, I got the break down cold.”
“Friend,” he’d said to the leather recliner, his father watching soccer. Arkady glanced up at Val’s goth face, nodded. They got on the bed right away, but also Val had lent an ear, and his admiration. Sasha’s instrument was a keyboard—on it he played electric and acoustic…guitar, strings, percussion, anything.
“You do live, though? Clubs?” Val was diffident; he was almost a virgin to nightlife, and didn’t expect to hide it.
“I record stuff and sell it. Seriously. People make music on their phones…they buy the backbeat, they buy the solo.”
Sasha, who shrugged at much, had shrugged at Val’s news. “Well, Dad’ll take me. I should tell you…”
The funny story, if it was a funny story. That Arkady told his rides: “I’m dropping my son at his job. You don’t mind.”
Most didn’t…or agreed not to.
“I get you in plenty time, never last minute. Not ready, that is you. I have been here fifteen minutes ahead.”
“Because he doesn’t care about stars. He measures by whether someone’ll rat him out. He could get five stars, but he doesn’t rate the customer unless they’re with him, right? And not with the company.”
“Just as a general principle?”
(2020, Stephanie Foster)