The snow is whirling

Валентина СОЛОМОНОВА | Проза


The snow is whirling

It’s winter. Streets, houses and everything is shrouded in snow. Today, it’s snowing all day. In the light of lanterns, the snowflakes are whirling as if in a slow dance. How beautiful it is! Even as a child I thought, “How people can live where there is no snow? They don’t even know what winter is really like. I certainly wouldn’t want to live there.” And now I am walking and admiring this enchanting snowfall.

Recently, I turned fifty years old. Some people celebrate such date and try to organize the event in a grandiose way. My girlfriends also persuade me to do so. But I didn’t like such celebrations. I believe it’s boring to sit and listen to the common panegyrics. It reminds me, excuse me for the comparison, of the funeral feast. But the time is right for taking stock of your life. Although some believe that the past should be left alone, and it’s better not to dig into it. Of course it’s so, but you shouldn’t forget some things. If you don’t comprehend your past, there will be no future. It’s amazing that, being in a good mood, you remember only the good stuff, but if you are sad you think mostly about your mistakes. Most of my life is behind me, and now I’m rather sad than happy.

I wonder why I have remembered one very old and insignificant happening. There was a family in our neighborhood. I never saw their father. People said he was handicapped and worked at home repairing shoes. Their mother worked as a street sweeper. They have a daughter of my age, ten or eleven years old. Sometimes she helped her mother. When I was running with my satchel to school and back, the girl was sweeping the courtyard or collecting garbage. They lived very secluded. It seems to me, no one in our neighborhood even noticed them. The New Year* was approaching, and the whole town has come to the mood of the exciting anticipation of the holidays. People walked the streets with gifts and New Year trees. All of them were smartly dressed. I also went back home with my mother. We carried our purchases. And I knew that on New Year’s Eve I would receive a gift I was dreaming for a long time, ice skates with boots. The girl next door was cleaning up the courtyard alone.

My mom stopped and asked her sympathetically, “Where is your mother?”

“She got sick,” the girl answered quietly.

She warily, but with interest, looked in my direction. I noticed that she gazed at my flushed face, my coat and my bag with gifts. I felt somehow uneasy as if I had done something wrong. Before going to bed, I stared for a long time at the window of their apartment, where the light was dim. I was thinking about the girl and that she was probably very unhappy.

In the following days, when I met her, she smiled at me timidly, and it seemed as though she was going to say something. I somehow looked down at my feet and tried to run past her as quickly as possible.

December 31 came. Heavy snow fell on the street. All around became even more festive because of that snow, because of that whiteness. I hurried home with the joyful excitement. In the courtyard I almost ran into this girl. It felt as though she was happy to see me. She looked at me with some expectation, with some question. In the evening, after the dinner, I pulled my coat over my shoulders and ran out into the street. I crossed the courtyard and knocked on their apartment. The girl opened the door. How shining her face became! She made a motion as if inviting me to her home. I silently put into her hands a handful of candy and was going to run back home. I saw out of the corner of my eye, how pale she became and how strong disappointment reflected in her face. I rushed headlong away. “How stupid I did! Apparently she just wanted a kind word and maybe my friendship too, but not this pathetic handful of candy,” I said to myself. When I closed the door of my room, I burst into tears of shame and powerlessness. It was my first lesson on growing up.

Today’s snowfall reminded me about that bitter lesson. Later in life, I made a lot of other mistakes, but that, the first one, is the thing I will remember all my life. The snow is whirling. It covers our mistakes, successes and all that was in the past.

*New Year’s Eve in Russia has the same cultural function as Christmas in western countries.


It’s late already. I am sitting in the kitchen. My tea on the table has cooled down. It’s dark outside the window, the wind is humming, and the snow is coming down hard, like on that night.

On that terrible night, I was waiting for my wife, Vera. She went to her girlfriend early in the evening and promised me that she wouldn’t be back too late. I was sitting near my daughter’s crib and remembering how Vera and I met for the first time. It happened in the corridor of my university. I heard the girls’ lively laughter and looked back. I saw a flock of girl students huddled near the wall newspaper. The next thing I knew, I found myself following this group of girls and this laugh. Then, someone called the girl, who laughed more than others, “Verochka* !”

I immediately realized she is the one I’ve been always looking for. Then there were long walks and endless talks with her. Sometimes I jumped on the parapet of the embankment and shouted happily to Vera, “I’ll get you the moon! I’ll give you the stars!”

“But why doesn’t she come back for so long?” I asked myself.

My daughter woke up whimpering. I started to get nervous and felt myself really irritated. My daughter began to cry louder. The time Vera promised to come home has passed long ago. I’ve lost my patience and rang my wife. She didn’t answer her phone. My daughter cried incessantly. I took her in my arms and tried to lull her to sleep. When my crying baby finally fell asleep, I was beside myself with anger.

Then, the door creaked open. I went out into the hallway and couldn’t believe my eyes. Vera barely stood on her feet. Her hair was untidy. Her coat was opened wide. Upon seeing me, she began to speak in a weak voice, “They were beating… a woman… there…”

As I listened to her words, my head was swimming. How she dared to lie to me in such an obvious way? Without letting her finish, I ran up to her and slapped her face with the back of my hand. She dropped on the spot. I stood over her and clenched my fists, choking with rage. Vera turned her head and directed her black-as-the-abyss eyes somewhere into the void. She whispered haltingly, “I’ll… give you… the stars…” I have felt as if I got hit in my chest. My weakened legs were barely holding me up, and I had to lean against the wall. As through a veil I saw Vera silently went to her room and closed the door.

In the morning, her room was empty. I couldn’t find anything there that belonged to her or our daughter. The next day, I read in the newspaper that two scoundrels had robbed and beaten a woman. They would have probably killed her if another young woman, who passed by them, didn’t rush to save her, shouting loudly. Then that young woman remained with the victim until the arrival of the ambulance. The surname of the brave young woman wasn’t reported in the paper, but there was her name – Vera.

After that, I almost lost my mind and began a drinking bout. I really could ruin myself by the drink if my sister didn’t help me. Now, I’m living in her house. I’m working and also usually helping my sister with her housework. But I’m feeling like there is no me, no me at all. I don’t feel anything, even pain. Just sometimes, when my three-year-old nephew Vanya comes to me and stares at me with his black child’s eyes, I shudder.

Maxim Gorky** was right when he wrote, “We trust too little to each other and always focus on the things that blame the person, hardly noticing the things that advocate the person.”

* Verochka is an alternate form of the name Vera (Russian, Slavic).

** Maxim Gorky (1868-1936) was a Russian writer, who is considered to be among the greatest writers of 20th-century Russian literature.

The Music

The long corridor of the health clinic is nearly empty. Just the place near the ENT room is crowded somehow. Patients are sitting there, waiting for their turn to be called into the room. It’s clearly seen that they are ready for a long wait. Some of them are propping their heads up with their hands and some even closed their eyes. There is silence broken only by the rustling steps of nurses passing by.

Suddenly, lovely Adagio music poured out of the loudspeaker of somebody’s mobile phone. A miracle happened. Everything around has transformed. The corridor became spacious as if the walls pulled away. The faces of the waiting people became alive and quickened. Their eyes filled with light. And the time changed its flow or even stopped.

Someone’s displeased voice resounds loudly, “Turn it off!”

There is silence again. The faces around are dull. The long corridor is nearly empty.

The Airplane

Tilting my head up, I’m looking at the high-flying airplane. The white trail behind it is similar to the arrow piercing the blue sky. I’m overcoming with a sense of almost childlike delight. It’s a miracle created by human hands! Maybe, God can tolerate mankind’s presence for so long, only because of our believing in miracles and our aspirations to conquer the unknown.

I’m imagining the passengers aboard the plane. A young couple is whispering together and laughing. They are traveling to new countries, to warm seas. An elderly man is reading the newspaper. He is flying to an important business meeting. A child is settling on his mother’s lap, happily waiting to meet his father in the airport. A young woman is looking out the window. She is worrying before the date with the young man. All of them are flying toward their hopes and destiny.

The white trail of the airplane is disappearing over the horizon. Have a good flight!

About the author:

Valentina Solomonova is a short story writer and essayist. She was born in 1955 in Yakutia, the one of the most remote places of Siberia. She was educated in economics, and for many years worked as a financier. But when she retired from work, she decided to get a second degree. So, being sixty, she received a diploma as a psychologist and began new work. Around the same time, she started to write short stories. She lives in the city of Yakutsk.

Рассказать о прочитанном в социальных сетях:

Подписка на обновления интернет-версии журнала «Российский колокол»:

Читатели @roskolokol
Подписка через почту

Введите ваш email: