A Damascus Moment

To accomplish another thousand of things.

Continent Stanislav Kucher

 

To accomplish another thousand of things. Airplane-taxi-hotel, people’s faces fry. I should be on time again. They say this is the rhythm, the Universe is widening with acceleration and simple mortals should run. And we run ahead like Frezy Grant: «I hurry, I run». And suddenly everything stopped. No power, no run ahead. You are blind like Savl going to Damascus: food is out of use, no strength even to sleep. Where power comes from to the one fallen to the bottom, — our columnist journalist and writer Stanislav Kucher tells.

I was just thirty-three but illness had left me with neither strength nor spirit and without a vestige of power, until a new day came and with the sun’s rising, renewal and health.

We were on a flight from Moscow to Simferopol. Alex’s eyes widened with surprise when I refused his brandy and more so when I declined Aeroflot’s meal tray.

«You’ve given up drink»

«I grew tired of it and I’m not allowed to eat any of this»

«Kucher, I don’t recognise you? You and a diet, you and caution. Are you really ready to die?»

«When it happens be ready to burn my dead body and scatter the ashes over Kara-Dag or to be precise, over the sea from one of the rocks. I know you’ll manage»

Until a doctor in Moscow diagnosed physical and nervous strain compounded by liver and pancreas depletion and recommended several months bed rest, I had suspected myself of hypochondria. It made me inwardly laugh that I might be a character from Jerome’s «Three Men in a Boat». The one who opens a medical reference book and finds premonitory symptoms of every possible terminal disease.

During the flight I vomited bile several times and returned to my seat green faced and later Alex told me he regretted involving me in this adventure.

Actually, he saw going to Crimea as a warm-up for Cuba. Picking up girls in the evening for extraordinary sexual adventures at night, sleeping till late, swimming and over-eating and be ready for more feats. Instead of a proven partner in adventures he’d got my half dead body which would possibly need burning and dispersal over the dormant volcano.

My sleep from the airport to the hotel was disturbed by nightmare and I remember nothing of check-in and the evening when Lesha went out on his night patrol, allowing me to return to sleep.

And then the miracle started to happen. I awoke at two feeling certain that ending it all was the right thing to do. I had no physical power, wasn’t hungry even though had nothing but water for three days. I had the image in my mind of the rock I loved to swim to when Mother and I came to Koktebel.

Illustration Elena Vladimirova

I stood up and dressed in Speedos, shorts and tee-shirt, took a bottle of water and wandered off in the direction of Kara-Dag. At that moment I wasn’t even sure the rock really existed-whenever I had swum before it happened in the 80’s, around twenty years ago. Leaving the village, I was alone in the dark guided only by the contour of a breakwater set against the rising legendary mountain. Undressing on the breakwater’s edge, with the water bottle in my Speedos, I ran and fell rather than jumped into the water. The seaweed’s iodine smell hit my nose. I dived as deep as my lungs allowed and came up like a released champagne cork. It was as if I was twelve again, thinking of nothing but the pleasure of being good at swimming and diving and all the while watching the stars and Kara-Dag’s silhouette on my right. And then, without surprise, I saw the rock.

Or rather the big flat stone where I used to lay for hours reading «Captain Blood, his Odyssey» bought in a plastic book bag. I climbed up and found a comfortable position and drank some water. I’d like to claim adopting a «meditation position» but it wouldn’t be true. I sat with eyes open, then closed and travelled back in time twenty years. I saw the horizon and the waves and momentarily ceased to feel a separate being.

It was a warm August and although night, I felt no cold, no hunger, nor the touch of wind or splashes of sea. I found myself speaking thoughts aloud, perhaps to the God that never had I any belief, or the sea and space that’s reality could be believed. Maybe I asked for something — I don’t remember. What I do remember is that when I consciously opened my eyes the sun was already in the sky and I felt a sense of being another man. Actually, like in Nikolskiy’s song «I became someone I’d never been before and was still myself».

No, there was no enlightenment like they describe in clever but stupid books. I just felt once again so very much alive. I felt the breath of the wind; the invisible water splashes it brought with every inch of my body. The smells sharpened and the colors became brighter. I looked back and felt satisfied by the fact that I swam around one kilometer from the shoreline and now the majestic and mighty Kara-Dag was looking at me not from the right side but from behind, changing colors in the dawn haze with all the shades of pink and orange. I was admiring the play of water and light for an hour or two more. There weren’t many thoughts — the powerful feeling of peaceful happiness took their place — happiness of being in this world and having this world.

I wouldn’t say that my muscles became stronger in a second — no, I was still weak. But it was a pleasant weakness because I knew it for sure: it will go away as anything my brain and body could feel will come or go by my will. I even made a couple of press-ups on my shelter stone, thanked it for the night and swam away. I dressed by the breakwater and suddenly felt the pangs of hunger, enough to eat a horse. There being no hoses around, I ordered a big portion of mutton shish kebab with hot sauce and fresh pita in the shore bistro. I finished it and completed my breakfast with baklava and washed down with a cup of Turkish coffee. I lit a cigarette, drew and exhaled the smoke and smiled because I understood how wildly I’d just broken all of my doctor’s advice. Even laughing at the thought of seeing my yesterday’s self as from afar. The coolest thing — I wasn’t ashamed for my recent weakness and dejection. I just felt so very good.

It was the first time that I understood: with all the respect for the professional Aesculapius, my Doctor is me, myself and there would never be a better one.

Me and the sea, the sky, the waves, the Nature, God — all of it together. All everyone in fact is.