Cuts and Caresses in Moscow

Spring is finally starting to pop her nose out and look around. Which in Moscow means sunshine, 45-degree temperatures and lots of puddles from melting snow. The air still stings with cold when there’s a breeze, but all the extra sunlight more than makes up for it. I think you appreciate the change of seasons so much more in a place with such a long, dark winter. Much like everything else in life, deprivation leads to appreciation.

I’m trying to appreciate the sunlight on my way into and home from work. And definitely enjoying the switch to lighter jackets, fewer layers and less likelihood of misplacing one of the 47 accessories that usually get laid out in the mornings before school. Between the 4 of us, it’s a juggling act of hats and scarves, gloves, boots, inner jackets, outer jackets. Most mornings when we finally lock the door behind us to head out for the day I’m already feeling my energy depleted just from the act of encouraging young children to put on enough clothes so they don’t freeze to death.  You would think after 4 years living in Moscow they would have some sense of self-preservation, but it’s a battle every single time.

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In other news, I have lost another battle to the will of Moscow. With last year being pretty good health wise I thought I was rounding a corner from my initial surgery streak. But alas, in a few days Moscow wins another round and the score will be 4 years, 4 surgeries.

It’s definitely necessary, and the surgeon has had a good bedside manner so far, which I appreciate after some of my other experiences with Russian doctors. I have an ovarian cyst that has tripled in size to 10cm over the last few months. I didn’t realize the pain I’d been feeling was due to the cyst since I’ve also, unfortunately, been dealing with the repercussions of 2 cases of stomach flu in the last 6 weeks. I’m in that surreal state of trying to reconcile what I thought would be my plans over spring break, with the inevitable pain and frustration while my body heals.

It also means that the last few days have been repeated visits to the hospital for tests and what feels like never-ending visits to more and more doctors. You start to feel like a hollow bag of skin after too long in a hospital. Your flesh becomes nothing more than a medium for their tools to work with. And even if there are attempts to put you at ease, there is only so much that can be said. The needle pricks and probing fingers eventually make you distance your mind from your body as much as possible.

So, I’ve been trying to find little moments each day to look around in appreciation. To notice something new and keep my mind occupied on things other than the cuts I know are coming. The woman at a local market stall outside the metro station, clutching a coat around her neck as she twists and turns in front of a mirror, trying to decide if it suits her. The man on a bicycle, patiently clinging to any speed possible as he tries to keep his seat in a throng of pedestrians overtaking the sidewalk. The older woman walking towards the escalator in front of me who stops at a bench to kiss an even older woman (her mother?) who has obviously been waiting. They immediately pick up a conversation in Russian that feels so natural it is obvious this is their routine.

And then yesterday a scene so sweetly intimate I knew I had to write about it. I had just stepped onto the escalator to descend into the metro when the man in front of me turned around to canoodle with his girlfriend. Now, let me preface this story by saying that the escalators into some of Moscow’s metro stations are loooooong. I think the longest one clocks in at several minutes. So it’s very common to see couples using the extra time for a bit of PDA. This was the first time that I’d ever been this close to it happening though, literally 2 steps away.

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The man turned immediately and slid his arms under her long coat and pulled her to him with his hands staying on the small of her back. The way he held her was a perfect mixture of possession and gentle caress. And while I didn’t see her face the entire ride, his face was surprisingly open, showing all his thoughts and emotions freely. He wasn’t bored and touching her to pass the time, he couldn’t bear to waste those few minutes without having her in his arms. They shared a few kisses that spoke of intimacy and comfort, he spent most of the ride leaning into her neck to nuzzle and speak into her ear over the roar of the cars below. And when we arrived at the bottom, he turned and was reaching for her hand before his eyes had even registered the upcoming step.

It was a lovely moment, and I very much appreciated seeing something sweet and gentle on a day filled with sterile medical procedures.

So that is where I will choose to let my thoughts wander when things get rough over the next few days. There is always sweetness with the pain. A caress to help with the cut. And I think a city like Moscow with its darkness and cold knows that better than most. When the light comes, we have to appreciate every bit possible.

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