Act 2 Scene 5
The old women’s apartment. Morning. Nura is in the kitchen brewing coffee. Luara enters.
Luara—Why are you making the old coffee? I bought some nice, expensive coffee yesterday.
Nura—There was still some of the old coffee left.
Luara—So? Are you planning on living forever? A little was left? What are we supposed to save everything for later? Listen, there’s not going to be a later,
Nura—I’ll brew you up some of the new coffee.
Luara—What do you mean brew me up some, what about you?
Nura—I can drink this.
Luara—There’s your problem. You don’t respect yourself. Valery explained it all to me.
Luara—There’s no need to suffer like this!
Luara—You made all those breakfasts for Vika and really, what did it get you? Now she’s decided she doesn’t need our help, well that’s just fine—time to relax and put things in order.
Luara—We’re going to a cafe today.
Luara—Valery and I—after our workout. We’re going to order Carpuce with truffle salad and Chateaneuf-du-Pape, crepes de Suzette.
Nura—And what is Carapace, and shatanuf do pap and Suzette?
Luara—Aesthetic and taste.
Nura—Did he invite you?
Luara—I invited him. And yesterday, I gave Vika some money for a new coat, because she couldn’t find her old one. I said, buy yourself one with a big furry hood. And after this little exchange she called me “Grandma” Just like that, she said “Thank you, grandma”. I want to give you some money too, so you can buy yourself something.
Nura—Thank you, but I have everything I need.
Luara—Yes, but you could have more.
Nura—Yeah, well, what for?
Luara—Fine, as you wish.
Nura—Are you offended?
Luara—Are you kidding? We live in a free country now—nobody owes anybody anything.
Nura carefully sets aside her writing and book and then pours the coffee.
Nura—I was reading in my journal yesterday about Tolstoy.
Luara—And was it somehow different this time?
Luara—And what did you read in that journal? Pushkin—“She loved Carpuche and for her it was the whole world”
Nura—What does that mean?
Luara—Forget it. And what did you read yesterday?
Nura—Leo Nikolaevich writes that it is very difficult for the man bound by all the unseen bindings of his past to break with the minutia of his ways.
Luara—No one is forcing you to break with anything, it’s just very hard to live with all of your minutia sometimes.
Nura—As always, you’re probably right, sometimes you do want something…
Luara—You see that’s what I’m talking about, take the money, go and by yourself something!
Nura—All right, all right.
The doorbell rings, Nura goes to open it. Nura and Rurik enter the kitchen.
Nura—Rurik, take you’re your coat off, let me hang it up for you.
Rurik—I’m going to a funeral.
Luara—You’re early. We plan on living a little more. Right, Nura?
Nura—Sit down, Rurik. I have some nice coleslaw and there’s fresh coffee.
Rurik—They’re going to bury a man today.
Nura—And who is this one?
Rurik—You don’t know him. Just now, I was walking, its snowing so hard out there, and I was thinking how it looks just like the white shroud covering the body of my poor friend—the ground is all stamped down. Looking at all of this, I sensed the fleetingness, the fragility, the thread of life quivering—a man’s whole past—the transcendence of it all, how do you say it?
Luara—I have an idea.
Luara—We need to tie your threads together. You’re constantly going on about your past life, Rurik can’t seem to make his present one work—you need to go to these funerals together! (to Nura) Nura, you’re schedule of course will allow for it, and two, maybe even three times a week you can go. I’ll pay for the flowers, even. There it is! The important thing is that it will be advantageous for you both!
Rurik—What are you talking about?
Luara—Nura will talk to the people—she can go on and on there at the receptions about the last days of Leo Nikolaevich—its very appropriate. And you, finally, will have a few free days for your work! How’s that for transcendent?
Rurik—I just had an idea appear in my head.
Rurik—Transcendence. Here one must tread very carefully. There’s transcendence and then there’s transcendence. There’s transcendence, which destroys or rejects every possible relationship between experiences and then there’s transcendence, which includes a sense of dualism.
Luara—My God, aren’t you just…
Rurik—The person who says, My god—such a phantom dialectic runs counter to my idea—that person makes two mistakes, one worse than the other.
Luara—I don’t see any dualism here—everything’s clear to me.
Luara—I’m talking about the senselessness of your existence—this empty vacuum that you live in—all this would be philosophy and these would be deep thoughts that supposedly lead to some understanding.
Rurik—Haven’t I always said that in the place where a man finds understanding—in that place there will also be limitations and consequences specific to the time and place where it is found, but eventually it becomes more available—first a little and than more generously. And in that place, haven’t I always said, there, you need to search for your idea—for an idea that is not bound by history, but is eternal?
Luara—All right. Enough. I’m full already. (She gets up)
Nura—Where are you going?
Luara—First to the fitness club, and then, well you know where. I advise you both to spend a little more time in reality. Going to those funerals together will be a lot more fun. I left the money for you in an envelope there in the room.
She stands and leaves.
Nura (placing a plate of coleslaw on the table) Rurik, eat—you’re looking a little beat up.
Rurik—True Nura, life has a way of beating up on you little by little and all these thoughts, these thoughts.
Nura—Well, we figure it out little by little. Recently I’ve been very thoughtful myself. Listen, I wanted to ask your advice about something. (She picks up her writing from the table)
Rurik—Everyone always wants my advice, and then when I try to explain things to them, to advise them, I end up completely drained of energy.
Nura—All that talk’s hard for me to understand…Listen, what do you think? Do you think it’s worth it for me to keep writing my memories down or do you think it’s really of no interest to anyone? I suddenly have all this free time. Vika’s all grown up—she doesn’t need my help anymore at all it seems. That’s understandable, of course. This old lady’s advice just annoys her now. And Luara—well with Luara. Thank God, everything’s great. It’s just that I spent all those years worrying over them—now I can’t seem to break the habit. (She places her writing on the table) You just eat, eat. I’m…you want some tea?
Rurik (he quickly finishes the coleslaw and throws a piece of bread in his mouth) I don’t have time for tea. I’ve already sat here too long. I need to run...people are waiting, I need to speak at the burial. By the way, you wouldn’t have five hundred rubles to loan me?
Nura—Of course, sweetie! You know…
As she speaks the doorbell rings.
Nura—Wait. One minute.
She goes to open the door.
From the hall Nura is heard—Brusha! What’s happened? Where’s Vika?
Brusha—Everything’s fine. Vika just forgot her coat. That’s all.
He hands it out for Nura.
Nura—Come in, come in. Take off your coat. It’ll be comfortable. Go in the kitchen, sweetie, I’ll be there in a minute.
Brusha goes into the kitchen.
Rurik—Well, well. Who do we have here? Brusha!
Brusha—Good day, sir!
Rurik—What’s with all the formality? You can just say—Hello, Rurik!
Rurik—There you go. See? That’s totally different. How’s the young life?
Rurik—Why’re you being so short, Brusha honey? You’re giving me the impression that you’ve been offended by me somehow, that’s not good.
Brusha—No, no. Offended by what?
Rurik—Well, I was just thinking—maybe you’re offended that I, like a complete idiot, sat there in the dark, on the toilet—by the way, why did you take off all my lids?
Brusha—Just to be stupid.
Rurik—Well, it didn’t upset one little bit, little seed. So, where does that leave us, Brusha?
Rurik— Not enough.
Brusha—I’m very sorry.
Rurik—You know, Brusha, a sinner has to be redeemed?
Brusha—I’ve heard of that, yes.
Rurik—I like the way you think. So, where are we now, Brusha?
Brusha—I don’t even know what to suggest. You’ve probably already gone out and bought new lids.
Rurik—I suggest that we take you back to the studio, and there after some chamomile tea, I’ll take off all your lids. What do you think?
Nura appears with an envelope.
Nura—Here, Rurik, take this.
Rurik (takes the envelope and quickly shoves it into the pocket of his jacket, he looks at his watch) Look at the time, I need to run. They can’t start without me. And after all this—all this running about I’ll run home to my studio and turn on the light.
Nura—Yes, it gets dark early now.
Rurik (to Brusha) –And then, later, much later, while drinking tea (he winks) we can turn off the lights and watch the snow through the window. Do you like to do that?
Nura (to Brusha)—Are you acquainted with Rurik Nikolaevich?
Brusha—I think Rurik Nikolaevich thinks I’m somebody else.
Rurik—I need to run, time to jump in the saddle (he sings) “ come see me my little flame, sweetly sang the violin, and then so softly…”
Nura—There’s some coleslaw and some hash browns.
Brusha—Thanks but I can’t stay long.
Nura—Eat. I’ll brew some tea. Luara bought some supposedly amazing honey—infused with pine essence—you and I can try it together,
She pushed her writing to the edge of the table.
Nura—No need for thanks, sweetie. (she puts some coleslaw on a plate) Should I fry you up two or three hash browns?
Brusha—One will be enough.
Nura—They’re tiny tiny, I’ll fry you up three. Sit there in the corner.
Brusha sits down and with his elbow knocks the writing and the papers fall to the floor.
Brusha—Oh. I’m a klutz. Sorry.
Nura—Don’t worry sweetie.
Brusha (He picks the papers up from the floor and places them in the book, he reads) It was well known that Leo Nikolaevich had a great knowledge of music. Your teacher?
Nura—No. My teacher was named Aleksander Borisovich. Leo Nikolaevich—that’s Tolstoy. Aleksander Borisovich was his young friend, he often visited Tolstoy at his home, they played chess together.
Brusha—Really? Wow! I never thought about how it wasn’t really that long ago.
Nura—For me, though Aleksander Borisovich, Leo Nikolaevich became a very real person.
Brusha—And tell me about your Leo Nikolaevich.
Nura—He said: “I love music most of all the arts, the must difficult for me to part with are the feelings which music arouses in my soul”
Brusha—I wonder what kind of music Tolstoy liked?
Nura—Chopin. He often said, “Chopin is to music what Pushkin is to poetry”
Brusha—Who did he say that to?
Nura—To Aleksander Borisovich.
Brusha—Why did Tolstoy have to part with music?
Nura—Thank God, you don’t have to worry about things like that yet. That’s for a different time.
Brusha—Why is that?
Nura—Let me read you something, do you have time.
Brusha—Yes of course.
Nura opens her book.
Nura—From the journal of Aleksander Borisovich—about your question. “Where has it all gone? That wide world at Yasnaya Polyana—picnics, guitars, balalaikas, dozens of guests, and Leo Nikolaevich calmly working by himself, thinking or reading, and sometimes, unexpectedly there with us, playful and full of youthful energy. Wild walks in the miraculous Zaseke, horseback rides, that marvelous endless forest…that clean scent, the youth, the energy, and trust in your own strength. Where has it all gone?”
Brusha—If it was all so wonderful, why did he leave?
Nura—To live his final days in peace and quiet.
Brusha—You mean he died while traveling?
Nura—Late, late one fall night in 1910. In secret. Leo Nikolaevich left Yasnaya Polyana. The road was difficult for him. While traveling he fell ill and had to leave the train at a small railway station called Astapovo. And there, in the stationmaster’s house he spent the last seven days of his life. And do you know who announced his death?
Nura—Aleksander Borisovich. He opened the window and spoke those terrible words.
Nura—He has passed.
Brusha—And his family?
Nura—Leo Nikolaevich wrote about that.
Nura—If peace cannot be found in the family, among a few people, how can peace be found in humanity—a family of millions?
Brusha—Where is this Astapovo?
Nura—In the Lipetskaya Region, between Bogoyvlenskii and Eltsii, now it’s called simply “Leo Tolstoy”.
Brusha—Are you going to publish your memories?
Nura—I don’t know. I need to finish them first. And then they need to be typed out. I have awful handwriting—it’s quite hard to read.
Brusha—You have fine handwriting. If you want, I’ll type it for you.
Nura—Oh thank you, sweetie, but why would you want to waste all that time?
Nura—Let’s wait and see. I still need to finish writing. True, though, I know exactly what the end will be.
Nura—I want to end with these words from the diary of Leo Nikolaevich: “I looked at the wondrous sunset, the light shinning through the clouds—one piled upon another—and there, like a piece of red otherworldly coal, the sun. All of this above the forest and the rye. So joyful. And I thought: this world is not a joke, not simply a vale of tears or an entrance into the next world, the eternal world, but it is itself an eternal world which we, not only can, but must make more beautiful, more joyful for all those who live in it and for all those who will live in it after us.”
Brusha—Could I just sit here and read awhile? (he takes the writing)
Nura—Of course, sweetie, as long as you like. I need to run to the store—to the sporting goods store to look for a hula-hoop for Luara. They told me in that I could find one in that, what’s it called? Sport’s Master. You sit, sit! There’s more tea and bread. Did you like the honey?
Nura—Wonderful. Have more then!
She calls from the hall—If you leave, just lock the door!
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