8 - Convergence

Mama came down on her like the Chicxulub impactor. In case you're wondering, that's the giant meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs. That Elena didn't become human ejecta, is one of those unsolved mysteries of high energy physics. “Ach ti suka!” She clamped onto Elena’s mobile and a hunk of her hair. "Nyet! You will not bring that deviant down on us."

The luncheon crowd gave the violence a wide berth but not a soul made to leave. Elena was centre stage and for the first time ever, she didn’t care. She was fighting for her life. At war with all of them -- her parents and that hateful, twisted world where she was the pariah.

Kyiv train station Mcdonald's photo elenameg.com

[Image 8-1] Kyiv's train station's McDonald's restaurant. Photo taken following the attack as part of Elena and Meg's forensic examination of what happened.

She pressed her palms and burning cheeks to the plate glass. Felt the deep cold seeping in from outside. Just a few millimeters separated her from Kyiv. A place she now cherished because it was where we met. Where she first felt safe and in control of her own life.

She watched the frenetic activity around the train station. People in a hurry, all bundled up. Trains and vehicles spewing clouds of ice fog.

She yearned for our sunny flat; our tiny kitchenette, radiant with candlelight; classical music from tinny laptop speakers; French wine, cheese, bread; half understood conversations with dreamy expressions into the wee hours; breathless photo safaris, chasing, dancing, chanting, laughing with demonstrators down wide, Soviet boulevards; spitting olive pits out the window onto pricey sedans below, while big shishkas made backseat deals. In a heartbeat, it could all be taken from her.

Deal making Kyiv style by the Prokuratura photo elenameg.com

[Image 8-2] Deal making below the kitchenette window.

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Papa broke from his vegetative state. "Enough!" He slammed three train tickets down so hard, the table bounced. "There, look! You are coming home with us."

Elena froze. She had never seen her father assert himself. He was just, kind of, around, like a creepy lodger. Never part of anything. Always looking over his shoulder, nervously sneaking around and pissed off by Elena’s presence.

pro Russian supporters of Nataliya Vitrenko photo elenameg.com

[Image 8-3] Pro Russian supporters of Nataliya Vitrenko, a candidate for the 2006 Ukrainian presidential election.

Yet, there he was. Getting the sluggard off the sofa, all the way to Kyiv, and then, gleefully engaged in an ambush took more than Olga’s request. Elena analysed the situation. She was trapped, over powered, actually afraid of these people. Harder still, was realizing her mother was human, fallible, acting on base emotions: fear, anger, spite and jealousy, and could actually be wrong. Accepting that meant that only Elena herself could know what was right for her. She finally got it: she had a will of her own. She had a choice.

Staring at the tickets, she said, without emotion, "No. I am not going with you."

Nearly choking to death on her McVittles, Mama managed, "What do you mean: 'No!?'"

"There is nothing you can do to make me go with you. I am staying here. In Ukraine. With Meg. I love her."

Papa pulled his punch, inches from Elena's face. Growling, he rocked back into his chair. Tubular, metal legs howled on vinyl composite flooring.

"Oh, you will stop loving her." Mama regurgitated something she’d heard on talk-radio. "What you feel is nonsense. It can be cured."

Meg and Elena at their sunny Kyiv flat photo elenameg.com

[Image 8-4] Meg and Elena in their sunny, Kyivian flat enjoying some down time.

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I got to McDonald's and the joint was packed. Early birds getting a head-start on the lunch crunch. Hypoglycaemic, caffeine-addicted and carnaptious as hell. Only by woolly luck, did I get to the second floor -- alive.

I saw Elena. Cornered, makeup smeared, cheeks flaming red. Diners left a conspicuously unoccupied buffer zone around the Russians' table. I thought it best to go stealth, figure out what I was dealing with. I pulled up my fake-fur hoodie, melted into the crowd and took up an empty seat nearby.

Elena tried to stand up.

Mama dived across the table, wrapping her arms around Elena's midsection.

"I won't go with you. Anywhere!" Elena writhed, struggling to break her mother's grip. "Let me go!" It did absolutely no good.

Across the room, I was clinging to my chair, so as not to leap to my feet and crash the party. What did I know? I was in a foreign country; didn't really speak the language; barely knew what was happening. And then, there was Elena. What was she after? How hard would she fight for it? If I entered the fray would it help or hinder?

I watched her wrench and twist her arms free. Then, reaching for all she was worth, inch-by-inch across the table -- despite Mama-anaconda squeezing her internals to new highs -- she stretched her arm... a little further... and... snatched her handbag by the strap. That's when she looked up, right into my eyes.

Seeing me, poured petrol on her fire. She was a feint hell-bent on escaping her tormentors. All that malevolence, and for what? What did it matter to them? Their daughter was in another bloody country. Not like her immoral depravity could reflect badly on them, way off in back-country Russia.

The color of the Orange Revolution, Nasha Ukrainia (Our Ukraine) flags color the horizon photo elenameg.com

[Image 8-5] The color of Orange Revolution. Nasha Ukrainia (Our Ukraine) flags color the horizon of Maidan Independence square.

Arching her back, straightening her knees, Elena lifted the entire table with her hips, Mama included. "Meg!" She half choked, half cried. "Meg! Help me!"

"Silence! You are coming with us." Papa slammed the table down. Then back, hard into Elena's midsection. Her knees buckled against the chair and she crumpled into it with a whump.

"Nyet! You can not do this to me! Let me go. I am an adult!"

With the table jammed into her midsection, Papa had his daughter winded and pinned to the wall. It gave Mama the break she needed to turn to me and go full-on banshee, shrieking: "Go away! Go away! Go--" on infinite loop.

The diners closest to the action spooked and scrambled for cover. Snatching McChips and McShakes they widened the buffer zone between their goodies and the action. They weren't, however, inclined to leave. Not only that, it looked like we were drawing in a crowd from downstairs.

"No! Don't leave, Meg! Help me!" Clawing through her bag, finding the only thing her brain considered significant at the time, Elena leaned as far as she could over the table and thrust a wad of money toward me. "Here, get someone to help. Hurry!"

Elena and Meg's kitchenette table spread with goodies from the west photo elenameg.com

[Image 8-6] The taste of freedom on the kitchenette table. Determination to not let it be taken from her, hardened Elena's resolve to stand up for herself.

Papa's fist smashed into Elena's outstretched arm. Bills fluttered to the floor. She got out a choked cry. "Bag. Meg, take my bag!" Papa shoved the table harder into her ribs. She gasped.

That did it! I was on my feet without thinking, I swept back my faux-fur hood and dived toward Elena. It's not like I had a lot of time to think about what to--

Mama screamed. Papa spun around, driving a roundhouse punch into my face that sent me flying. Empty chairs spun and toppled. A maimed table wobbled, one of its extruded steel legs bent inward by my spinal column. Diners went silent. Nobody moved. The whole crazy situation had suddenly become serious: furnishings were involved! What in bloody hell had I gotten myself into?!

Far enough from the crazies to be reasonably safe -- and, to be fair, they were busy with Elena going nuclear -- I rolled onto all fours. Drops of blood fell from my face -- nose, probably -- and spattered on the floor. "Shit, shit, shit." I gagged on blood, but wasn't seeing stars, not dizzy: a good sign. I got to my feet, slowly... slowly. Pranged ankle still not one-hundred percent, but no worse after running around Kyiv the past couple of weeks.

Mama saw me getting to my feet. Her satisfied smile melted away, the straighter I stood. When I didn't retreat, she started screaming again: "Go away! Go away! Go aw--"

Papa was dragging Elena by the collar toward an emergency exit. His free hand -- which looked like it might be in some pain from the impact with my face -- was ready to backhand her into submission. The look in her eyes gave me chills. She was resisting. She was going to fight. She wasn't going to let them take her. She was standing up, and I knew, with devastating certainty, they would rip her to pieces.

I turned to the amused lunch crowd. "Call the police!"

Nobody moved. The collective look they gave me, over the tops of sesame seed buns and cup rims, might have been the same for an actor stopping mid, "To be, or not--" and calling offstage, "Line, please." It just wasn't done! And like, who was I kidding?! The police? For an assault and kidnapping; not even a real assault, but good, wholesome, domestic violence. Who's going to call the cops for something like that?

I shook my head. Tiny droplets of blood flew from my hair. Mama's suggestion to, "Go away!" would be so easy, if it wasn't for Elena. The look I'd seen in her eyes, her actions, her words: she was making her stand. But it wasn't a stand, it was a running leap -- right off a cliff -- and she'd made it not knowing if, what or who, would be there to catch her.

Maybe, my presence emboldened Elena to act. Regardless, there was no going back. In Russia her parents could lock her up, have her sectioned, sell her off, drive her to suicide, even beat her to death -- and all of it, with society's approval.

I was in awe of Elena's courage; loved her more then, than I'd ever loved before; knew that going away would kill anything left inside me. Wipe out all I'd spent a lifetime trying to find. My own survival depended on Elena's, as much as Elena's on mine. It all made sense: the risks, the revolutions, the renovations, the mountains and storms. The cliffs of my own that I'd stared down from. Then and there, with Elena's heroic leap, all of it came together in a convergence that would define our lives.

Green Party of Ukraine members at the Ukrainian Central Election Commission headquarters photo elenameg.com

[Image 8-7] Green Party of Ukraine members pose for Elena and Meg. A younger, kinder, gentler, aware and hopeful vision for mother Earth. They didn't stand a chance.

[[ updated Apr 22, 20:17 GMT ]]