My first everything.
First time in my life I was on a plane 13 years ago, taking a trip to United States of America. It was also my first time abroad from “Communist Russia,” as you guys usually call it here. “Communist” my pretty ass…Communism was supposed to happen in 80s, but Soviet Union fell apart instead, together with Berlin Wall. (Communism by definition is the society where “everybody is contributing as capable and consuming as needed,” and it never really happened. Everybody was contributing as less as they could and stealing as much as possible instead. Well, not everybody. But I am telling a funny story here. I can exaggerate).
Back to my trip though. All the tortures of standing in line to American Consulate, wrong papers here, right papers there, getting a visa, buying a plane ticket, losing a luggage, dropping my passport into the conveyor belt mechanism 20 minutes before departure, bringing the homemade vodka-based herbal remedy-for-everything through the custom and trying to explain to the officer, that my life would be in danger without it, were it left behind.
First layover was in O’Hare Airport of Chicago—huge, unknown land. I felt like a tiny mute bird inside of a tower clock mechanism. But mute birds can get hungry, too. I had two hours until the next plane, and I went to look for some food. My English at that time was not as perfect as it is now, so I decided to look for something familiar for my first American meal. Hot dog stand seemed easy enough. Hot dog is a hot dog is a hot dog, right? Wrong…
After 12 hour trip with two layovers I finally was breezing in the fragrant summer night of Little Rock, Arkansas. My husband met me at the airport (he was working 20 miles south at some research institute in the middle of nowhere for over a year then, and I came to visit). First time I saw nice, clean, neat highways of America. He showed me his empty dusty apartment with stained carpet and a mattress on the floor. It didn’t really matter at that time—I was tired and didn’t look around much. We ate, we drank, we talked…and so…till very late.
Next morning at 7 am we had to be at the shooting range of Pine Bluff Arsenal. Why? Because there was an annual shooting competition there. NCTR where my husband worked was taking part in it. I was invited also!
The range was full of real American officers of different ranks. Some big major wanted to speak to me (in English, damn it!). He was telling the long story, and I was smiling and nodding my head in response. All I could get were the words “my wife,” “Vladimir,” “Russia.” I assumed that his wife went to Russia and visited the city of Vladimir. (Later I learned that his wife never visited Russia, she was just teaching English to some Russian immigrant named Vladimir).
It was June, but the morning was unusually chilly. Hangover, jet lagged, sleepy, shaking in my dressy silky clothes (Why not in a simple t-shirt and jeans? Let’s blame a culture shock here.), I raised a heavy Ruger .454 to the target…
Some of you probably know the feeling of the good weapon in your hand. It is very comforting and calming, and I am not joking here. I took the third place. Second got my husband.
Some friendly woman looked at us toting our big shiny trophies to the car, (first trophy in my life as well), laughed and said “Good job! You guys can just easily shoot each other in case of some family problem!” If only she knew how close she was to the truth! But it was another story and it happened much later…