I took a long swig from the vodka flask. I knew it tasted horrible, but its effects were too great. I felt my body warming up, reacting to the strong alcohol. As I looked around me I realized how wonderful it was to be drunk, especially in such conditions. Siberia in minus degrees was painful; beautiful, but painful and lonely. No one was around, and all I could hear was the distant noise of the Trans-Siberian Train. I smiled, for it brought back good memories of drunken nights and new friendships long forgotten. It had been my one way ticket to the life I now know. Of course, something had attracted me to stay put. The blonde girl with shy eyes had caught my attention, and I had to marry her. They were hard times at first, no one wanted a yankee mixing with the locals. Especially with Ekaterina, the beautiful daughter of the village merchant! But all’s fair in love and war. By the end of the year, we were married and expecting our first born.
The lake was completely frozen, and I decided to have my own bit of fun. I stepped on the frozen water, and skidded my way over to the other side of the bank. It was the right time for people like me to have fun, late at night when no one was around. No one liked to watch old people trying to act like kids in the middle of the day. Especially when they’re usually always drunk, like me. Don’t get me wrong, I was not always like this. Of course, I had always enjoyed my bit of fun. But once I got here, it had gotten bad, and then worse. I was not accustomed to this cold, where I came from the sun was always shining. The alcohol was the only remedy for the extreme cold. But ‘til then, everything had been under control. Until my Katerine died. Eight months and two weeks had passed, and I could still feel her soft skin caressing my cheek.
That’s how it got worse. The constant cold, the loss and the loneliness; combined, they were unbearable. The drink made everything seem warmer, and amusing. I knew my nose was cold, but my body felt warm. The blinding whiteness around me and the vapour of my mouth were the only indication of how cold it was, but my blood was warm. My mind was lucid and my body warm, and as long as the effects wore on, everything was fine. My senses were numb, so I could neither feel the pain nor the cold.
With my bare hand I grabbed a hand fist of snow and started eating it. The vodka had made me thirsty, and the snow was edible water. It was like eating cotton candy, but tasteless and more effective. My hands were numb as I was not wearing any gloves, but all I cared about was my thirst, quenched by the snow. It tasted much better than the ‘drinkable’ water at home, which somehow tasted salty and gave me chest pains. It was probably due to the large amount of salt used for the roads, which had somehow contaminated our water supply. But I really couldn’t complain, for in such conditions it was a miracle we still had water and electricity to get by. Sometimes it seemed as if God had put a white blanket over us, hidden us from sight, and forgotten all about us. Sometimes it felt like I was the only person alive; every plant seemed dead and every person cold.
My red nose itched as cold droplets started creeping down from my nostrils, and I became aware of the rapid beats of my heart. My mind might have been tricked, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t still die of frostbite. It was time for me to go back home, and I hoped my bed wouldn’t start churning once I got in it. Although my wife wouldn’t be waiting for me, I still felt like I had to behave and pretend I was sober. I spat on the ground as I tried to get rid of the reaking smell coming out of my mouth. Then made my way to the house which I once could call home.
And as I trudged heavily through the dimly lit streets, I swore with fervent ardour, that my heart would never turn stone cold.