July 6, 2011

Having read my blogger friends’ Jane and Lance Hattatt wonderful, ironic post about their searches for Mad Boy, I noticed that thoughts and memories about my Mad Boy won’t leave me in peace. When Mad Boy and I have met, I was 14 and he was 15. We didn’t go to the same school, but we both enjoyed going to the theater, where we were introduced by our friend who worked there. We quickly became inseparable. We shared so many common interests, and found so much common ground. We didn’t even need to take the time to learn each other’s habits.

Here are the kinds of things that MB and I would do when we had some time off from our school schedules and my extra-curricular art classes. We went to hear live chamber music. We sneaked into the zoo in the dead of night to find out whether the lion snores. We drew comics for each other. We wrote limericks. We discussed books and films. We even gossiped a little about mutual friends.
One time, MB baked me a very challenging cake. And I gave him a bouquet of violets. We made fun of Shakespeare sonnets – I read them in the voice of a dental receptionist, and he did the impression of a 40-year-old man who lives with his mother.

MB wrote some of my school essays, and dropped them off in my mailbox. I would find them in the morning and, with my cup of coffee in my hands, copy them into my notebook. I always got the highest marks. With the teacher’s note “Pretty soon I won’t be able to read your handwriting”.
It couldn’t be any different, because my MB was extraordinary. A long time before Wikipedia, I would ask him questions about anything I wanted to know. By the age 20, he could speak several European languages, and began mastering Japanese. And you should have seen his drawings! His talent was enormous and unique. Whenever I would come to his house, he would pull out a stack of new drawings, and I would forget about everything else while I studied them. Time would cease to exist. It was frozen on the sheets of paper.

MB was the first to finish school and go to university. We started to see each other more rarely. He would pretend to be an adult, which really irritated me. A year later, I went into the same program at university. We began seeing each other more frequently again. However, I now had my own friends, entertainment, and problems. And still, I found that I could turn to him for help with just about anything.

While I was in university, I had a tendency to break up with my current boyfriend right before New Year’s. This brought about the rather dull prospect of celebrating New Year’s Eve with my parents. Each time, MB would find out about my situation at the last moment, and invite me to the most unusual places to celebrate it with the most interesting people. Can you imagine my gratitude?

The first trip abroad that MB took was to the city of his dreams – Venice. My husband drove him to the airport and picked him up when he got back. When my daughter was born, MB reported that he was crying with joy.

This doesn’t mean that we never had any arguments. We had plenty of those. MB would insist that my head was filled with nonsense. I would accuse him of being a snob.

The time passed by with infrequent meetings and phone conversations for many years, until the time my family and I decided to move to Canada. MB told me that he’d have no one to talk to.
Seven years after moving to Canada, I went to visit Russia. Among the first in the list of people to see was MB.

I found that he had hardly changed physically. He also found that I was the same as usual. He even made fun of me, telling me that I had the same hair.
We went over to his place. He lived in the same apartment as before, with his mother. After our discussion, I asked to see his drawings and poems. He told me that we’ll get to that later. Then he pulled out a bottle of cognac and a lemon. The time of the day was around noon. He didn’t have air conditioning in his home – and, contrary to what you might have heard, it does get very hot in Russian in the summertime. We started drinking and chatting. He told me about working as teacher at our university. He didn’t have a computer at home. It had been a while since he traveled anywhere, and, when I asked him why that was so, he told me that the first reason is laziness, and the second one is too much work and drinking. We finished up one bottle, and he decided to go for another.
This isn’t like me at all, but I actually felt like I was drinking tea. There was this tension in the air. He asked me, “What gives you so much sustained drive?” I told him that I haven’t quite figured it out. He told me that he came out as gay. I said that I hope that made him happier.

The tension in the air had lessened. I asked to see his drawings again, and he brought some out. I took them in my hands, and felt a chill. I had seen those drawings 7 years ago. I experienced a wave of sadness, but I pretended that everything was fine.

He offered me to step into a neighbouring gallery and meet somebody. When we got there, MB introduced me as “That girl who gave me the violets”. We were asked into the office, and the gallery manager, who was a friend of MB’s, pulled a bottle of vodka out of her minibar, which she and MB began to drink, while snaking on chocolates. The gallery manager gazed at me in wonder, and asked “Aren’t you going to have some?” The gallery had some of MB’s old works.

I said my farewells to MB. After all, I had another engagement at 5. He gave me a hug and said, “I hope you won’t be going away for another 7 years.” I patted him on the back. I was in a real hurry.
I think that perhaps Mad Boy is not supposed to grow up and grow older.


  1. That's the way with the past; it's sometimes best to leave it be. Your early years of companionship with the MB sound wonderful, exotic and self-driven and inquisitive and free. He must surely have helped to make you what you are, and can still be a memory to treasure.

  2. Hello Olga:
    First, thank you so much for the link to our blog which was totally unexpected but very much appreciated.

    And now, to what you write here. We have found this a most moving, poignant, tender and, at times, wonderfully amusing account of your Mad Boy, MB. In places, it reminded us so much of Chekhov, but that perhaps is to be expected with its sense of yearning, longing and, ultimately, hopelessness. But, what experiences to have had and to hold. So much we have delighted in: the gift of violets, the lion snoring, the essays in the postbox, the New Year parties etc. etc. Yours was truly a Mad Boy and, perhaps, in the way of all Mad Boys, he was finally overtaken and consumed by the events of the real world. Whatever, Olga, you will have these memories to treasure for the whole of your life and they, unlike the Cognac and the Vodka, will never drain away!!

  3. I think this is insightful, touching and very honest Olga - I just love it. I once had a Mad Boy myself, this reminds me.

    Thanks for sharing! :-)

  4. What a wonderful post you have written this so beautifully I felt like I was with you both. What amazing memories. Diane

  5. I felt a deep emotion throughout your story-exotic and touching. Thanks for sharing. I still can't believe how good your english is.

  6. Oh, Olga. I loved this - what a wonderful vignette and so beautifully told. I don't know what more to say other than I was completely captivated reading it.

  7. You are lucky to have a friend like MB in your life. He sounds like a blast. :)

    I love this post. Not only are you an amazing photographer but you are also a really talented writer. You're a force to be reckoned with, Olga!

    I think I have a few Mad Boys in my life. Haha.

  8. Great story Olga, and I agree with Jennifer Fabulous (cool name, eh?), you are one very talented person. This was a beautiful and touching post. Merci. Veronique aka French Girl in Seattle

  9. maybe I should share my own mad boy story :) this is a fantastic post Olga, I read every word and loved it. Thanks so much for telling us this story.

  10. This post is very interesting to read...In our country it is impossible to get the MB...The girls
    can be friend only with girls...

  11. I had problem in my computer and with my internet....

  12. What a lovely memory dear Olga, I enjoyed every word, I think everyone should have a Mad Boy in their life.
    I have had a couple and they were all charming and gay.

    xoxoxo ♡

  13. I gave to children to a MB! lovely photo as well!

  14. Hi mise,
    You are absolutely right about the past. No matter how good we had it in the past, it is wiser to let the past be the past.

    Hi Jane and Lance Hattatt,
    Yes, Chekhov doesn't leave the modern Russian life. Along with Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky :) I'm glad you enjoyed this post. It was truly inspired by your idea. I'm grateful for it.

    Hi tinajo,
    It would have been wonderful to know your version of the Mad Boy. And what influence he had on you.

    Hi Diane,
    It was so much fun. Not only because we were so young, but also because we were together.

    Hi Sandy,
    I'm glad you enjoyed this post. Believe me, at the time when these things were happening, I thought it was absolutely normal and nothing special :)

  15. Hi Talli,
    A compliment from a writer is more than a simple compliment...it's a month's worth of encouragement!

    Hi Jennifer Fabulous,
    I was convinced that Jennifer Fabulous must have several Mad Boys in her life! :)

    Hi French Girl in Seattle,
    Thank you for the compliment. Sometimes it's easy to write a post about something that happened to you; you just need to bring the memories up in your mind.

    Hi Nikki,
    Thank you for commenting. I'm glad that such a post appealed to you.

    Hi hila,
    It's interesting to know that you had a Mad Boy in your life. It makes me curious how you would describe him in your own literary terms.

  16. Hi Amin,
    I'm glad you enjoyed this post. I regret to hear that you have Internet problems. Hopefully, they'll be resolved :)

    Hi Dianne,
    I think it's more of an exception than a rule, to meet such a person in your life, and to find a real connection.

    Hi orfeenix,
    Thank you for your comment. The picture is of my collectible doll :)

  17. great photograph and interesting story, its funny how life goes sometimes
    Forever Chic,

  18. Hello Olga, this image of refined taste lives up to the beautiful sequence of photos from your blog

  19. nostalgia, I like feeling nostalgic, it's like wonder, except that you are part of it

  20. This post is so sad - but what brilliant memories you have to keep. You write beautifully and with compassion - and I had tears in my eyes.

    The nearest Mad Boy I have known is my husband - not wildly mad, but surprising when I least expect it - or ready for an adventure.

  21. Hi Amber,
    Welcome to my blog. I'm glad that my story and photo appealed to you. Come again; I'm not always so maudlin :)

    Hi Antonio,
    Thank you for your encouragement. I can feel it through the distance :)

    Hi Jorge,
    You're absolutely right. Nostalgia isn't such a bad thing. As long as it is not a friend who visits too often :)

    Hi aguja,
    Yes, I'm afraid it is quite a sad post. Perhaps everything that concerns a youth passed by (even if it was lots of fun) is a little sad. It's cute that you call your husband almost Mad Boy. My husband has a tendency for adventure - I appreciate it very much. Does it mean that he's an almost Mad Boy too? :)

  22. A nice mix of happiness, sadness and fond memories. I think your life is better for knowing him.

  23. Hi R. Jacob,
    You are absolutely right. I cherish my memories about my Mad Boy.

  24. Olga this was beautiful and made me think of the MBs (and MGs) in my life. Your story is tinged with sadness that MB's life today is filled with things that keep him back from achieving what might have been possible. Memories like yours are to be treasured forever: lions snoring (or not?), Shakespeare's sonnets read in a dental hygienist's voice and with the lingering smell of violets in the air. Truly a poetic, and one of your best, posts ever.

  25. I liked this post so much I have come back to reread it Olga.

  26. Hi Dolly,
    Thank you for coming back a second time :) I have never had Mad Girls in my life. It would have been interesting to know about your Mad Girls and Mad Boys :) Lions do all the sounds like cats, but louder :)