I also felt hungry, the kind of hunger you get when you have accomplished something big. I had…I had met Olga.
I checked my watch; breakfast was in progress down below in the restaurant, so I headed for the shower.
As the tiny, hot water droplets massaged my body, my mind scanned over the memories of the previous evening. I wanted to remember everything; every last wonderful detail, every word spoken, every delightful feeling. We had talked on the phone, for at least an hour I thought, when I had returned to my room at the Hotel Ukraina. She had scolded me for walking through the park which lay between the metro station and the hotel. She emphasised how dangerous the area becomes after dark. I was delighted that she cared. The rest of the conversation was about nothing in particular, just chatting for the sake of chatting, to remain in contact, not wanting the connection between us to break. I remembered that we agreed to meet again that evening. She would come to my hotel after she finished work. The warm fuzzy feeling returned.
I finished drying myself, dressed and bounded out of my room and along the hall to the lifts with abundant jubilation.
I entered the restaurant to confront an unexpected surprise. The dining area was filled to the brim with extremely large, obese men and the breakfast buffet was almost completely devoid of food. It was all quite surreal. I observed the men more closely. Their plates were piled high with mountains of food and many had several more plates in waiting. Then I noticed their T-shirts emblazoned with the news that a Sumo wrestling championship was occurring in Moscow that week. I was stunned at the coincidence. The kitchen, obviously, was barely able to produce enough food to keep up with demand of these giant beasts. It meant my breakfast experience would be severely depleted. It was a disappointing thought. I took a plate and foraged for what scraps of food remained on the servery and made a mental note to arrive for breakfast precisely at opening time for the rest of the week.
After breakfast I returned to my room to give Sergei a call at the agency. He had requested that I provide feedback on Olga’s character for his future reference. I decided to use the opportunity to inform him that I was not interested any more in meeting any of the ladies on the list which I had given him.
He was appreciative of my comments regarding Olga and was pleased our meeting had gone well but was apprehensive towards my decision to cancel the other meetings. He asked if I had proposed to her and if I had received a “yes” in reply. Slightly taken aback to this line of questioning I assured him that I hadn’t. He then urged me to reconsider until I had at least obtained some form of verbal commitment to marriage. “It is a very competitive world” he said.
I politely declined his offer and asked him to pass on my gratitude to his wife for her involvement in my introduction to Olga for which I was extremely thankful. I made it clear to Sergei that I was more than prepared to let the courting ritual with Olga run its course and that I would take my chances at the prospect of it ending in a marriage. As I replaced the handset, the irony of a Russian telling me it was a competitive world didn’t escape my thought.
That evening, just before darkness fell, I met Olga in the hotel lobby looking as happy and radiant as I remembered. It seemed no change of thought had occurred during the day and we were simply moving on from where we left off the night before.
She drove me back towards the centre of Moscow and we strolled along the Ulitsa Arbat, a pedestrian mall lined with restaurants, bars and coffee houses, as the night descended upon us. She asked me what I would like to eat and I insisted that we go somewhere “special”, so she quickly led me towards a Korean restaurant with heightened exuberance.
The restaurant was spectacularly decorated with Korean décor and frequented with a number Korean expats in traditional Korean dress. The atmosphere was particularly formal. A young, buxom Russian waitress seated us and provided us with measured amounts of attentive charm.
As we feasted upon delicious Korean delicacies our conversation turned to my intentions in Russia. I admitted that I had planned to spend a week in Moscow and then the remaining week of my leave break in St Petersburg. I withheld my plans of visiting the Angelika office there as well. To my complete amazement and surprise she offered to come with me. I almost choked on my dessert. How could she possibly be serious? She must have picked up on my surprise from my facial expressions and iterated the suggestion. I didn’t know quite how to respond but without being able to think of any clear reason why she shouldn’t, I agreed. In any case, Russia had so far been full of surprises so why not some more.
With that decided we concluded our meal discussing the trip with bountiful amounts of excitement. We would leave the following Thursday evening and Olga would take the Friday off work giving us three full days in the canal city. At that point in time I had not considered my transport options to St Petersburg but with Olga accompanying me the choice was obvious. I was to purchase plane tickets as well as reserving accommodation.
All too soon we were back out on Ulitsa Arbat, which was bathed in the soft glow of streetlights and crowded with young couples, arm-in-arm and leaning into wards each other keeping warm. We searched for an inviting coffee house to sample Russian cake and drink hot chocolate.
As we walked, my mind was giddy with emotion. It was incredulous that this spirited individual beside me, brimming with enthusiasm and with mesmerizingly sparkling eyes, had been thrust into my life in such a dramatic manner. The next ten days of my life were now suddenly interwoven with hers and as I gave the thought more consideration, the more the idea appealed to my being.