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Maneuver Paradox

by Val Papadin, December 5, 2012

When you see me talking to myself, it doesn’t mean I am crazy, it means you are blind and have no idea about the multitude of ghosts following me either on foot or weightless bicycles made of metal bent into a circle of sun beams.

I wave to them.

Fantastic weather, guys!

Yes, sir! Sonoma Valley, a bucolic crater for perfect microclimate!

Great thing about ghosts — they are positive thinkers. To them, a glass is half full, especially if it’s the hearty cab from Sunce Winery.

Is Winston here today?

Behind you, sir, waiting for his turn to shake your hand.

Knowing well I am a bit of a snob and anglophile, my invisible escort keeps British aristocracy, especially my beloved Winston Churchill, in close proximity.

What’s wrong, Winston? Cheer up, you are in Heaven!

Geographically, yes, but since Mother Teresa’s arrival, the place is nothing short of a military barracks.

As it turned out, to quit chain smoking, Churchill was ordered by the uncompromising bully Mother Teresa to suck on a cigar, the burning end inside his mouth.

That’s why Churchill’s cheeks glow smoothly like a lantern made out of yellowish waxed paper.

Hey you, transparent bugs of eternity, what’s the word of wisdom for today?

Spiritual beings are too refined and naive to be insulted by my vulgar sense of humor.

We remember, Valentin, how you almost drowned. Share the experience, tip off the younger generation about safety in the water.

Hate to sound preachy.

Friendly chat made preachy by a wagging finger — keep your hands in the pockets and you’ll be just fine.

I came to the USA 25 years ago, soon after emigrating from Europe. I grew up in the Soviet Union, where the deceit of the people in power reached such a phantasmagoric level that anything printed meant exactly the opposite.

That’s why when I got closer to the warning sign on a Baker’s Beach, the painted sheet metal turned completely blank, like a Scrabble board before a new game.

Then the letters reappeared in a different order, though smeared by the same rusty stain.

Instead of

DANGER: RIPTIDE.

SHARKS SPOTTED IN THE AREA

I read

VALENTIN: MAKE A SPLASH.

LIFE’S TOO SHORT TO BE A COWARD.

Warmed up by playing soccer with my little son Sasha, I went for a swim. The goal: to get behind the second row of white waves, where the coast is no longer visible and the real challenge starts.

Behind the second row I almost collided with a surfer. He is probably my Guardian Angel: short tempered and rude.

Go back, you cuckoo, you’ll drown!

I found it offensive. Okay, I am not wearing a swanky rubber suit, not attached to a surfboard by the safety rope, but I have guts, was born in Siberia, where even hairy mammoths and obese whores get frozen stiff.

After the surfer evaporated to Heaven, I immediately realized what he was talking about: I was facing an undertow crisis, where the panicking mind moves towards the coast while the tired body floats further into the open ocean.

I began dreading the moment when I would start seeing my past life, the final show preceding death.

Luckily, the REWIND button in my brain got stuck. No memories whatsoever, which means I am not done yet. Maybe I still can pull through?

Getting hopeful, I decided to try the Maneuver Paradox taught by my PE teacher Mr. Buyanoff, back in the Siberian High school.

Buyanoff was a dirty old man, taught teenage girls gymnastics first in the gymnasium, then on his bachelor’s mattress, but right now, tossed by the waves, I cared less about his ethics.

The salty turbulence of death purified my soul and freed me from the judgmental attitude.

MANEUVER PARADOX

Don’t resist the waves or currents. Instead, take a deep breath, then dive and swim under the water in the right direction. Do it again and again. It won’t be a shortcut to the shore but rather a life-saving diagonal. Those who drown are the ones who exhaust themselves trying to stay on the surface.

During one of the dives, something ticklish stroked my left leg, reminding me of the other half of the Warning Sign, about sharks breeding in the area.

My wishful thinking — it’s a sea lion or loose seaweed — was interrupted by the sight of a slow-moving shark about ten yards away.

We were sharing the same wave, which turned pitch black from the shark’s presence.

Made emotionless by partial out-of-body experience, I am waiting with scientific curiosity, for the sea monster to start its notorious circling.

You didn’t attack. Why?

It’s the question I asked the Great White last night, when she suddenly decided to be a flying fish and crashed into the van through the window like a grand piano.

Changed my mind.

Woman.

Zip it. Where did you swim before coming to Frisco?

Russia.

Where in Russia?

River Neva, runs through Saint Petersburg into the Baltic sea.

The most polluted river in Europe. You stink of diesel and sewage.

Five years after?

Human stench lasts millenniums, I nearly threw up.

Are you saying pollution saved my life?

You bet. Swim where ever you want, ignore even brainless piranha. There are some advantages in coming from Eastern Europe.

After burping out in my face a moldy air bubble of the crude digestive system, the Great White flew over the parking lot back to the Pacific.

It’s cold and windy in the van. Clear plastic replacing the broken window is too heavy for the duct tape to hold, which makes me mad. I want to rent a fishing boat and to harpoon that freaking monster to make sure she won’t terrorize me anymore, dry land included. Vengeful inspiration keeps me awake. That’s how Moby Dick was written. ¥¥

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