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Your Wife

But then something strange happens: as soon as you make the turn for home, this sense of dread will come over you. It’s a strange emotion, but an Daily interaction with your own wife can best be compared to a light drizzle that’s trickling down the back of your collar. Every day you come home and there it is trickling away: at eight at night it’s trickling; at ten it’s still trickling; at twelve it hasn’t let up. And when you go to bed, there it is trickling over you in bed.

Of course you can teach yourself to ignore the implications of this trickle. But by the time this day comes, how wet you are!

It’s another matter entirely if you tend to be absent for long periods of time, if you’re away at sea. Women can’t endure such extended absences. And so when you arrive you are met by a current of love; rivers of love; streams of huge proportions; starry eyes filled with tears, and a voice tender as a bellflower, and warm hands....and before you know it she has already fallen against your chest, resting her head and sighing softly.

This alone is enough to give your life for. And how they run to meet their loved ones...

In those days I could only stand and watch how they would run to meet their loved ones. I was unmarried; and when you’re unmarried all you can do is stand there on the pier like a stray dog, windblown and homeless.

But thank God for friends. And thank God there are lots of them.

When all of our underwater tribulations had surfaced and we could finally feel the hard earth beneath our feet, my friends said to me:

“Grab your stuff, Sanya, and come stay with us.”

And I took everything that hadn’t been stolen from my cabin on the FLUB and went to stay with my friends, even though they had wives and children of their own. And over the course of many years I would do just that, spending the night at their places, lugging my duffle bag from friend to friend.

Back then you could get a key to an empty apartment belonging to someone away on leave. You could live there for a month or two without ever knowing the people whose apartment you were occupying. There was nothing unusual in this: in fact, the practice was widely and willingly tolerated. And when I received an apartment of my own I also did my part to accommodate people I didn’t even know.

“What’s the matter, Lieutenant?” I’d ask when I saw a lieutenant sitting on his duffle bag next to his wife and kid in the Officer’s Hall. You call him over and he explains the situation, and when you take them to your place you can’t even hide from all the grateful glances.

I got my apartment after about six years of service, strangely enough, without being married. Eleven square meters.

“Look,” somebody told me. “Why not let someone stay at your place? What difference does it make to you, you’re at sea anyway....”

And so I handed over the key.

“Look,” my guests told me later when I came back from my patrol. “You’re on leave, right? I mean, I’ve got a wife and kid and nowhere to go. Why don’t you find another place to stay?”

And I found another place to stay.

O, officer solidarity! Are you the same now as you were in my day?

I had that apartment for a year and a half, and didn’t spend a single day in it. And when people began reminding me that I was unmarried and had an apartment while there were married people who didn’t - ”Where’s your conscience, for God’s sake?” - I started to feel the pangs of conscience and ceded the apartment to people who were married.

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