Exit: stage right. A haughty exit. The kind only dancers can make. There was not even a furtive glance in my direction in the audience. This is how the beginning of the end began.
I didn’t want to live in a dacha outside of Odessa anyway. I am not fond of borscht or pickled anything. I don't want to spend my last years hearing about your glory days on the stage and then watch you go off to work in an office in your brother’s start-up Russian construction company. I hate the cold.
I have always seen myself retiring to a Bedouin tent in Morocco—an air conditioned one. I would watch the goats all day. A young man, my ‘companion’, will bring me tea. ‘Non, merci. Je préfère un jus d'orange, s'il vous plait’. A boy like the ones in the beach scene in Death in Venice. Young men who naturally put their arms around one another and give each other a kiss on the cheek. Not a French baiser, stylised and studied, but a natural, heart-felt kiss.
In my letter to you I said that I wished you had learned bravery from Masha.
When I was still at Art College, I was offered a job designing sets for a start-up dance company, The Pennsylvania Ballet, in its infancy. How different my life might have been if I had been brave enough then to take that gamble. It would have meant having to drop out of art school (which I did eventually, anyway). I wasn’t fearless enough, however. Or like the time Florence Dorn (of husband, Joel, who helped make Bette Midler famous) asked me to accompany her to London to buy a hat. She said we could stay with ‘the Harrisons’ (George and Pattie). I thought these were things other people did, not me. I wasn’t brave enough.
I was striking as a young man. I wish I had capitalised on my looks. Not in a calculating way, but in an intelligent one. I was too busy wallowing in my own emotional turmoil to see the potential of making the right choices and the right connections, and using my natural assets to help manage that.
So I wanted you to be brave. I wanted you to bridge the age difference, overcome the cultural and language barriers, and manage the impossible ever-changing geography of it all. I wanted you to believe in the potential of our connection.
In the end, your fears took over and made your decision for you.
Perhaps you and all of this so late in life were just cruel reminders of my own past mistakes.
Part of travelling again and seeing you for what I now know was the last time was to have some time away to contemplate my mother’s death. I wanted to be near you when I did that and to buffer any pain with your warmth. That never happened.
Instead, I wrote you a letter (in English and Google Russian) and left it with a book of photographs of you dancing that I had made. I came to your last performance (for me), sitting in the second row. I waited until you were a few feet in front of me, then stood up and exited ... stage right.
In terms of my mother’s death, I came to the realisation that no one would help me with that. My work colleagues mostly ignored it. The ones who did say something saw it as some kind of opportunity to talk about deaths in their own lives. Why do people think that this is comforting? Not one person mentioned ‘compassionate leave’. One insensitively suggested that I watch a documentary on Brian Epstein, ignoring the fact that the question pervading the film is, ‘Did Epstein take his own life six weeks after the death of his father?’
We will never know. He didn’t leave a note.