Kroshka, I am gonna tell you an incredible story. A story of how I met your father. Ten years ago, before I was mama, I had this whole other life.
I do hope you recognized the melody and sang it along with me otherwise this was stupid and futile. But back to the story, or, better said, stories. Because there is indeed more than one story of how I met your father, bear with me.
On January 15th, 2011, I was walking home with a bag of groceries. Home being a newly-rented apartment in Colombo which I shared with four interns from Brazil, Greece, Poland and Taiwan. All of us came to Sri Lanka through a student exchange program.
Some of us were unlucky enough to spend time in the previous apartment that was located a crazy forty-minute bus ride away from the center, featured a squeaky staircase, no hot water, and a rat in the kitchen.
You can imagine the level of excitement when we found a lovely three-bedroom place in Wellawatte, practically in the city center and almost walkable, if Colombo was walkable at all. And what do twenty-something-year-olds do when they score a huge place and have even the most insignificant reason for celebration (read: getting drunk)? They throw a party!
We created an event on Facebook, and each one of us invited everyone he or she knew. And then we left the option for the invitees to invite everyone they knew too. On the day, I stopped at a grocery shop to get murukku, a crunchy snack mixture that goes well with alcohol, and was walking home when a passing car stopped next to me.
The window rolled down and there he was, your father. It wasn’t at all like the moment when Ted met Robin. I didn’t immediately know he was the one. In fact, I got scared, because a random car blocked my way. The driver looked familiar, but I couldn’t quite place his face. “Must be a friend of a friend who got randomly invited,” I thought, when he asked me about the party. He had to run some errands, but would definitely make it later. Me and my snacks proceeded home.
At 7.30 pm, the official starting time of the party, there were still only the five of us around the table. We’d been in Sri Lanka for too little to realize that time is a vague concept in this neck of the woods. When invited by 7.30 pm, most people would show up anywhere between 9 pm and midnight. Maybe later, but most definitely not at 7.30 pm.
An hour later guests started trickling in, bearing bottles of vodka, arrack, and rum. Two hours later there were over forty people in our living room. I hardly knew half of them, but a few glasses of vodka-cola surely helped to get acquainted.
Now, I don’t remember all the details of that party. It’s been ten years, after all. But I do remember spotting the guy from the car in the crowd and thinking that he has nice arms and nice everything else too. Quite a handsome guy, actually. And why don’t I try talking to him because when else if not now? I was inebriated enough to not be embarrassed or think about consequences. And so come up to him I did.
The rest of the evening comes in flashes. We move to the balcony to escape the crowd and be able to chat. My friend Dana guards the door and screams at anyone who tries to go out for a smoke and ruin our moment (her own initiative, I didn’t have to ask).
I ask him if he’s working out while stroking his arm. I am that subtle. It works. We kiss. In the living room, people are playing “bitches, bitches” and if you’ve no idea what it is you pretty much wasted your youth. All you have to know for now is that it’s a drinking game and we were kissing to the sound of people chanting “sixty nine”, “on the floor”, and “missionary”. Ah, the romance!
All of a sudden, the party is over and everyone’s leaving. He’s leaving too. He says he’ll call. I think he’s a player. How is he going to call if I never gave him my number? I voice my concerns and accuse him of everything under the sun until he pulls out his phone and shows me my number in his contacts. To this day, I’ve no idea how he got it.
And that, Kroshka, is how I thought I met you father.
* * *
On the 17th of December, 2010, I landed at Banadaranayake International Airport. Wearing a figure-hugging pink dress and high heels, no less, I strutted out of the airport and breathed in humid and heavy Sri Lankan air.
The guy who was supposed to pick me up saw me, but dared not to approach. He didn’t expect an intern who came to work for three hundred dollars a month to look like a first-class hooker.
He took me to the interns’ house, introduced me to Dana, a girl from Kazakhstan who’d been living there for a few months, and left. The house looked horrific: dirty, neglected, run-down. I inspected my bedroom and was beyond excited to have brought a fleece blanket along. All the way from Russia. I covered the bed with it, and that was the only spot in the whole house where I wasn’t scared to put my behind down.
“We are going to Nuwara Eliya tomorrow. You should come along,” said Dana in a matter-of-fact voice. Never mind that I landed only a few hours ago, Nuwara Eliya was a six-hours drive away, and I had no idea who these “we” were. But anything seemed like a better idea than staying at that dreadful house alone for the weekend.
So off we went the next morning. Not without making a stop at the market first, so I could buy a pair of sneakers, because every pair of shoes in my suitcase had heels. Dana negotiated the price on my behalf, lended me a pair of socks and a cross-body bag, and bought me a bun for breakfast. All-in-all, she was instrumental in keeping me fed, warm, and sane, as well as making sure I don’t hop on the next plane back to Russia.
The “we” turned out to be about a dozen people from half a dozen countries: from Belgium and Switzerland, Germany and Netherlands, France and Sri Lanka. It was my first exposure to so many cultures and accents. Following the Russian saying “keep your mouth shut and you’ll pass for a smart one” I spent the drive to Nuwara Eliya listening and smiling timidly. I passed for a shy one. But it really was the language barrier.
After six hours cramped in a van, everyone couldn’t wait to take a hot shower and get in bed. However, the hotel was nowhere to be found. We went in rounds, the driver on the phone with the hotel manager the whole time. “You pass the lake and then turn left”. “We passed the lake and turned left, there’s nothing there!”. The exchange went on and on for good fifteen minutes, until the hotel manager mentioned that the hotel was in Kandy, a city we passed three hours ago.
How could one book a hotel in Kandy for a trip to Nuwara Eliya? Easy, actually, if one is Sri Lankan, because the city of Kandy in Sinhalese is called Nuwara. The guy who booked the hotel wasn’t in the van. He planned to come, but had to cancel last minute.
And that, Kroshka, is how I could have met your father.
* * *
On the 31st of December 2010, I celebrated the start of a new year by running into Indian Ocean with a few dozen people from around the world.
By then, I’d been in Sri Lanka for almost two weeks, which was enough to get used to the heat, the geckos on the ceiling, and crazy bus drivers. It was not, however, enough to get used to the horrible house I lived in. So we were in search of a new place.
It was decided that New Year celebration must take place down South, in a coastal town of Bentota. It was the first party (for me, that is) of many to come. There would be a housewarming party, a hat party, a Russian Orthodox Christmas party, someone’s or other’s birthday party, and oh so many farewell parties in the next six months. But the New Year party was the most memorable.
There were new inspiring friends, rivers of alcohol, a guy I liked, a guy who was hitting on me (neither is your father), Indian Ocean, and the feeling that my whole life is ahead of me and anything is possible. It was the best of nights.
Soon after I arrived to the island, I created an album in my profile on Vkontakte (a Russian version of Facebook) that was called “Sri Lanka — my happiness”. In there already were a few pictures from my trip to Nuwara Eliya. Next, I uploaded three photos from the New Year party: one of me, one of all of us right after running into the ocean at midnight, and one with a guy who I did not know at all.
Now, that last one deserves a special mention. When I was choosing which pictures to post, that one caught my attention solely because the guy was Sri Lankan. Although I’d been in Sri Lanka for a few weeks, I was yet to prove my local connections to the friends back in Russia.
So upload the photo I did. Not my proudest moment. But I looked cute, despite the smudged mascara. And he looked handsome and local. And that, Kroshka, was your father.
It was not until a month or so later, that I noticed that photo while lazily scrolling through my own pictures online: “Wait a minute! Is that my boyfriend?”
When it comes to the story of how I really met your father, there’s not much to tell. I have no memories of meeting him whatsoever, but I do have photographic evidence.
*The cover photo is from our pre-wedding photoshoot and was shot by Anu and Adrian from Amarante Lifestyle Studios.
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