Honeymoon on the Volga

by William Doreski

This is our third honeymoon and the first on which you’ve spoken to me, to anyone. The Volga flows under our little room. The innkeeper wields no recognizable language. Your native Russian means nothing to him. When English falls from my mouth it writhes on the carpet, where he extinguishes it with a boot heel. But we like our room, and the food is good. The innkeeper’s wife cooks all day and all night. Fragrance of pink and ochre smelts from the kitchen. Fish flap heavily in her kettle and expire in sighs.

You didn’t speak during our long honeymoon in Venice. Every day I took you around the city, visiting museums, inspecting elegant palazzi, eating Venetian treats. You looked blank when we entered St. Mark’s, angry in the Doge’s palace. At the opera you wept through comic scenes, snickered through tragic ones. On our second honeymoon we walked along the Bund in Shanghai and you wept with boredom but said nothing. The luscious cooking seemed to interest you, but you made no comment.

Now on the steppe, the Volga bullying its way to the Caspian Sea, you can’t stop talking. You talk in English, Russian, German, Polish. You talk all day and night in a rush of heady phrases. We’ve been married for half a century and now you have everything to say and every means of saying it. I can’t remember hearing your voice before, not ever; can’t remember our daily life in America although it has stretched for so many decades. Only the honeymoons matter, and only this one has loosened your tongue.

 

artist: Michael Hedges

Doreski work has appeared in various online and print journals, and he’s in several collections, most recently A Black River, A Dark Fall (2019).