14 August, 2013
Coming from a family of folk musicians in a city as bright as Petersburg made no difference whatsoever to a boy so innately fraught by the simultaneous demands and admonitions of a world in which he felt he did not belong. Depression blanketed the boy from the time he could remember, though his family was quick to dismiss it all as “family flair” or “histrionics.” His father, mother, and two older sisters were kind people of fair-complexion, tall, warm artistic types with open faces and straightforward values.
“Mityushka, zheezn’maya, doosha’maya !” They cried, “Nyezh-naya Mitya!” They did not, they could not, know what to do with him. Nor did he know what to do with himself.
Dmitri’s personage had always been a shroud of mystery—broad shoulders hunched over a lanky body as if to protect the heart that ached within. His face beautiful, but tender and surrounded by a mop of dark, messy curls. Large expressive hands with long fingers worked up into fists plunged deep within his pockets, or else wringing, itching to be used to play his cello. His small but ferociously intelligent eyes held all the world at arms length, shielded further by the spectacles he’d worn since childhood.
If the truth of a man lies within him, then it stands to reason one might then be able to simply open him up and grasp at that truth the way one carves into a carcass to extract the tenderest cuts of meat.
But there are certain men whose inner truths are far too delicate, and whose constitutions far too strong to penetrate. In such a case, one must simply wait for the truth within to creep out of its own accord, like a creature that may break apart if pressure is put upon it. Perhaps it was so with Dmitri.
How could the shackled heart, and the poetry that mocked within him; how could the stench of fear, the cacophonous clamor of uncertainty, and the darkened depths of spirit; how could any of it ever be expressed?
It was the cello, in the end, that set him free. That gave him peace. Inside the chords and notes and arches of melody, he found an expanse of space where all of what he longed to be could fit— that unnameable, unknowable self.
He tagged along, of course, to play in the city venues with his family— folk songs soared and crowds cheered as his father lead with accordion, his mother on balalaika and sisters on violins.
He was grateful to his family for the instrument itself (handed down from his grandfather), and for the ability to play it. But his family, however musical, could not hear his music at all.
To look at him before Nerchinsk one would think Dmitri Petrov had no reason for pain. His curls, his higher education, and lovely family—of course one would think he had no agonies. But there are pains and there are pains.
Once in Nerchinsk, no cold, no labor, no punishing treatment, no single thing could mar him more than the love that raged within his breast for her. The love he felt but could not utter, which he knew with every scrap of his being to belong not to him, but to the only man he admired, the man he respected above all others. If only he could say what everyone already knew to be true. Everyone, that is, but her.
He felt that ancient barbed twine unravel itself and come between them, it lodged itself into Shura without her knowledge, and once enmeshed it yanked and ripped at his already riled heart, and made it throb in agony. One moment he would revel in her scent, the next he could weep with guilt.
When together, the three of them were such a happy triangle. But Dmitri recognized he was the hypotenuse in a shape perfectly right without him—an attachment, not at all unlike a third wheel on a cart— excessive, unnecessary for it to function, but somehow with its presence the entire structure had better balance. Countless times he nearly spoke, nearly moved to kiss her; Tell her! His mind bawled, Take her in the arms you know were designed to enfold her within them! But every time, he thought of what would happen if he did. Crippled by loneliness, fear penetrated his love—the alchemical result was aloofness. Or often, viciousness.
He knew that he could never be alone with her without wanting desperately to touch her. Could not touch her without wanting to posses her, to make her his own. So he barely spoke to her at all. He would waste his life away beholding a painting upon the wall of a locked house he would never be allowed to enter…
“…Mityushka! Zheezn’maya, doosha’maya…Nyezh-naya little Mitya!”
There was nothing to be done.
Nothing he could do but honor them.
And play of course.
He could play his cello.
Every strand of aching music, every forlorn concerto, for her.
 Жизнь моя, Душа моя, “my life, my soul!
 Нежная, tender Mitya