Siberia – Varsha Venkatesh

Cut off your ear, you tell me. You don’t need your mouth to paint, your eyes to make music, or your ears to write. All you need is suffering. Everybody famous has committed at least one act of insanity. Would Van Gogh be half as interesting if he didn’t cut off his ear? No one likes stories about shiny, happy people, and when you’re interviewed on late-night, no one wants to hear about your pleasant childhood or balanced chequebook.

Failure would be easier to endure if I didn’t need to succeed. How else am I going to sell my novel and move to Siberia? Or paint a masterpiece and move to Siberia? And why are we moving to Siberia? The world is ending, that’s why. No potable water, disgruntled critters setting off contagions, nuclear apocalypse, world peace. There’s no shortage of cataclysms waiting to take us. It doesn’t matter because you and I will be safe in Siberia. The rest of them… well, we never liked them anyway.

You don’t always make sense. Doc tells me you skip a few steps. She doesn’t think we need to write a best-selling novel or paint a masterpiece to move to Siberia, but you do, and I’m on your side — always. She wants us to live in the real world, like no one’s watch-ing. But the real world is all pretending, isn’t it? Remember when we were on that Truman Show, or at least we thought we were, and we had to be on our best behaviour. Imagine living 24/7 with that aunt — we all have one — who chastises you for not behaving like a lady. Sit with your legs together, don’t pull that face, don’t touch that, don’t gesture wildly while you talk to yourself. Behave like a lady because someone’s always watching. It was exhausting, putting on an act day and night. Do people actually live like this? I don’t know because it’s just been you and I for so long.

She tells me it’s a matter of time. Success is a matter of patience and persistence. It’s a matter of focusing on one thing and mastering it. Well, what if I focus on one thing and fail at it? I’ve got to spread my risk: something no one on Wall Street thinks to do. Put my eggs in a few baskets so that no one makes omelettes out of them. It’s not something she’ll under-stand. She’s linear, but you and I, well, we’ve got to move to Siberia, so you and I are going to have to be different. Surely, something will work, and if it doesn’t, we’ll just have to pre-tend it does. No matter how poor you are at what you do, there’s always that one guy who’s capable of selling dung as elixir. We just have to find that guy. That guy can make us presi-dent.

It used to be so much easier as a kid. The expectations were clearer; the rewards were clearer. You weren’t around then, but there was a voice before your voice. Daydreams where I was pretty and powerful. The lines I came up with: wise and witty, with just the right mix-ture of humour and pathos. I’ve never been able to do any better. Doc says that, eventually, it’ll all work out in our favour. She says that I should just do and not think of the thereafter, but how is that possible? I can’t stop thinking about what it’ll be like out there in the cold: you and I in the infinite emptiness. It’ll be quiet outside, and it’ll finally be quiet inside. Not you, dear friend, I’ll never get rid of you. I’ll just get rid of all the negative lil sourpusses who crush joy like bugs under their feet.

It’s not going well for us, friend. I don’t think we’ll get to Siberia this way. But you’ll help me, won’t you? Why can’t they be all like you? I can hear your voice in my ear — the one slated for destruction.

Don’t you worry, love. In six months, we’ll want to be the next Beethoven and forget all about this. Did you know he was deaf? Now, there’s a story for late-night. The world’s full of possibilities, even if the probabilities haven’t always worked in our favour. They have pianos in Siberia, don’t they?

Varsha Venkatesh is a scientist living in Bangalore, India. She loves writing, photography, and mystery novels.

Image via Pixabay

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