So, still on Kutaisoba, last week Monday. Lots of adventures that day. Eventually the Expert had to leave for his evening lessons. I walked back to the dorms to send some emails and try to figure out what’s going on with my bank card. The Expert and I planned on making an effort to do a Kutaisi pub crawl that evening.
The phone rang. It’s one of my former students from the adult lessons I taught for a while. From Abkhazia, fifteen years in the military fighting the Russians, Special Ops, PTSD. Whenever he speaks to me he always stares straight into my eyes. Long, deep stares. Unrelenting. He sounded very urgent on the phone. Steven, where are you? I am in my dorm on Nikeya. Come to the center, when will you be here? Hmm, maybe 45 minutes? No, take a taxi, I will pay, I will pay! Uh…. sure. Be there soon.
So I got in a cab and called him to figure out where in the center I should go. I had him talk to the cab driver. I had no idea what was going on. I was just going to the center to see a former student who called me out of the blue and sounded very urgent. Some sort of emergency, perhaps. How I would be of assistance is beyond me. Where I’m going, what I’m doing, no clue. After a few more confusing phone calls I eventually see him coming to where the cab driver stopped. He pays.
Steven. Now we drink beer! No questions, no answers! You understand! Yes. You understand me! No answers! Yes, of course. It was apparent he’d already been doing some drinking that day. I figured he’d had a bad day and I was to ask no questions. So we went to the brewery. His English isn’t great, but decent for the Georgians I know. He has the basics, and can have a decent conversation with me. Most of what he tells me is that if I have any problems, day or night, I call him. He will take care of it. Finger pointed to temple or thumb dragged across throat. There are many bad peoples. You call me. Anytime. You understand me! Yes I understand. We are friends. Your problems are my problems. Yes. Thank you.
I kill many Russians! I hate Russians! Because you and I (point to head) we have. Is good. But Russians have not. (Knocks on the table.) Russians have not. Many pigs in Russia. You understand? Yes, I understand.
Other conversation topics are whether I have parents or siblings. He has no siblings, and he had to bury his parents. I tell him that we are brothers. He looked like he was about to cry. Toasts that my family is his family, and likewise, his family is my family, and I am welcome in his home anytime. No matter how long the conversation may have been about something else, however, it always winds itself back to the wars with the Russians and how he hates them and kills them. I never fully understand what he’s talking about, but pick up the basics. To his incessant questioning about if I understand or not, I always reply that, yes, I do understand. At one point he told me that if he starts to talk about the war, I should stop him because we will talk of good times. I try this once or twice, he is glad for it, but then we start talking of the war again. He tells me he cannot talk of other things.
As we were in a brewery drinking beer, I eventually needed to relieve myself. He stood up to go with me. Escorted me up the stairs, glancing about wildly. I stood at the urinal, but no, he motioned for me to go to one of the stalls. Fair enough. I go in one, he goes in another. I do my business and leave, he leaves the same time I do. He watches over me as I wash my hands, and guides me back to our table. Many bad peoples, is what I figure is running through his head.
More talk of war. He’s chain smoking. Well, not really smoking, just lighting cigarettes and letting them burn all the way down while he talks to me about killing Russians. He tells me that in his Russian killing days in the wars he couldn’t smoke, because the Russians would see the glow of the cigarettes and shoot him.
He showed me a few pictures on his phone. His son, his wife, and himself all sitting in the Gori hospital after he was injured in the 2008 wars I believe. He recounted the different wars he was in. I counted five leading up to 2008. But Steven. You understand that I cannot talk to you about THAT. I cannot say. It is government. We cannot talk. Yes of course. He tells me that now it is good in Georgia. And it is good that I am here in Georgia. He urges me to stay here. Stay with us in Georgia. He has many informations. There will be another war with Russia in two years, and Georgia will have victory this time. Many informations. It’s probably not the time to discuss other plans for the next years, how I’ve considered looking into teaching jobs in Russia. I also probably shouldn’t mention the sort of literature I spend my time reading.
Then there was the inevitable toast to God. He wondered if I was Catholic. I decided that this was definitely not the time to tell him that I have no faith, so for the sake of ease, I told him that I was Protestant. We toasted to god. Then, as far as I could tell, he asked if it is good to kill for God. I’m not sure what he meant, whether as righteous justification for killing or whether there was forgiveness for killing, so I didn’t quite know how to respond and just said that I didn’t know. He was in great distress. Biting his fingernails, nervous speech and excited questioning. So I make a toast for him, my friend, and a good man. No. I am a bad man. Very bad, bad man! I insist. No, you are a good man. This went on for some time. He had another thing he kept saying. He was mad, or wet, or bad. Some three letter, one syllable word that I never quite understood. He did say once that he was ill. So I figure he kept referring to psychological issues or something of the sort.
He asked (and with great conviction and seriousness, boring holes in my eyes, staring deep into my soul) Steven. You think I am a good man? You think I am normal? You think I am normal? Not mad? To which I responded yes, yes, you are normal. Thank you Steven, thank you for today.
I began to realize that he was exceptionally drunk, increasingly agitated and nervous, and making less and less sense. I wanted to go home. He definitely had to have been drinking before I saw him, because four beers in three hours don’t do this to a person.
I finally convinced him to leave, and we went wandering into the night. He walked with me Georgian style, that is, the way that men walk arm in arm or arm over shoulder, a walking embrace. In many ways Georgia is like one big celebration of men congratulating each other on being men. The streets were packed. There had been live music at a stage on the main roundabout in the city center, and it was a pity that I was stuck inside at the brewery during the whole show, because it would have been nice to have witnessed the Kutaisi excitement.
My bodyguard still wanted to go to see the concert, despite the fact that it had already ended. Along the way to the cleared stage, he bought me some cotton candy. We wandered about in a maze through the park for a few minutes, as I munched on my cotton candy, before I decided that I should try to wind the nonsensical evening to a close and head for the marshrutka station. I realized that the longer the evening continued, the more it would spiral into madness. I was wandering around Kutaisi on Kutaisi day, with a former Special Ops Georgian, who has just bought me cotton candy, and will “take care of” any people I have problems with.
Along the way to the marshrutkas, still arm in arm, we bumped into a few of the other people wandering happily through the park. This upset my bodyguard, who quickly flashed his Special Ops military card, and got into some drunken argument with the unsuspecting Kutaisoba celebrators. After a few words, probably to make sure that they weren’t some of the very bad peoples, we made our way peacefully towards the marshrutkas, and to my disappointment, mine was not there yet and we had to wait.
Many people were still hanging about, so my friend motioned for me to get off the street, and head into the dark trees just off the street. He pointed to a tree for me to hide behind, and he went to a different dark corner to relieve himself. He then sneaked behind a different tree, and looked to me, put his finger to his lips, and then to his eyes. All of this was making less and less sense. But then I saw the number 11! I stepped out from my hiding place behind the tree and said that I had to leave. I was instructed that I must call my bodyguard as soon as I got back to the dormitory. Of course, I replied, I will call you as soon as I am back. He called me three times along the way to make sure.
So. An interesting Monday, all things considered. And if I ever have troubles, I have someone who I can contact, day or night, to “take care of things.” I told him that I can’t foresee any problems of the sort, but I appreciate the offer.