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Bowing out of the Baltics

  • 2004-12-22
  • Diary of a Baltic exile
Being a pathologically sensitive sort of a soul, I was deeply wounded by the deluge of criticism that my column recently received. "Drivel," said one seething reader. "Imbecile," another sallied. The calumny was all the harder to bear because it came from such obviously idiotic people. I'm not ashamed to admit it: I was thrown into such a crisis of self-confidence that I couldn't even sign a credit card receipt without doubting the veracity of my words.

One night, overcome with a sense of abject failure, both as a newspaper columnist and as a mere man, I seized a stack of The Baltic Times newspapers that I had saved at home, with a view to compiling a portfolio of my columns, and burned them in my bathtub. But I still didn't feel better. I just stood there in my underwear, gazing at the flames and ponderously picking my nose.

On a whim I got dressed and ran out of my apartment. For hours I paced around the dark, cold streets of Riga, frantically thinking about chads, and George Bush, and abstract monsters, and why I was such a bad writer. "Why," I asked over and over, and sometimes even aloud just for dramatic effect, "do the riches of language elude my clumsy grasp?"

Now and then I ducked into some squalid-looking bar, took a shot of vodka and stumbled out again, reeling from the cold and my misery.

As the night wore on, I repeatedly returned to the conclusion that I no longer had any reason to live. I desperately tried to convince myself otherwise, but all to no avail. I even tried to mug myself, to create a distraction, but it was no good, I just ran away like the spineless coward I am.

At last I arrived at Akmens Tilts, a shivering, quivering, dithering wreck. It was about four in the morning and there wasn't a person in sight. I walked to the middle of the bridge, very slightly veering to the Hotel Radisson side, with tears streaming down my face, and launched into a passionate valediction:

"Goodbye dear life. Although I was crap at you, I huffed and puffed with all my heart to try and get at you. Goodbye dear Riga. Thank you for the beautiful times you gave me. And goodbye The Baltic Times. Thank you for giving me the chance to have my little, insignificant say on issues as profoundly serious as the American presidential election."

But just as I was about to hurl myself into the abysmal depths of the Daugava River I suddenly heard a voice. "STOP!" it screeched.

I looked around and there was a woman standing there. Even in my dazed state of mind, I could tell at once that she was a prostitute, doubtless trudging back to Chaka Street after having been abandoned in some Pardaugava back street with a nasty taste in her mouth. But at that moment she looked to me like an angel as she stood there in the streetlight, wobbling unsteadily on her stilettos.

Mudite, as she was called, helped me to see the light in my greatest hour of need. She talked me down from my springboard of despair, onto the solid ground of good sense. She was even so kind as to offer me a discount, though I turned her down on that score.

So to cut a long story short, Mudite and I are to be married in the New Year. And I have never been happier. Call me strange, but I always wanted to marry a prostitute ever since I read an abridged version of a Dostoyevsky book when I was nine-years-old. I took Mudite, or Moo, as I now affectionately call her, to a clinic to have her cleaned up, and I'm glad to say the antibiotics are working a treat on her.

After we get married, we plan to move to a small picturesque town in the U.S.A, where no one need ever know about Moo's bleak past, or about my failed career as a newspaper columnist.

We just want to have a simple, quiet, peaceful life together, where every evening we can bask in the warm glow of the television and find solace in each other's arms. We will be happy, Moo and me, I'm sure of it. And who knows, perhaps one day I'll even find the confidence to start writing a newspaper column again.

But for now Moo and me would like to wish you a very happy Christmas, a happy New Year and may you have a whole lot to opine about in 2005.