Today’s Prophet of Misery



66 Water St, Brooklyn, NY

Neighborhood: Brooklyn, Cobble Hill

Mark is a sweet loser, Mark is a horny loner, Mark always complains about life. Mark is an artist who hates to draw. Mark likes women and is hurt by their coldness.

Till late 90’s he would wear Miami-style printed shirts, his hair was long and wavy. Back in those years he had sharp-toed pleated white Italian shoes and linen summer pants. It sounds fancy but it did not look it. In the 90’s Russian man in Brooklyn favored Eurovision-promoted Toto Kutunio style and it lasted more than a decade, never switching to simplicity of white shirts and jeans (at least Eros Romasotti) or gracefulness of wrinkled tweed jackets (bolding Adriano Chelentano). It was a die hard style. Finally he trimmed his hair short.

One winter he spotted long leather Dick Tracy coat and fake Rolex. Coming to parties he used to give doorman his name without hesitation: Bond, James Bond. Usually in this case he had a bottle of Napoleon cognac in hands and 2 blonds in tow. Mark is cool in his misery.

Mark lives with his babushka (grandma, not a headscarf) and cat in Brooklyn and collects used Jaguars. In the winter he brings boxes with auto parts and spreads them on the floor of his living room. Music plays: “I’m a loser, baby, so why don’t you kill me!”

Mark is depressed. His therapist eventually gave up–she is a woman and Mark has too many problems with dames. Enough not to trust them with his fragile psyche.

He hates America. He dislikes Russia. He is an anti-Semitic Jew. We, his friends, love Mark. His self-inflicted misery gave us a chance to see ourselves in better, brighter light, our pretty and smart spouses and cute children were results of adult decision-making and responsible behavior. And yes, we felt luckier. Rumor is: Mark has big penis. On the other hand, one of his former beaus claimed that size was insignificant. Back then she herself was disappointed with pretty much everything. Once, coming from exhausting shopping trip I’ve overheard her whispering sadly “I am not satisfied, not satisfied….” She was in no condition to judge impartially.

Confronted with direct question at our usual loud drunken dinner in Indian restaurant, Mark remained silent, smiling mysteriously. He has a big nose. You know what it means, don’t ya? Mark’s mom is petite attractive woman, covered with thick cracked layer of makeup. She lives in Florida with her husband and occasionally visits Mark and babushka in New York. For his 40th birthday she brought photo album with her. We admired pictures of mother and cat in many shapes and colors. After 30 or so pages we discovered lonely picture of baby Mark. Anyway, Mark likes women and dates them sometimes out of habit, without much hope.

He also surfs web for dating purposes. Week ago he forwarded me e-mail with personal ad from Russian–from someone named Toma, who in very specific details using poetic rhythms proclaimed her love for oral sex and desire to meet suitor possessed by qualities described in her poem. Mark was obviously fascinated by it and thought we would be too. Aside from being dirty and unfunny, unlike some profanities, words were unintentionally misspelled and gave in too much of sad cultural and social background.

I wrote to him: “Mark–it is disgusting and makes me wish I never knew this beautiful language-stop searching Russian and get a life. Or simply read good book–or watch ‘Casablanca.’ You are destroying your image of lonely romantic.”

He replied–“Unlike you, who gets whomever she wants, me horny very much.” He left me no choice but to be direct and I opened my mouth (I have a big mouth on me): “My dear, jerk off and go to sleep. Nobody will caress and love you better then you.” I continued: “Lonely celibacy should be conscious choice just for that reason.” I continued: “You do not need these loose women from rysskiNY–they have spotted skin and floppy underarms. They are used and screwed-up–they will not love you–and they are not there to give strangers oral pleasures–they are just hunting for their next victim of domestic verbal abuse, Kmart shopping and Sunday brunch (nothing is wrong with that agenda, actually), but don’t pretend you don’t know it. There is no mystery in this ad–your fascination is not with the subject, but with the vulgar bravery of offer. By the way, about me–at the moment I am proud to be asexual by choice in today’s complicity of homo, hetero, and bi greed and despair. Besides, after certain age people look ridiculous, cuddling, flirting and fighting. Only very young teenage lovers, old couples and animals still touch my heart in their truths. Good night.”

On that he advised me to get teenage lover, to explore the pleasures of threesome with old couple and was more forgiving on the subject of animals (he loves his cat dearly) by suggesting that I adopt a pet.

A divorced friend of ours, mother of two, also placed her personal ad on Her picture did not show her face, only quarter of profile and gracefully curved back. While on vacation in Italy, she checked her e-mail and found, among others, message from Russian artist. He lived in Brooklyn, admired her picture, and loved animals, children and music. How many Russian artists were there in Brooklyn, how many of them possessed same unusual qualities? She wrote back: “It’s me, Mark, Olga!”

He was not a bit surprised–“Sure, just my luck–from the bottomless ocean of web dating opportunities I am picking an old friend. Misery, thy came a full circle . . .”

At the turn of last century, when almost all of us crashed through divorces and separations, leaving shreds of skin on the thorns along the way, pathetically baring teeth in useless growls and moaning in pain, we become jealous of Mark’s style of life–we thought his loneliness safeguarded him against betrayal and wrong moves. Bitter demons were eating most of us–we struggled, jumped, zigzagged, crawled and run. We languished in emotional comas, sank into financial pits, hid in the asylums of post-traumatic cynicism and eventually emerged from ashes of former lives, beaten but not wise. Mark was consistent. After 20 or so years away from motherland he visited old accountants in Moscow and was surprised at wealth of some and pitiful existence of others. His first love had 3 sickly kids and lived in tiny dusty flat on outskirts of city; his old schoolmate had 3 factories and mansion on Canary Islands. Some of the achievers and winners of childhood became losers and scapegoats of modern russian reality. Some stayed put, but all of them kept balancing acts of their own. Like everywhere else in the world. Country itself was still quite uncomfortable for single living–people preferred to cling together in marriages or relationships–to stay warmer during cold months, to form an alliances of blood relatives against forces of nature, bureaucracy and fate.

They continued to take risks of remarriages; they conceived more children. People were stupid on both sides of the globe. Mark made his unhappiness stylish–it was never failing subject of conversation at the dinner party or birthday, it was a good shtick for pick ups–anyone who had a tender spot for lonely suffering artist in the cruel paws of capitol of capitalism was sympathetic and felt the same way for a while.

Time passes. We are uncertainly moving along murky paths, fumbling blindly with our shabby fingertips and feeling with tired unsteady feet bumpy roads, keeping eyes open as tired as we are, reading shapes and shadows in the half-light of another rising day.

Mark is smiling at us. He had no energy to spend in the first place. I know he will surprise all of us one day with sudden change–today’s prophet of misery, ambassador of rejects, master of his loneliness. He says sure, one day the chosen one will come and put her bony hands on his shoulder.

Cat purrs softly and jumps on Mark’s lap. Babushka emerges from kitchen, holding steaming cup of tea. China is much valued by Russian immigrants in their 70’s. The tea set is “Madonna,” rich with gold and mother-of-pearl patterns and picture of Holy Virgin and the Child. It represents wealth and good taste.

Mark is stoic and persistent. He came to this world to suffer and will make the most of it.

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