Sometimes I think I’m the only one in our neighborhood with any worthwhile dreams. I have two, and there’s no
reason to be ashamed of either one. I want to kill Vadim.
And I want to write a book about my mother. I already have a
title: The Story of an Idiotic Redheaded Woman Who Would
Still Be Alive If Only She Had Listened to Her Smart Oldest
Daughter. Or maybe that’s more of a subtitle. But I have plenty
of time to figure it out because I haven’t started writing yet.
Most of the people who live around here don’t have any
dreams at all. I’ve asked. And the dreams of the ones who do
have them are so pathetic that if I were in their shoes I’d rather
not have any.
Anna’s dream, for instance, is to marry rich. Her dream man would be a judge in his mid-thirties, and, fingers crossed,
not too terribly ugly.
Anna is seventeen, same as I am, and she says she’d get married immediately if a guy like that came along. That way she could finally move out of the Emerald and into the judge’s penthouse apartment. Nobody but me knows that Anna sometimes takes the tram downtown and wanders a dozen times around the courthouse in the hope that her judge will finally come out and discover her, give her a red rose, take her out forice cream, and then invite her back to his penthouse.
She says you’ll never get lucky if you don’t fight for it; if you don’t fight, the moment will just pass you by.
“Do you have any idea what Emerald means, you stupid cow?” I ask her. “It’s the most elegant way to cut a diamond, and a fine gemstone itself. That’s got to be appealing to you. You’ll never live in another Emerald if you move out of this place.”
“You just made that up. They would never in a million years have named this heap of concrete after a diamond cut,” says Anna. “And by the way, when you know too much, you get old
and wrinkled faster.” That’s a Russian saying.
As Anna’s judge could take a while, for now she’s sleeping with Valentin, who has a third-rate dream of his own. He wants a brand-new, snow-white Mercedes. First he’ll have to get his driver’s license. Which costs a lot. That’s why he delivers advertising brochures door to door before school. Since the money to be made at that is barely a trickle, Valentin also cleans the house of an old married couple twice a week. The couple lives on the other side of town. He got the job through his mother, who cleans the place next door. Nobody can know he’s a housecleaner—if the guys at school found out, they’d never let him live it down, and Anna would split up with him.
Valentin usually has a look on his face as if someone just shoved a cactus down his pants. I think it’s because he realizes that even if he eventually gets enough money together to take driver’s ed classes and get his license, it would take another two lifetimes of cleaning houses to buy a white Mercedes. And then maybe in his third lifetime he’d be able to hop in and actually
take a spin.
Peter the Great, on the other hand, dreams of a natural blonde with dark eyes. He was with Anna before. She has brown eyes but she’s not natural—not natural blond, anyway. Now he’s with another girl, one from his class at school. But it’s less convenient, as she lives downtown rather than here in the Emerald. Since they got together, he complains he spends half his life on the tram. But while he’s on it, he keeps his eyes peeled for other blondes.
He was never interested in me—my hair’s too dark. My name is Sascha Naimann. I’m not a guy, even though everyone in this country seems to think so when they hear my name. I’ve given up counting how often I’ve had to explain it to people. Sascha is a short form of Alexander and lexandra. I’m an Alexandra. But my name is scha—that’s what my mother always called me, and that’s what I want to be called. When people address me as Alexandra, I don’t even react. That used to happen a lot more when I was new in school.These days it only happens when there’s a new teacher.
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