by Bobby Laurel
I would like to dedicate this story to my German friend Andreas Mayer
This story is purely fictitious. The names used herein are used for character identification and should not be construed as being real people, alive or dead.
Ok, my friends, we left Natasha sitting in the plane, contemplating her life and looking forward a new period of life in Germany, the destination of her journey.
First I would like to apologize for so many typos in the first part of the story. I typed it in a hurry, inspired by an article I read and a web side I browsed that evening. If there are more typos and mistakes in the following part, please, tolerate old Bobby trying to create a story in a foreign language. 8-)
Lilya helped Natasha find a job in a modern private hospital in Kazan. The building was renovated. Everything smelled with new paint. Natasha was amazed by up-to-date equipment. She felt she entered new epoch of old Russia. In the department were she worked was a very good and qualified staff. Nobody asked her about her strong glasses. Nobody stared at her thick lenses.
Again, she went to work every day to go back home satisfied and happy. As the time went on, she met many new people, have new friends, but still no boyfriend. There was a young doctor Kostya Nyikittich who came from Sankt Petersburg whom she liked a lot, but Natasha didn't know how to make friends with him. As she did not have almost any boyfriend so far, except for Yuri, she did not know how to draw Kostya's attention.
When Lilya found out that Natasha had not had any partner for a year, she decided to take another action. They started going to parties together. Lilya introduced her friend to many young men. She suggested various kinds of entertainment. Nothing helped. Natasha did not know how to attract men. Natasha felt too uncomfortable at the parties where she should become closer to him. She failed.
Lilya was agry.
"How is this possible?" she asked her. "How? Tell me! He is single. He does not have any girlfriend. He was sitting next to you. You were dancing together. He was drunk enough to be relaxed. He was not too drunk to be out of order. How could you spoil that?"
Natasha almost cried. She was sitting on a sofa in Lilya's apartment not knowing what to say. She could not do anything. She did not know what to do. She did not know what she should have done to make him ask her for a date. So she was sitting and listening to Lilya's lamentation. How to tell Lilya she was afraid Kostya would leave her anyway, because that day she visited her eye doctor to get a new prescription? The numbers exceeded 10 diopters. Her eyes got worse again. In fact, the jump was not big as the prescription was only 0.5 diopter stronger, but as her right eye now needed minus 10.00 diopters the psychological impact was strong.
After her hot-tempered friend Lilya had calmed down, Natasha whispered:
"My eyes got worse again."
"My eyes got worse again."
"I need ten diopters."
"How much did you need so far?" asked Lilya.
"Nine and nine point five." said Natasha slowly.
"Oh, my God! Is this the problem?" Lilya almost burst out again. "Only half a diopter? It is not any difference!"
"It is." said Natasha.
Lilya did not know what to say. She let her myopic friend go home and decided to put the problem off for a while. Natasha bought new glasses.
When Lilya saw them she could not see any difference between the new lenses and the old ones. She started thinking about the Natasha's problem in a different way. She realized that the problem is not how Natasha looked like, but how she saw herself. One day she was sitting in a bar with some friends of her and guys started to speak about Internet. They also mentioned a web site that they called something like "eets-meets-oo-ehst". Lilya's English was just a bunch of two hundred words, but she was smart enough to find information she needed. She got to know that it was a web site helping Russian women find partners abroad. She asked a friend of her to go with her to an Internet cafe to help her find the site. She felt this might be a solution for Natasha who was said to be very good in English and French. So why not try this unusual way to solve the unusual problem.
The Internet session went very well. Lilya saw the site. It did not have the funny name. It was just "east meets west". I should have studied English harder, she thought rather embarrassed.
The next day she brought Natasha to the Internet cafe to show her the site. Surprisingly enough Natasha agreed to join the project. The same day they called the Moscow office of the agency. The voice in the phone asked them some questions, arranged an appointment and when the girls replaced the hand set everything looked like a kind of fun.
After a month the people from the agency came to Kazan. They had a large meeting with many women in the town. When the pictures were being shot Lilya became interested in it and joined the project as well.
Natasha asked the photographer whether he could make the photos the way her glasses would not look so strong. "Dah, Kharasho." said the guy and started doing his job. Everything looked so professional, so cool. Both girls felt like models from California. When the pictures were uploaded at the site Natasha thought her glasses looked way too strong, but Lilya and her "internet guru" Sasha said they look much weaker so she believed them.
The first letter came in a week. Then another one came. And more letters. She received twelve letters in a month. When she met Lilya again her friend took Natasha's letters in her hands and said: "I have only four, and you have twelve. While I have to have my letters to be translated into Russian, you can read yours in English. So, can you still see any problem? Choose a guy and be happy. This is the greatest chance you have ever had."
Natasha started corresponding with some of the men. Then, after four months, a new letter came. The guy wrote she had beautiful glasses. Natasha was sitting in her kitchenette in her small apartment reading the letter. She felt the man was telling the truth. She somehow knew he really liked her glasses. She suddenly realized that this unchangeable feature of her could become an advantage in this case. At the bottom of the short letter, she could see a signature made by a resolute hand: Andreas.
What a nice name, she thought, Andreas, Andrey, like Andrey Rublev, the Russian painter. She took a piece of paper, shoved her glasses up her nose, and immediately started writing the answer.
Natasha was sitting in the plane but she did not look at the fields and forests down below. The events of the last year came to her mind again. Much had happened since she left small Kamenka and much more happened since she was holding the first letter from Andreas. Her life had changed and she had changed as well. The Natasha working in the poor hospital in Nizhniy Novgorod was gone. The Natasha who was so self-conscious about her strong glasses disappeared. She looked down. In her hand, a pair of strong glasses was sitting. They were heavy and cold, with beautiful lenses perfectly fitted in an expensive frame. She liked the glasses. They made her special, the most special woman in the world, or at least the most special woman for one very special man, the man she loved so much.
But let's go back in time again to the autumn when she stopped answering the other letters and chose the only one that had the miraculous sentence right in the first paragraph: "Your glasses are the nicest jewelry I had ever seen on woman's face."
Natasha started corresponding with Andreas. Soon they became very close to each other. He wrote her so many nice words, that Natasha was amazed. She had to use English-Russian dictionary to understand his letters and to compose the answers. Her English knowledge improved a lot. In one of the latter letters he asked her for her phone number. He said he wanted to hear her voice. When he called her for the first time, she could hardly speak, so excited she was. Later there were more calls. They called each other once a week at least. Natasha's phone bill swelled. She did not care. She was in love.
Andreas was an advanced Internet user. Once when she was asking him what he had been doing the weekend before, he mentioned he had his own site. When Natasha had her night shift in the hospital she used one of the computers to access Internet. It was not easy for her to find his site, but suddenly an idea occurred to her: Andreas likes glasses. The most texts on the Internet are in English. She typed two English words into a search field of Google search engine: Andy and glasses. Natasha was really smart. It did not take much time and she was looking at a site where there were many pictures of women and girls with glasses. Some of them wore rather strong glasses, almost as strong as Natasha had to. There was a discussion in German, which she could not understand, and a lot of links. Natasha was shaking. She did not know how it was possible, but she knew she had just found something special. She clicked one of the links. A large discussion about glasses in English emerged.
She did not know what part of the discussion she should read first. She clicked a random link and started to read. From that very night she took many night shifts to read more and more. A completely new world opened in front of her. She learned that glasses need not be a handicap. So many people confessed how much they liked glasses. Some of them even wanted to wear stronger glasses than they had.
Natasha did not tell Andreas about what she found. She was almost sure one of the contributors was her Andreas. She wanted to get to know more before she would speak with him about the site. She mentioned her glasses only in one phone call. It was the day after she had gone to have her eyes tested again. She was not given a new prescription. The doctor said the progression of her myopia stopped. Natasha found herself rather disappointed. She thought she would buy a new frame, but without the receipt she would have to pay the full price, which was too much for her. When Andreas heard that, he said she did not need to worry. Next week the postman brought her money he had sent her. He told her she should use the money to buy new glasses. He wanted her to buy new shades, a pair of glasses she could wear to work, and a pair that would go with her evening dress. Andreas was either very rich or, more probably, he had no idea about the prices in Russia. Natasha did not know how much it was in Germany, but she knew that in Russia it was a lot. The amount of money was much larger than she needed for glasses. She could buy a new apartment if she wanted. As she was always very modest she bought just one pair of glasses a deposited the rest in a bank.
Soon after she received the money she found a part of the discussion were some people wrote they would like to have a surgery to become more myopic. Natasha already knew, that according to the group of the glasses fans her minus 10 diopters were not considered to be too strong. Some of the people even wrote minus ten was just a beginning of what they called strong.
The next morning, Natasha looked at herself in a mirror. Minus ten, she thought, how do minus 16s look like? Is it that different. She did not know how to find out but go to an optic shop and ask. She was lucky, the third shop she visited had minus 16s Zeiss lenses on stock. They even had a frame fitted with minus 17s for a customer who had not come for them yet. Out of the blue they did not seem to her to be ugly. The site cast a completely new light at the problem of glasses.
Natasha took a long walk along the river Volga to think about it. She was almost sure that Andreas loved her for herself but she also knew her glasses played a crucial role in his relationship with her. He spoke about glasses more often than anybody she had ever met. And she knew one more, rather strange, thing: Most of the people at the web site said: "The stronger the better."
That day something changed in her mind. She did not need to read more threads at the site. The following events were faster than anybody could expect. It took only a few phones.
When Andreas invited Natasha to come to Germany next spring for a visit, she had been definitely determined. She dialed the number of a doctor in Samara, a town in the south Russia. Doctor Ivanov told her he would do anything she would ask for if she pays in US dollars or German Marks. Money talks, as American say. Natasha asked her boss for a month vacation, packed her luggage and left for Samara. She took all money she had.
When she came to the hospital in Samara the doctor did not ask her any strange questions. She told him what she wanted him to do and he said it was possible. After some tests were run the day of the operation came. Natasha was very nervous. She knew that soon there would be no way back.
When her bandages were removed she opened her eyes. The blur she could see was total and almost colorless. The doctor took her hand and maneuvered her in to a wheelchair. Natasha wanted her old glasses so that she could see better, but her glasses did not help much. She still had to let the doctor lead her to the test room. The usual process of trying various lenses started. Which is better, this or that? When the best lenses were found the doctor took her back to her room. She had to wait till her old frame was fitted with her new lenses.
Fortunately the optician was prepared, because the doctor had told him how strong lenses would be needed. The next day doctor Ivanov brought her the glasses back.
"These are you glasses with the new lenses for you." said Ivanov.
Natasha put them on and started shoving them slowly up her nose. The world came into focus. She felt she was a completely new person. A year ago, she would pay for an operation that would help her get rid of her glasses. Now she had undergone the operation that caused her wearing even stronger glasses than before.
"You will have to get used to turning your head more than before, because the lenses distort your peripheral vision. Your vision with the new lenses will not be as good as you had with the old ones any more."
"It is OK, doctor Ivanov," answered Natasha, "I told you I would cope with the situation well."
"Your reasons are a mystery for me, but I do not need to know them. If this really is what you wanted, I ..."
Natasha had to stop him: "It's OK, doctor, thank you. You promised not to ask."
When Natasha came back home, she visited a local optic shop to order new glasses. The optician looked at her. "How can I help you?"
"I would like to buy new glasses. Nice new glasses, ... and ... I don't mind the price."
"OK, what is strength of the lenses that we will fit in the frames?"
"Minus 32 for the left eye and minus 34 diopters for the right one." answered Natasha observing the reaction of the optician.
He bit his lower lip. "Minus 32, minus 34," he repeated slowly. "Oh, that will be a problem we will have to make a special order."
"I know, I want Zeiss super lenti for normal glasses and Zeiss lenti for sunglasses. Order them and help me find two nice frames, please."
The optician looked surprised. He had never had as resolute customer as this young lady nor a customer with such a strong prescription. When Natasha told him she would not have a Russian National Health Insurance Company receipt and that she would pay cash in advance, he forgot his strange feelings and started bringing her a large number of various frames.
"You will have to help me choose the frame, because I cannot see anything without my glasses." she said.
"OK, I recommend you to choose a small frame so that it would hide the thickness." answered the optician.
"No, I do not need any small frame, please, choose a frame as if I had only 1 diopter."
The man lifted his eyebrows. "It won't look nice. I recommend ..."
Natasha stopped him with a gesture: "I pay, so, please, no tiny frames for me."
"OK," the optician sighed. He could not remember having such a strange customer.
They chose a nice plastic frame for her sunglasses and a very special frame for her regular glasses. The frame was made of golden metal with two small precious stones set in the temples near the hinges. The optician said they looked fantastic on her, he was only very sorry the lenses would rather spoil the effect. Natasha hoped that what the optician found negative, her Andreas would find positive. She left the shop satisfied and quite happy. Her money was almost gone, but she thought her new future was bright and nice.
The only problem that made her apprehensive was the possible reaction of her work mates and friends. She had prepared an explanation to give people if they asked what happened to her eyes, however she was not sure if it would work well.
to be continued