Today is the 6th anniversary of the day N. and I met, and I wanted to share this touching story from the early days of our relationship.
In the first 2,5 years, we had to live apart. Initially, we lived in different countries, and I had to take the Greyhound bus from Montreal to Indiana to stay with him. I’d remain in Indiana for 6-8 weeks and then come back to Montreal for the same period of time. And then the journey would be repeated.
The first time I was staying at N.’s place in Indiana, I soon noticed there was a very unpleasant smell in his small apartment that kept intensifying. I felt bad about saying anything because I didn’t want to hurt N.’s feelings. (Yes, I can be sensitive when I want to.) N. also noticed the bad smell that appeared right after I arrived. He didn’t say anything either because he didn’t want to hurt my feelings. So we both suffered in silence for weeks.
Finally, when the heat became especially high and the stench got to the point of being intolerable, N. broke the silence.
“So. . . maybe we should investigate where this funny smell comes from. . .” he volunteered.
“I know! This is disgusting!” I exclaimed, relieved that the subject was finally broached.
We walked around the apartment, trying to trace the stench and soon both arrived at the same closet.
“What do you have in there?” I asked in a whisper.
“There is nothing there but your suitcase,” N. whispered back.
“The suitcase is empty, though.”
“Are you sure?” he asked.
So we went over the suitcase and eventually found a small hidden pocket that I didn’t even know existed. We opened the pocket, and the smell almost knocked us both off our feet.
In the hidden pocket of the suitcase, we found. . . several pieces of pickled fish. They had spoiled and looked even more disgusting than they smelled.
The situation was extremely bizarre. How did those pieces of fish end up in my suitcase without me knowing it?
I started sharing this weird story with people, and soon the answer was found.
“Oh, I put this fish in your suitcase,” my mother said. “I though you would eat it on the way to Indiana.”
“Why didn’t you tell me you put it there?” I asked.
“Didn’t I?” my mother asked. “I was sure I did.”
Imagine the state of this poor fish after I traveled on a Greyhound bus from Montreal to Indiana and stayed there in hot summer weather for 6 weeks.
Also imagine the strength of the romantic feeling that developed in spite of being surrounded by rotting fish.
And if you are wondering why my mother was filling the secret pockets of my suitcase with food, remember that Ukrainian people share the kind of history that makes it necessary for us to have food around us at every moment. Filling every pocket in sight with food is a reflex that we developed in response to our historical legacy.