Uzbekistan reminded me of Lithuania, which is troublesome on humanitarian grounds (the Soviet Union managed to concretize what seems a quarter of the globe) but comforting emotionally. I felt at home in Soviet-flat studded Vilnius and that hinted at comfort here. Indeed, I settled in quickly. (Soviet-style flats in Kaunas, at right.)
In no less time things soured between Mario and me. He took to long periods of counting his numbers (minding the books) and wandering around Tashkent in search of new hotels, possible acquaintances, or some non-existent exotic Uzbek melon he’d heard a tourist telling stories about. I filled the time with Russian studies, photography, and counting numbers of my own, which drove Mario to pouting fits. Instead of confronting him directly, I drew up a calendar biding the days until he left for Pakistan and devised break-up scenarios to ease the dull, annoying pain. Outwardly, I indulged some pouting fits of my own. Meanwhile lovely Uzbek and Tajik men were edging in on my fantasies; their chivalry amused me and I ached for the attention.
Eventually I did confront Mario and he let my unhappiness roll off his back. It wasn’t a surprise when he announced an earlier departure for Pakistan, but it halted my scheming. I flapjacked one-eighty and felt intensely abandoned, as the orphaned sixteen year old sprang up to relive the pain of dad’s death just one more time. Is this all that drew me to him? It did seem to be Mario’s main attraction for me—his particular penchant for going away. I batted the girl down and forced myself back to logic, scratching the superfluous days off my countdown, relieved that the charade would be over soon.