Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Things started going downhill when I noticed Zurab's finger was bleeding everywhere.

It was my last day in the derelict Old Town apartment, which was suddenly looking so sweet in the drowsy warm afternoon sunshine. In those prehistoric days during the gas crisis, there was only darkness and drafts leaking in through the crooked floorboards and the lopsided windows and doors. But this last day, the weather unseasonably conspired to show me what dreamy summer days I was foregoing by running away.

Has anybody come up with a name for that immutable law of nature in which your crap mysteriously multiplies when you aren't looking? I clearly recall boarding the plane for Tbilisi with two (admittedly quite large) suitcases. But somehow I now had half a living room full of boxes and bags and luggage chest-high.

Which is surely what Zurab was thinking when he showed up to help move me into the new place. Zurab, a friend twice-removed who doesn't speak a word of English other than "bye bye" and "no problem" but has a car and a heart of gold, had agreed to help a near-stranger haul her crap across town. He stepped into my living room and very effectively pantomimed "Holy crap, all this is yours?" I wanted to ask him if it he thought we could get it all in one trip, but this is well beyond my Georgian vocabluary, so I just apologized. "No problem," said Zurab, waving it off.

Zurab lunged for the first suitcase and it very nearly bested him. "Suzi!" he admonished. But he heaved it onto his shoulders, lumbered down the crooked stairway, and tried to mask how very hard he was breathing. When he came back up the stairs, that's when I noticed the blood. His finger was cut deeply and bleeding all over. He would wrap it in his handkerchief, and suck it in his mouth, but it just as quickly bubbled back up again, and my bandages were all packed. I wanted to ask him what happened, but I don't know the past tense in Georgian, so I could only ask him (the number one most useful phrase I have ever learned in this language): "what is going on?" "No problem!" he replied.

I felt I should say something. My guilt was compounding and multiplying like my luggage. I felt guilty that I didn't know him well and he was helping me move. I felt guilty that I had so much junk. I felt guilty that it was so heavy. I felt guilty that he'd just nearly severed his finger on who-knows-what. As Zurab shouldered the next bag-of-bricks I'd packed up, I finally thought of some kind of excuse to offer. He was grunting unhappily, two stairs down, when I tried to tell him lightheartedly: "Didi bodishi, Zurab. Magram, itsi, kali var!" Which is, roughly, "I'm very sorry, but you know, I'm a woman!" You know, we women, all our stuff! Ha ha! Well, it was worth a try.

But instead, what came out of my mouth was possibly the worst thing you can say to a Georgian man ever, especially one who is, at that given moment, bleeding profusely and gradually collapsing his lungs under the weight of your overpacked vanity. What I said was "...itsi, Zurab, kali khar."

"You know, Zurab, you're a woman."

Am so buying him vodka if I ever see him again.


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