Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Soviet Dream: What did Stalin's Bathroom Look Like?

A couple weeks ago, I had a wild dream. I wrote it up the next morning then completely forgot about it. A friend just told me about her dream, reminding me of mine. So herewith is the post.

In the last couple days, I have:

1) Edited an article on the Soviet party and state.

2) Read a chunk of Alan Furst’s Mission to Paris. (It’s set in 1938, about Europe’s impending collective suicide.)

3) Perused my friend Caryolyn’s pics of her trip to Siberia.

4) Watched some of Breaking Pointe, the reality show about ballet dancers in Salt Lake City.

5) Consumed huge quantities of water because many days it was over 100 degrees. This is very important.

These things apparently combined last night to produce the following dream.

I was walking through a kommunalka (a Soviet communal apartment) looking for a bathroom. The main staircase was notably reminiscent of the dorm I lived in in St. Petersburg, but when I got upstairs, it became a kind of early-twentieth century rabbit warren of rooms. It was deserted, but I could hear people talking. I brushed hanging laundry out of my way as I walked from room to room.  

Then I went through a door and found a bunch of Russian sailors standing in the middle of the room.

“Do you have a toilet?” I asked.

They nodded, then threw down their cigarettes and vodka bottles and moved en masse across the room. They pulled back a curtain, showing me where the toilet was being stored in a closet. (It was hidden, so it wouldn’t be stolen, or envied by the neighbors, or something.) Then they picked it up and suddenly changed into Ballet Russes-style sailors — their naval dress was now a costume, with sparkly bits — and hoisted the toilet as if it were a prima ballerina, then brought it toward me and put it at my feet.

They began bolting it to the floor so I could use it, but I couldn’t wait, I really had to go.

So I went to the next room, where a Russian folk group was carrying on, in full kitschy regalia, strumming bailalaikas.

“Do you have a toilet?” I asked.

“Kalinka, Kalinka, Kalinka,” they sung at me.

So I shouted, “Do you have a toilet?”

And they shouted back, “Kalinka, Kalinka, Kalinka.”

So I turned to go and the room suddenly expanded (as things do in dreams) and I was now in a very long, very dark hallway.

Down at the end, a door opened. There was light shining out of the room. A man stepped into the now-miles-long hallway.

He was a CPSU (Communist Party of the Soviet Union) leader. He appeared Stalinesque, yet did not look exactly like Stalin, and yet it was Stalin. (Don’t you just love dreams?) He was dressed in a Great Fatherland War-era military uniform, and he took a step toward me. Then he beckoned me toward him.

I panicked. I decided I didn’t need a toilet anymore and I turned to go back the way I came.

Then he raised his hand in that we-are-Soviets-striding-toward-the-future statue pose, and he said, “Do you need a toilet?”

I stopped, and turned back, starting to say “Da,” but I was suddenly awakened by Annabel’s whiskers. She was sticking her face in mine, with her hey-lady-is-there-a-problem-here? feline concern, so I must have been talking in my sleep.

Of course, I got up and practically ran to the bathroom. And I was both relieved and disappointed Annabel woke me the moment she did. I wonder what Stalin's bathroom would have looked like.