St Peterburg: A Spiritual Labyrinth

By Magaly Vega-Lopez (MFA 2016)

Today I write a story, without much to say, like a room full of forgotten memories: an irrelevant story, the kind that doesn’t stay for long time. A static story, where the dust keeps accumulating and the insects fly with apathy.

I start this story, on a rainy summer day, that type of rain that does not soak you; it just creates a desire of cleanliness that perhaps would never occur. So, you start your journey looking for occasionally refuge in street alleys whose existence you did not recall, you immerse yourself in the city and you start to forget the main avenues, you stop seeing the beautiful ornaments that embellish the buildings and you exchange the powerful façades with windows falling apart and rusty irons that at some point were marveled at by curious child. The rain falls slowly in this city obsessed with the accumulation of unimportant objects. Like this sad story, hundreds of banal objects are on display in old showcases, observed objects by millions of souls that no one would remember; objects without any practical function, some less dusty than others, one thousand different materials and without any clear message to give except the awareness of how meaningless we are.

And like a cheap magic trick, your soul is worthless compared with a 70’s soviet toy; soviet in the terms of fairytale where instead of seeing some rotten plastic by the sun, you see the possibility to connect with a world that will never belong to you. Soviet tools, soviet glasses, soviet bottles, soviet paperweight, soviet mold, soviet deleterious vapors, soviet dreams rooted to plastic spoons that one day someone would tell their grandchildren about the era he never grew up in but they would be convinced of the contrary. And his grandchildren would tell the fantastic stories with such certainty about their soviet grandpa that use to be young at the beginning of XXI century until the day that someone would destroy their wonderful memories with a simple world history book. That is the moment when you create the illusion of going back home and tell all about those stories that never exist, discovering useless objects that maybe you should buy. Meanwhile, you keep your breath away from the sulfuric, dense air, you remember the last days where you imagined all those princesses with huge dresses running through the millions of hallways in a palace where the opulence falls in the grotesque.

You recalled the one and thousand rooms without any purpose, where you can pass months without finding the exit or any other broken soul in the way. You inquire if in those small windows one could contemplate the ancient woods where you can find those monsters that crawl into your nightmares. You wonder if in this shiny palace there a way to find a cosmic connection, elevate your spirit to such a level that would not be necessary to create artifacts to land to the moon. Suddenly, you realize that for those princesses one palace was not enough, so you start doubting if they had the enough time to explore all the chambers of those palaces built by their parents, between extravagant hairstyles and dresses that were the home of more than one crawling creature, the simple idea of running princesses make you laugh.

After a short mind absence, you are still there in the antique shop where a rotten pot has an exorbitant price but as soon you leave the place, you are paying 75 rublos (1.50 US dollar) to see some domestic porcelain, that kind of porcelain that reminds you of your grandma’s house. The same that reminds you of the worst nightmares, your childhood is back when if you dare to look such fragile ornaments, they would break apart and that would mean, hours of insufferable labor work or just staring at a white corner for hours. And there you are, at your adult age paying to see the similar porcelain that you used to hate and you wish to destroy right now with your bare hands. You limit your thoughts by looking to the wonderful painted ceilings and you wonder again, where are hidden the treasures that enlighten our spirits? How do you give any importance to your spirit when the world is collapsing?

You try, in the middle of the city where the palaces vomit gold and the neighborhoods spit the excess of filthy odors, to find sense and try to not drown yourself in a canal, questioning the necessity of becoming another person creating obsolete objects.

You try to decide whether or not believe in daily miracles or give a chance a throw a coin in a rebuilt fountain or pray in a church which for decades was a milk factory, meanwhile your small and fragile mind tries to comprehend how a city relatively young has been modified so many times in order to fulfill its masters’ desires that makes the city something so unique. Because how many places do you know that they build thumbs in the form of churches, or they build churches that had never fit that purpose, where in decades they destroy all the churches and in less than one they rebuild them and make bigger and more powerful ones, where the city is consider beautiful not because their Russian roots but because it resembles some city from Europe, where you pay the same price to see some old unimportant porcelain and some da Vinci masterpiece and where you pay to enter a cemetery where you start a conversation whether Tchaikovsky or Dostoyevsky is more important, and at the end you wonder why no one ever mentions Tolstoy. There you are with all your hopes to find something truthfully magic, without any kind of tags or wondering if it is old or not, you just want to marvel of that far away land that dreamed when you were a child, a place where you can feel that you are not so worthless.

Standing on a roof you observe the city, with a brilliant effort you start to recognize the original buildings and the ones recreated recently, the eternal sunset penetrates that soul that you thought was in danger of extinction.

You imagine the extraordinary live of the whimsical clouds traveling as fast as they can telling the stories that not even your ancestors heard and then you walk into a non-particular room, your eyes glow and everything makes sense. Your spirit at last is been fed.

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