Sunday, September 4, 2016

Mama, I can speak for myself

I took a step over the threshold. The living room was huge, and the furniture—highly decorative, giving you the impression that you were transported, somehow, around the other side of the world and back in time, to a palace built in the second half of the eighteenth century in Russia. Every piece was gilded in a variety of hues: red-gold, green-gold, even silver. Here and there, some of the gold leaf was damaged, but that did not detract from the richness of the decor. 
I was especially overwhelmed by the eclectic combinations of ornamental motifs. There were carved garlands of flowers and foliage, rosettes, shells, urns, harps, even sphinxes. 
And yet there was something about the place that made it look not only in disrepair but also about to be deserted. 
It felt—oh, how would I put it in words?—as if it didn’t belong to this family anymore, as if they had stopped caring for it, for some reason. The floor was covered with dust. The iron chandelier hanging above the staircase had half of its light bulbs missing. 
Opposite me a large window brought in a strange, hazy sight: the modern skyline of Manhatten, which looked utterly out of place here. The old curtains that framed it were badly frayed at the hem. The only thing in the room that looked intact was the piano, in which you could see a mirrored, upside-down view of faraway skyscrapers. They seemed to be plunging down into the polished, black surface.
Over the mantle hung three formal family pictures. When Natasha came back from the kitchen I asked her about them. 
At once, her Mama cut in. “My daughter comes from a long line of musicians,” she said, in her heavy Russian accent.
“Mama,” said the girl. “I can speak for myself.”

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