Since I’ve been in Moscow I’ve been teaching English, maths and science to rich children. The first kid I taught was an intolerable prick, and despite his young age (15) I can’t forgive him for that. However, I kept my feelings concealed and never told him how I really felt, for he was almost the same size as me and his dad was much bigger and deals surgical instruments for a living. Incidentally, it seems that surgical instruments are extremely profitable judging from the lifestyle of this young man. Before lessons I was picked up in the centre of Moscow by their chauffeur and driven to their compound. The compound was enclosed by a tall fence and the only entrance was manned by a guard. It consisted of 7 large dachas (Russian style country houses). I taught young Boris in the house that was used to store his micro-scooters and his mother’s dresses and handbags. On Valentine’s Day he bought 301 red roses for his girlfriend.
The first few weeks passed smoothly and Boris was learning (although he learnt only because he was smart and not through any real endeavour). However, as Boris became more comfortable with me he became excessively confident. He sought out my weaknesses and exploited them ruthlessly. We played a game of chess and within minutes he had claimed a cruel and humiliating victory. He saw mental multiplication of four digit numbers as a chink in my armour, and he constantly sought to penetrate, baiting me with outrageous sums. But worst of all, he sensed my reluctance to use physical force on him and delighted in my consequent vulnerability.
Boris had recently taken up boxing because his parents wanted him to lose weight. I agreed that he should lose weight but I felt boxing was not the best way, especially boxing with me. I grew up in a British school system riddled with excessive anti-touching hysteria, so Boris’s boxing frightened me on two fronts. Firstly I was terrified because he was big and strong and was punching me hard, but moreover I was frightened because I needed to punch him or throw him but I thought this might get me into trouble. I tried to be stern and shout at him but he seemed to like that. Before long, every lesson, my arrival was greeted by a barrage of conkers. I had to cover my head and run into the house, where I was welcomed by the wildly swinging young Boris who would hit me with a barrage of punches.
Although I was not overly keen on Boris, I was certainly overly keen on his mother. She was the perfect size- not too big but not too small, and she always wore nice silk tracksuit trousers that showed her size off beautifully. The texture of her face was exquisite- it had a healthy brown glow but it wasn’t too shiny and her teeth were thin, white and straight. She wore white earrings to match and everything came together in a paradigm of perfection. Her personality was also perfect- she laughed at my jokes when they weren’t funny and she always showed me the affection I deserve, bringing me cakes and coffee and caviar pancakes. Her handshake was cool and refreshing. In short, she was the women of my dreams. One day I was teaching Boris and I heard his mum come home. I straightened my tie and smoothed down my shirt in anticipation of seeing that smile at the end of the lesson. But as I shuffled and preened myself, I became uncomfortably aware of a strong whiff of body odour. I had been hustling around all day and that had clearly caught up with me. A horrible sinking feeling came over me- I would not be seeing that smile if I smelt bad. I went to the toilet and frantically rummaged through Boris’s things for some deodorant. Nothing. No perfume, no aftershave, no nothing. I panicked and picked up the air freshener from behind the toilet. The scent was ‘after rain’ and I sprayed myself up and down, all around. The jet was pleasantly powerful like a light massage, but it left strange marks and the smell was overwhelming. I was covered in white stains and I smelt like a toilet. There was certainly no smile for me on that unfortunate afternoon.
Now it would be unfair to entirely overlook the beautiful moments we shared together. When we were practicing interview questions before an open day, I asked young Boris what he could bring to the school and he told me that he would bring pleasure to every English girl. This response made both of us laugh because we knew it was so far from the truth. Between beatings we enjoyed indulging in The Hobbit, although Boris constantly joked that he hated it which was funny. Despite the slow progress we made, Boris managed to pass some exams and get into a boarding school in England. I suppose we’ll both be in England together at some point and I keep dreaming that if we happen to cross paths, perhaps we might get on better in a more informal environment. I would like to think that he hated me as a teacher rather than as a person. I just want to believe that all those beatings were nothing personal, that I didn’t deserve them, that it was all just part and parcel of a dangerous job.