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A Happy Man

Raisa Silver's story posted on July 21, 2012 at 8:38 pm. Raisa emigrated from Moscow, Soviet Union (USSR) to New York, United States in 1976

I know this man well. Every morning, carrying a heavy briefcase, he hurries to the bus stop. Seeing me, he friendly waves his hand.

-          “Again going to the university? Even on Sunday?”  I ask.

-          No, I am going to New York for a chess tournament. And no matter how I hurried, I missed the bus. The next bus won’t be here for awhile…

 He sighs sadly and sits down on a bench with me. One minute he is silent. Then he takes out a bottle of pills, takes one out and puts it in his mouth.

-          “How do you feel? “ I ask.

-          Normal. I just did not get the chance to take my medicine at home. You know, I can’t be without my medicine. When I was little, I was convinced that all people in the world take medicine several times a day. As long as I can remember, I always swallowed a lot of various pills. First in Russia, then here, in America. For me they are as habitual as breakfast for other people. Every day at the same time.

He looks at me and smiles, wrinkling his nose in a funny way. And while what he said has nothing funny, I also smile. He says it in a very captivating way. Then the smile leaves his face. He looks somewhere far away, as if looking at something that will never return.

-          I was a boy, and wanted to jump, run, play with my peers. But it is not easy when heavy eyeglasses are on the nose, and a hearing aid in each ear. I did not like it, but I could not do anything. And now I have a hearing aid in each ear. Truthfully, I don’t like to wear both at once, but sometimes have to. Besides, I hope as time passes, the technology will advance so that… So in this regard I have big hopes.” He smiles again.     It was not easy for you, perhaps. No running, no jumping, no fighting in school. How did the children treat you? 

-          Yes, I was a 'special' child. I had poor movement coordination. The shoelaces always untied, buttons on the coat were difficult to button. But this, honestly speaking, are small details. If you train long and hard, practice will make perfect.


The children were different. Some laughed at me, teased me, trying to bully me. Other kids treated me well, because I was really good at chess, knew more about comic books in the school, collected baseball cards. I had friends, we had fun. 

All sorts of stuff happened. One day during lunch break, a girl hit me on the head with a stone. She was angry at me because I would not let her wear my hearing aid. I was taken to a hospital. Mom was summoned from work. Not long before, my father died. I did not go to school for awhile because my head hurt. But later the headaches passed, so I was real lucky. Because it could have been worse. Lucky!

 -          Do you consider yourself a lucky person?

-          Certainly!

-          In what sense?

-          In the most important. In that I was brought to America! This is my greatest piece of luck. A non-ordinary person everywhere finds difficulties, especially in a country like Russia. There, people with my problems did not get medical treatment. There I was considered retarded. But here…

-          Here you were the student government president of a large college. You graduated  with honors.

-          Yes, this is so, but everyone eventually graduates from college. Otherwise why bother registering for college?

-          Would you want to be as everyone else?

-          No. This is impossible. And then, maybe somebody wants to be like me? Not in the sense of physical limitations, but differently. For example, play chess so well. Come up with a chess gambit that would be named after you. 

-          I know you are a strong player. What is your rating? 

-          Somewhere above 2100. I cannot live without chess. It is such a wonderful game! Chess is multifaceted, it brings people real satisfaction. Chess can be played by both children and old men. And both receive joy from the game. 

-           I heard you publish your chess analyses in leading American chess magazines?

-          Yes, for many years now. It is very interesting, dealing with chess theory. But now it is more interesting to play chess on the Internet. I have so many wonderful chess meetings! So many people are included in our Internet Chess Club! 

-          But chess, although a flaming passion, is not the only one? 

-          Yes, that is so. My other passion is history. Since the moment when, as a little boy, I opened the history book, I suddenly found myself a witness to events happening hundreds of years, millennia in the past. This is difficult to explain. Believe it or not, I have already visited ancient Egypt, ancient Greece, Babylonia… If you want, I can tell you about Atlantis? Or even better, about Lemuria? Do you know what  is it?  I sometimes see a man for the first time, and yet it seems we met before. With one I most certainly met. He was a priest in ancient Egypt. 

I see you smile. In vain. You could have been there too. What can I do if I see what is hidden behind seven seals for everyone else? Sometimes I look at a person and sense that he will have big troubles. I physically sense that something will happen to him. I cannot say anything to him, but this is so.

-          And this always happens with you?

-          No, I try not to concentrate on such things. It just is sometimes so obvious that there is no way of avoiding it.

-          Is it true that you predicted the attempted military putsch in Russia in August 1991? 

-          Yes, about six months before it happened, I foresaw it to the day and told two friends.

-            Or rather, I wrote it in their office calendar. And when it happened they could not believe it. Because I wrote it in February.

-          And do these things happen often to you?

-          They would happen more often, but I am a very busy person, I'm occupied with other things.

-          How do you explain what happens to you?

-          We talked about it with the famous parapsychologist Ilya Kalinovsky. He thinks that I gather information from the universe itself. That is why I see what others cannot.

Some share Kalinovsky’s opinion. Others shrug their shoulders, considering this man an eccentric.  Yet this eccentric wrote the constitution of the student government at two New Jersey Colleges. He regularly publishes stories about student life in the Rutgers University newspaper, the largest school in New Jersey.

Every day, with a heavy book bag in his hands, he hurries to the bus stop.

-          “Do you have to go to the university?” I ask.

-          Yes. Either to attend a lecture, (he is about to graduate with a Masters degree in Political Science), visit the office of the student newspaper, or attend a meeting of the student government. A female student was unfairly treated and needs help.Ordinary matters alas, do not interest him much. And there is nothing that can be done about it. He cannot take care of himself, always loses gloves, scarves and hats. From the medicines that he takes, this man suddenly gets sleepy. Without these medicines he cannot live.

-          Pardon, I promised to call yesterday but was unable to do so. I had such a headache that I came to the newspaper office, lay down on the sofa and slept for two hours. My fellow students know and are not surprised. If my health was better, I would have become a lawyer. It is a very interesting profession. And most important, I would have been really able to help people. It is happiness to do what you want, be healthy, not count how many pills you have to take in the morning, afternoon and evening. Happiness means not being alone, have friends, a girlfriend who will love you. Happiness means living every day!

This morning I met him on a way to the bus stop carrying a heavy briefcase.

-          Tell me, are you happy? I asked him.

-          “Certainly,” he answered at once.