CHAPTER XII

Daria had been so engrossed in her conversation with Trent that she did not notice how far they had driven, until they reached the outskirts of town.

"I thought we were going out for pizza?" Daria asked. "Isn't this the way into the city?"

"Change of plans," said Trent.

"Do I get a hint?" Daria asked when Trent explained no further.

"Let's not be fastidious about the details," Trent said with a sly smile. "I think you'll really like where we're going."

Daria's curiosity grew as they passed through to the tunnel into Mirage, the main city in the area known for its artistic scene. Daria had never been there, but had heard Quinn complain enough times about its contribution to the grunge scene started in Seattle. Daria saw signs of grunge leftover from the days of Nirvana, to be sure, and anxiously entertained the possibility that Trent was taking her to see the Harpies play.

Eventually the grunge scene faded. Graffiti and punk dive bar lines were exchanged for restaurants in languages familiar and foreign. Trent smiled to himself the moment he saw the Daria's nervous energy spark an inner flame of curiosity and fascination once the village signs read in Polish, Hungarian, and Russian. Band posters and audition flyers had been replaced with the flags of Eastern Europe, each hung proudly by families in remembrance of a harsh, sweet, and bitter homeland they would bless until they died. As they walked through the neighborhood, Daria soaked in the vibrant blues and yellows of the store signs, and the delicately intricate patterns of shawls worn by the older, more traditional generations of women. Daria was reminded that they were near the sea, when they reached the open market. The air was heavy with the scent of salt, adding flavor to the scents of the various meats, soups, and fresh produce being sold.

Daria jumped slightly when she felt someone take her hand. "It's pretty clean, Daria," said Trent. Confused, she looked down. Trent's hand was laced with hers. "Oh," replied Daria, blushing profusely. "Sorry, I guess I just got lost in all of this."

"Good," replied Trent, squeezing her hand tighter. "I wanted you to be. Let's not lose each other in this crowd though. There's more people still out than I thought there'd be." Daria heart beat quickly, as she let Trent guide her through the market square. His hand was rough with callouses, and warmer than she ever thought it'd be. She smiled when Trent began to absent-mindedly graze his thumb along her knuckles as they walked the blocks to their destination. Trent wrapped his arm around Daria's waist, as they walked down the steps into a hidden Russian dive bar and cafe. A single balalaika could be heard over the low murmurs of crowd, accompanied by a clarinet. The two got a table near the small stage as the bards continued their song.

On a rugged cliff, the very edge, above the endless chasm

I keep lashing at my horses with my whip clenched in a spasm

But the air is growing thinner, I am gasping, drowning, crying

I can sense with horrid wonder, I am vanishing, I'm dying...

The bard sang in his native Russian, his guttural voice heavy with the weight of the burden of memories of a distant land. He released years of generational anger through the strings of his instrument, anger which softened when the clarinetist comforted him with her mournful, hopeful song. Halfway through the piece, the balalaika player lost the anger in his voice altogether, giving way to the clarinetist. Sadness haunted her voice.

We have made it. Right on time, God has left us with few choices

But then why are the angels singing with such fiendish scolding voices,

Or is that the horse bell ringing in a frenzy drenched with tears,

Or am I the one who's screaming for my horses to shift gears?

Daria looked to Trent, who was completely engrossed in the performance. She saw his left hand moving, mimicking the chords used by the bard, as if committing them to his memory. From a great sadness grew a great hope in the bard's voice, as her male counterpart joined in her song.

Slow your gallop, oh my horses! Slow your gallop, I say!

Don't you listen to my stinging whip!

But the horses I was given, stubborn, and so unforgiving,

Can't comprehend the life I'm living, at least let me finish singing…

Daria reflected on how much Trent had changed. There was something much more serious about him now. She often wondered how he felt, alone in Casa Lane, while she and Jane were together in Boston. The Lanes were a paradoxical family, one so large but so scattered. She wondered about what Trent could never say about his family. Jane was a bit more honest about her resentment against her parents, who were present and overwhelming in her life as often as they disappeared from it, but the only times she had ever seen Trent that honest were when he was on the stage. She wondered if Trent would ever be that honest with her.

As the music stopped, Trent's hand found hers again. Daria wasn't startled by it this time.


Lyrical translation of "Fastidious Horses" (also often translated as "Capricious Horses") by Vladimir Vysotsky provided by Kulichki and LyricsTranslate.