We all have things we keep to ourselves: whether good,bad, embarrassing or simply “too far out”, for various reasons we find them hard (or impossible) to talk about.
It could be something as simple as fetish (I have one I’ve never told ANYONE about,for instance) or sexual fantasy or as serious as crime committed in the past or transgression that could possibly ruin one’s career,relationship or social standing.
These secrets are locked deep within us and often times we are convinced we’ve even thrown away the key and whatever it is will never come out.
Trouble with keeping things bottled up is that they want to come out. They keep on slow burning, bubbling,eating,corroding you from inside.
It is my firm belief that one of my friends died because she’s never let something inside her out.
I first met Marina in 2007 when I was spending a month in Napier,NZ, checking out jobs,immigration laws,etc with the intent of moving to NZ permanently.
It was during Napier’s famous “Art Deco” winter Festival and I heard her before I saw her-she was bargaining at one of the stalls in the Antique Fair. She had strong unmistakable Russian accent, just like mine.
I was curious to meet this woman, so I went over and threw a famous Russian movie quote at her. She turned around sharply and answered straight away-Marina was famous for her quick wit.
We started talking and soon her husband (a Kiwi guy) joined us. We ended up in a cafe with a bottle of wine talking for hours.
It turned out Marina and her husband had an Immigration consulting business. They explained a lot of things to me and very shortly it became clear that if I wanted to migrate to New Zealand, the time was NOW.
I am pretty light on my feet and able to make decisions fast; I’ve rang my then-husband and told him to book the ticket for NZ in 3 week’s time. I wanted Carl (ex-husband) to start the paperwork,etc from inside of NZ. In the meantime, I was going back to US to sell my business, most of my belongings,rent out my house and organise the shipment of whatever stuff I wanted to bring over.
I had Carl hire Marina and David (her husband) to start residency application process. I found their fees reasonable and, more importantly, they possessed the knowledge of intricate details and nuances of NZ Immigration. They also knew a lot of people who could help with various auxiliary requirements.
To this day, I am quite happy that I’ve used Marina’s services, as NZ Immigration seems to like paperwork submitted by consultants-it is assumed that such people know what they are doing and they simplify Immigration Officer’s job (on the other hand, US Immigration absolutely hates it when you use a lawyer-they take it as a personal insult and try to “bury” your application).
Carl and I had our Residency in about 6 months with very little hassle; the only “hiccup” was the fact that we were married in Las Vegas (where Carl was born and lived all his life,BTW, and I’ve spent 11 years in). Apparently, “Vegas” wedding is an automatic “red flag” and we were asked to supply additional photos and letters from friends and relatives verifying that our relationship was “genuine”. That wasn’t a problem, as by then we were married for 3 years and dated on and off for 16 years (see my post “Husband #4”).
I know of people who’s been in NZ for years now and still don’t have permanent Residency-it is my firm believe that’s because they’re doing the paperwork themselves and not using the consultants.
Anyway, Marina, David,Carl and I became friends: we went to each other houses for drinks and I’ve introduced them to some of my friends.
Marina told me about her life. She moved to NZ when she was in her early 20’s and worked as PA in some firm. Marina had Doctor’s Degree from Russia (Holistic medicine). At one point she was practicing holistic medicine from an office in her house in Napier-she even had papers published on the subject.
When she met David (over a decade prior), he owned a factory, which she helped him sell at substantial profit (that was back when economy was doing great).
In 2007, though, it appeared that neither Marina nor David had regular jobs and their Immigration business wasn’t bringing much revenue. I remember one time receiving a phone call from David asking for the next installment payment for their consulting services early, as they were “short” that month.
Yet they still went out and maintained their house “on the Hill” (Napier’s version of a “better” neighbourhood :).
Marina was absolutely beautiful: tall, slender,yet curvy in all the right places with short blond hair, she had unmistakable elegance and unique sense of style. She was intelligent, funny, great conversationalist. She told us endless stories of her and David’s travels (it seemed they used to travel a lot-I’ve seen photos from all over the world).
Marina and David didn’t have children together, but David had a son from previous marriage.
It became apparent fairly quickly that Marina liked wine (white was her preference), yet I’ve never seen her really drunk, not in the first few months.
As time went on, I’ve organised employment for a Russian couple (Lena and Vladimir) who were awaiting their Residency and using Marina’s Immigration consulting service. The job was at one of the restaurants I worked for at the time.
One night Lena,Vladimir and I were doing the final clean-up and somehow the subject of Marina came up.
That’s when I found out that Marina was a binge drinker. According to Lena and Vladimir, she would sometimes start with just a glass of white wine and would not stop for days.
Her husband would try to stop her by not supplying alcohol and not letting her leave the house, but she would contact Vladimir and beg him to bring her a bottle and hide it in the mailbox for her to pick up. Things were getting ugly,as upon discovery, David threatened Vladimir with withdrawal of his Immigration papers (neither Lena nor Vladimir spoke English well enough to embark on the process themselves) if he continued to supply the wine, but then Marina would text him and threaten him with exact same thing if he didn’t!
Poor couple felt they were between a rock and a hard place: they had a son, they left their home country behind to give him a better future and they were totally dependent on the whims of David and Marina!
Later I’ve talked to some other members of Russian community in Hawkes Bay and the full picture emerged:
Marina started having her binge drinking spells long time ago, but at first it was just a few days at a time. then it became few weeks… By 2008 it became more than a month at a time.
She had a lot of friends and some were aware of the problem and some weren’t: when she was “on the bend”, David kept her in the house, did not receive visitors and turned down all invitations, saying that Marina”wasn’t feeling well” or was “away in Auckland visiting her mother”.
Those who knew of Marina’s problem were powerless to do anything, as she never admitted she had one.
David tried to check her into rehab, but according to NZ laws, a person cannot be kept in there against their will, regardless of testimony of spouses,partners or family members. So as soon as Marina sobered up, she just asked to be let out.
In the meantime, things were getting progressively worse: drunken binges went on for months without hardly any breaks in between. Defeated, David moved out of the house.
I received a phone call from one of my Kiwi friends one day, saying that he saw Marina staggering drunkenly up the hill. When he tried to talk to her, she offered him sex for a bottle of wine (Marina was NEVER a sex worker). He didn’t take her up on that, but he didn’t know what to do, so he rang me. I didn’t know what to do, either.
I called Marina and she was chatting to me like everything was perfectly OK. She told me she self-published a book and asked me to come over for a copy. When I agreed, she asked me to bring a bottle of wine,as she “forgot to buy one when she was at the store”.
When I saw Marina that day, she looked awful: her normally beautiful face was bloated and she had a “black eye”. When I asked her about it, she laughed it off, saying that she “walked into a door frame”. She poured wine straight away and her glass was empty within 3 minutes. After some talk about perils of self-publishing and costs of it and another glass of wine for Marina (I wasn’t touching mine), she asked me for a “contribution” for her new book. It would’ve been really rude to refuse, so I gave her $40. By the end of our conversation she asked if I was going to drink my wine and when I said “no”, she took my glass and polished that off as well.
I really didn’t know how to breach the subject of drinking: Marina acted as if she was perfectly happy and nothing was wrong. She didn’t complain of being depressed or unhappy, she didn’t mention any problems at all-was just chatting away
3 months later a got a call from Lena and Vladimir: David went to check up on Marina and found her dead, face down in her own vomit. Because he refused autopsy, we will never know if her heart just stopped beating or if she’s drowned in her vomit. She was 45.
At the funeral, several people spoke. One was an owner of a famous vineyard-he was very good friend of David and Marina’s for years. He wanted us to remember her as vibrant and beautiful person that she was, so he talked of all the good times, remembering various amusing anecdotes.
In contrast, Marina’s brother’s speech was somber. He said : “She helped so many people, yet no one helped her when she needed it the most. We shall all forever wonder if there was something any of us could do to prevent this tragedy”. He also expressed his anger with the system that allowed this to happen: in Russia he would’ve been able to commit her to a rehab against her will and maybe save her..
After we buried Marina, several of us, close friends, came back to the house and talked: we tried to figure out what, if anything, we could’ve done… We couldn’t come up with anything….
To this day I wonder what was it inside Marina that drove her to distraction. The problem with us, Russians (especially older generations) is that we don’t really talk about our inner conundrums: we were raised to be stoic and to endure. We had to “hold out shit together” and not fall apart-that was considered a weakness and disgrace.We never blamed others-we always blamed ourselves.
I know Marina was brought up that way. Something was eating at her, making her deeply unhappy. She was clearly not satisfied with the state of her being. I can’t begin to guess what it might been: absence of children, material wealth or peer recognition and fame? I will never know. She found the way to deal with it-she drowned it in alcohol.