While I was in college I had the opportunity to participate in a study abroad program – not just once but twice. Being what is known as a non-traditional student hitting the bar every night to get pissed was not my idea of fun.
While walking the streets I came upon a duo playing music – mostly Beatles songs – on a street corner. The guitar player/ singer and I became friends. The other members of my group thought I had a guy – not really we were just friends.
With Peter at my side we explored areas of the city of St. Petersburg the tour guides do not show. The novel “Crime and Punishment” by Fydor Dovstoevsky came alive thanks to Peter. We had discovered the location of the house and walked the routes he may have taken speaking in English.
An uncertain future after graduation began to take some form. This was my second trip and my last semester.
On a Wednesday night just days before we were to leave that future came crashing down around me. While escorting me home Peter was hit be a car. In an instant three years of Russian was lost and in a sense so was I.
I went with Peter to the hospital. I was shaking so badly that I thought they were going to keep me.
A head wound at the very least bleeds a great deal and it gets considerably worse from there. While waiting for Peter’s parents to arrive – Russian medical people don’t do anything until family arrives – I was at his side. I tried to clean up some of the blood but Peter had other ideas. He kept sitting up and putting his head on my shoulder with his arms around my neck. I sometimes wonder what he thought or knew.
Shortly after his parents arrived the leader of our program also arrived and I was not allowed to stay. She took me back to the dorm. Thinking that she was helping me she made me a cup of tea. I looked down at that cup of tea and said, “this isn’t funny.” Not knowing what I meant she asked me why. The tea was raspberry teal. To me it was not just red, but blood red. I could not touch the tea, and still can’t.
Thursday came and after some difficulty we found the hospital but could not find his room. I saw his mother coming across the courtyard with her arms open wide. She hugged me. We weren’t sure of what the future would bring for Peter.
On Friday we were to head for the United States and home. I called and reached a family member who told me Peter was doing better. He was off of the ventilator and his blood pressure was normal. Things looked good.
I left Russia my plans somewhat in tact and in a much better frame of mind than I had been over the past couple of days.
Because of travel and time zones it was Sunday night/Monday morning before I could reach anybody in the family. For the second time in less than a week my world came crashing down – Peter had died earlier on Sunday.
Peter is gone and I am still here; my plans nothing like what we had discussed. but Peter is never far from my memory.
Peter was 19 and an only child.