Muscovy Magic Mushrooms, World of Warcraft and I Just Had Sex. It’s a day in the life of ALEX BOWER.
As I enter the flat to look round for the first time, the first thing I hear is “I feel a positive energy!” I turn round to see a tall, dark-haired but very Russian-looking girl with high cheekbones that lend a cheerful edge to her face bound towards me, dressed in a cow-themed onesie, complete with tail.
She somehow envelops me in a side hug and I awkwardly reciprocate, loosely wrapping my arm round one of her arms from underneath. So far, so unexpected, and so great. She momentarily disappears to put on a green wig “to balance the zen” and then proceeds to show me the flat. There’s UV paint everywhere and it smells like a glue factory. “Don’t worry, the bath won’t be full of tomato puree if you move in!”
Everyone, meet my flat mate, Olesya.
She’s an artist and photographer and does some weird, artistic photos with girls in woods that I don’t really understand and spends a genuinely surprising amount of time waiting for no-show clients who later turn out to be in jail. I know Olesya because I’m mates with her boyfriend. He doesn’t live with her because he has no job to pay his half of the rent. He instead settles for his university accommodation which, whilst free, involves a serious cockroach infestation, no running water and a roommate who plays World of Warcraft non-stop shouting “This is for 1941, you Nazi scum” at online Germans.
Of course the downside of living with your mate’s girlfriend is that when he comes over, which he regularly does, and they have noisy sex about six inches away from your face through a thin but stylishly wallpapered wall, you can’t help but picture it pretty vividly. Then you find it weird to look either of them in the eye in the morning because all you have in your head is questions about why they were making cat and monkey noises mid-coitus.
The other downside is constantly having your mate strut around the house in his Y-fronts, evidently the underwear of choice amongst young Russian men about town, whistling Akon’s seminal classic I Just Had Sex.
But in the main, life in my leafy, family-friendly Moscow suburb is great. Sure, Olesya takes a few too many magic mushrooms (her current vKontakte (Russian Facebook) status is “FUCK I LOVE MUSHROOMS!”) and once painted every surface in the bathroom phosphorescent orange, but she makes life interesting and unfailingly cheerful.
I’ve got used to the fact that the bathroom has no light, just a lamp with a tendency to make bulbs explode. The sudden plunge into darkness when you’re in the shower is so total that when you pour drain unblocker into your hair, you think for the first time that the“new formula” on a shampoo bottle means they’ve actually done something. Before it feels like your hair is being ironed by Satan and your skull is about to be unblocked of brain, that is.
It’s stopped bothering me that only one out of four hobs on my stove is working, because my planning skills have increased immeasurably and because I’m just forced to save the best till last.
I’ve even come to terms with the fact that my “bed” (it’s more of a fold-out sofa) has an unreasonably hard wooden shaft right down the centre, because if I sleep in the shape of a starfish it slots nicely into the groove of my spine. This rather compliments my sleeping experience until I roll over and I get cracked in the spleen by my own bed.
But really, all of this is what makes my corner of an enormous Stalinist monolith a home, and I’ll miss it when I’m gone.