It was over. Even though they shared a lot in common, it was time for Maria to spread her wings—to finally sever her connection with Boris. Maria and Boris have a long history together. It’s hard to explain, but almost from the depth of their existences, Boris came from Maria. They have so much in common: similar music, food, classic TV shows from their childhoods, similar jokes and cultural values, and a shared love of this old Georgian singer with three young women around him at all times. They both understand that life can swing back and forth between good and bad; this is the nature of life itself and not something to be interfered with. They say the most beautiful toasts at parties—Maria’s sentimental, and Boris’s clever and funny.
However, their relationship also had its faults. As a couple, Maria and Boris had been hopelessly codependent. Maria needed Boris for protection and economic stability. Boris needed Maria to feel bigger than himself, as well as for his own protection. Maria had provided a line of defense against outside forces through her space. In some ways, Boris feels like a bottle. To him, Maria was the liquid that belonged in the bottle. Without his ‘liquid,’ he feels empty.
Maria had generally been compliant with Boris. She’d put up with a lot of his shit. But towards the end, the desire to resist had built up inside her. She erupted.
And so, Maria gathered her courage and walked out on Boris. He was in shock; Boris isn’t the kind of guy to take threats to his ego lightly. In his world, he always calls the shots. He has no problem giving the middle finger to powers greater than himself.
To learn where Boris gets his ego and his need to appear hyper-masculine, one need only meet his family. Boris’s father is always flexing his muscles and looking tough, especially in summer photos taken in the countryside on a horse. For the most part, he thinks everything his dad does with machismo is cool. If Maria had to guess, she’d say that roughly 80% of the time, Boris approves of his father, and 20% of the time, he doesn’t. Maria had always been puzzled by their relationship—how could an authoritative figure be liked that much?
Boris’s need to feel important in the world is further exacerbated by frustrations at work, which mostly stem from the fact that he was more renowned years ago. Everybody seems to have forgotten all the great things he accomplished in the past. The world is looking forward; Boris is clinging to the past. He’s still living off of the same old business model that brought him a steady flow of revenue for some time. But profits for the commodity were down. Some of his smartest employees have left him for better opportunities in the tech industry abroad. He feels like he doesn’t get the respect he deserves from the world. He has a valid point.
Maria’s departure exposed Boris’s vulnerability. No matter how much he flexed his muscles, he couldn’t control Maria’s spirit; this frustrated him.
The breakup was brutal. Apart from the spiritual connection going back as far as their mutual pagan roots, Maria and Boris shared many material things. Unlike the average American divorce—where the woman may fare well with possessions—this breakup heavily favored Boris.
Physically, Boris is much stronger than Maria. But he was smart enough to know that if he attempted to physically harm Maria, he would harm himself. Instead, he started to take away things that were dear to her.
Maria used to spend her summers in a special place near the sea. She loves the salty and fresh air, the lush vegetation, and mountains that surround the coastal sanctuary. Many of Boris’s relatives live on this land, but they’d never had a problem with Maria and her friends coming to visit. Boris had joined her sometimes, but she’d also liked to go by herself to meditate, which allowed her to clean the urban Kyiv from her mind.
The land had belonged to Boris’s grandfather long before—but he had done an unthinkable thing by leaving it to his grandson’s future wife in his will. So, Maria came into this world owning a piece of paradise. Boris also loves this place. How couldn’t he? It’s like the California of Eastern Europe—the best slice of land in the region. Before Boris’s family, Ottomans owned this property, but that was way back. Even though the house and land were legally Maria’s, Boris argued that it was originally his grandfather’s, and therefore his.
With Maria’s departure, Boris wasn’t up for compromises; he was properly pissed off by the fact he couldn’t win her back. So, he took the land and house, and made sure Maria didn’t return.
Maria loved the other side of Boris’s family, who lived in the east, and with whom she still had a close relationship. However, he made sure to sever that relationship, too.
He even made sure to cut off the heat in her apartment in Kyiv that winter.
Ending the relationship and dealing with the fallout hasn’t been easy for Maria. But as much as these losses hurt her, she is strong, and she hasn’t let them defeat her.
However, Maria has never gone long without a hard man to protect her. She’s always been in relationships. Shortly after a breakup, either by nature or necessity, she gets into another controlling relationship. She spends very little time on her own, and always relies on the leadership of “her man.”
To be fair, she lives in a historically tough neighborhood, and has often been forced into these situations for her own survival…. But she’s never had difficulty finding someone new to fill the dominant role—everyone wants her.
Maria is a beautiful woman. She has style, grace, and a deep soul. Her eyes can pierce diamonds, but also soften like puffy white clouds. And, when she is happy, her smile transforms a room into the very essence of feeling alive. Maria can emit strikingly radiant energy to those she knows closely. Her choice in friends reflects her uncompromising need for authenticity. She’ll do anything for them.
That said, she isn’t perfect. Sometimes she’s angry and closed off. She’s very hard on herself. She can spiral downward—out of control—when struck by a negative thought. She can backstab and wish the worst on people. At times, she is very emotional. And yes, she is definitely temperamental…. But, despite all of this, her greatest asset is that she is real.
No one brings out the temperamental side of her personality quite as her father does. Maria’s father doesn’t seem to care about her struggles; he is mostly interested in lining his (and his friends’) pockets with money. And to be fair, to keep his power he has to take care of his friends. “Money and control, everything is about money and control” is the first thought to cross her mind when she thinks of the father.
Boris’s dad has the same mentality as Maria’s father and is far wealthier. But, for some reason, Boris doesn’t mind that his father prioritizes money and control, as long as his father restores pride to the family (and therefore to Boris). Basically, Boris’s father had reattached Boris’s testicles back on after a weak period around the turn of the last century, and he’s still thanking him for that.
Maria has a more independent streak in her. She doesn’t need her ego stroked quite the same way; instead, she wants her father to invest in her future. Or to at least give a shit about her future. Unfortunately for Maria, her father won’t even step in to help out with new clothes for her when her old ones have holes, choosing to hoard more money for himself and his friends instead.
In fact, all of Maria’s adult role models are pretty shitty. They are always giving out chocolate at their super fancy dinner parties—as if they could glaze over their shortcomings with tasty bribes. Every problem has always been covered up with chocolate; Maria is sick of chocolate. It’s chocolate created for one reason: to make money; that’s what her father does best.
Nothing is about Maria’s needs. She had hoped, years ago, that he would change his behavior after she’d voiced her concerns through an explosive rebellious phase. Really, she hadn’t wanted to make so much noise, but that was the only language the adults around her had ever understood. For a moment’s time, it had seemed like they’d listened to her. But, in the end, they’d continued on behaving just like they always had. And now, that ship has sailed. She isn’t ready to start another rebellion with them right now. She doesn’t have it in her. Plus, wouldn’t it end up being the same old story?
Perhaps her father’s failure to genuinely care for her is at the root of the pattern of dominant men she’s dated. Regardless of the reason, the pattern continues—it was almost on the same day of the breakup with Boris that she met Rich.
Rich is from a faraway land. The name “Rich” is derived from “Richard.” Someone with the name “Richard” has three options to go by: 1. “Richard,” 2. “Rich,” or 3. “Dick”—a poor choice because of its not-so-cool association with the other meaning of the word.
Richard decided to go by “Rich,” which means “wealth.” And wealth is exactly what he wants to be associated with. Rich is the image of Hollywood perfection—he has a wide smile with pearly-white teeth, good-looking facial features, and flowing blond hair. Maria was immediately attracted to him. He is very different from Boris—open, less jealous, not domineering…. He even does the dishes after Maria cooks. Things with Rich seem easy and light, and after the heaviness of Boris, this is a refreshing change. He’s always smiling, which seems a bit odd to Maria. “Is this guy never sad or pissed off,” she wonders to herself. “It’s sort of refreshing, but sort of suspicious.”
A part of Maria wonders why Rich is interested in her. She’s not fully aware of it yet, but Rich has his own way of controlling. He does it through a lot of gifts, blockbuster movie nights, and subtle influence. In a way, he controls by being everywhere in the world at once. His threats are guys like Boris; therefore, he has no problem walking up to “Boris’s woman,” and attempting to get her attention.
The relationship started quick and heavy. But Rich and Maria don’t totally understand each other. She finds it odd that he often asks strangers how they are doing and that he tends to speak in a loud voice in quiet places.
Rich often feels uncomfortable in silence and needs to create idle talk—about the weather or something not worth talking about—to fill up empty spaces. He can’t seem to understand the merits of being quiet, disconnected, or alone with one’s thoughts. Quite often, he asks, “what’s wrong?” when Maria is just sitting quietly with her brilliant thoughts or her downtrodden melancholy (which she has plenty of). She can’t help but compare him to Boris, who is fine with being quiet for long, uninterrupted periods.
While Rich is spontaneous at times, he always reverts back to planning things efficiently. There is an underlying anxiety programmed into him. Like, he has to accomplish something financially monumental—a number with at least six zeros in his bank account—before he can breathe and start to enjoy life. Rich gets shit done like he promises, but sometimes it’s too much. He doesn’t know how to shut down his productivity machine. He brings his laptop to cafés, which Maria finds strange. He is always jumping to the next thought—talking about future dinner plans before finishing the dinner they are actually eating, or talking about that morning’s breakfast while eating dinner. Rich has problems letting things go with the flow.
Most of the time, Maria doesn’t even understand what the hell Rich is talking about: Venture what? Currency arbitrage? An app that connects gamers? He goes on and on about changing the world with outlandish ideas like sharing cars with strangers through this app, or staying at other people’s apartments when they aren’t there through that app, or dropping out of university to accelerate one’s life…. Maria views this with both fascination and a heavy dose of skepticism. “What happened to normal and ‘secure’ professions, like banker, lawyer, or doctor?” she asks herself.
Despite Rich’s pitfalls, it seems like he’s learned the lessons he’d need in some sort of Slavic boot camp taught by a younger Boris of yesteryear: the necessary skill of showering Maria with flowers. And Maria certainly does have a soft spot for flowers! No matter how strong or defiant she is, her guard always comes down when a man brings her flowers. These days, Rich brings more flowers than Boris had in years.
Sometimes, Maria snaps out of her flower intoxication and realizes this is an addiction she needs to get away from. She can feel that there is a hook in them and that something will need to be paid back. But, in a way, flowers have been essential to her survival. For Maria, flowers provide predictable beauty in her unpredictable life and give her a lovely moment away from the daily grind. With flowers, she buries her logic and breathes in the fresh, sweet smell.
One of Maria’s natural gifts is her strong intuition; she can size people up with laser-like precision. This skill has been crucial for her survival, and therefore it’s seeped into her operating code. Rich is often talking about his accomplishments in a roundabout way…. And she sees right through his bullshit with those diamond-piercing eyes. She knows the narratives of Hollywood movies aren’t all real; she sees some of this in Rich.
She finds herself comparing Boris and Rich with increasing regularity. Maria is certain that Boris could trudge through the darker periods of life better than Rich could. Boris could sit in the trenches, freezing his ass off, with the remainder of a cigarette butt dangling from his mouth in a state of normality. He could grit his teeth to bear the harshness and even laugh with his comrades in such horrid conditions. Part of him would even like doing this; part of this is who he is….
Maria doesn’t fully trust that Rich could do the same. Yeah, he was probably capable of this a very long time ago, but it isn’t in his modern DNA. “Could Rich make it through the long, cold winters of life?” she keeps battling with this question. But she knows the answer…. Rich doesn’t know how to suffer at the level Boris does, and there is something attractive about a man that knows how to suffer.
Maria’s younger and more adventurous side likes this Rich guy, but when the day quiets down and the weather grays, her soul longs for Boris. Neither man fits her perfectly, but there is no way she can be with Boris right now; the trauma is too heavy and raw. At least Maria doesn’t have a dark past with Rich.
For now, Maria is with Rich. She’ll still accept his flowers. But she keeps him at arm’s length. Boris has done all he can for now. He’s sulking in the background like the hum of a refrigerator: sometimes audible, sometimes silent, but always present. Maria’s neighborhood is still tough, and she can’t give both men the middle finger; she needs to be calculated.
Deep down she knows she wants to be alone for a while. She knows she will only be able to reach the next level of personal development outside of masculine dominance. She wants to renew herself, to discover more about her depth without tending to a man, to flourish into the woman she is truly capable of becoming….
There are signs of growing independence in Maria’s life. She dreams of a day when both Boris and Rich are at a safe distance. She wants to be at peace with them. She’s a natural survivor; she can make it through anything. Part of her is struggling, but another part of her is having a cultural renaissance within… at least at her nerve center, let’s call it the capital.
Every moment that goes by gives her a hesitant confidence; the warm summer weather and the peaceful street music add to this sense of inner strength too. If she can get the money, she will have the chance to travel to many of the places she’s dreamed of on her own. She’s speaking freely and voices her concerns. She’s expressing her natural creative side.
One day, she hopes to find a man with whom she can live within harmony—one who will understand her, but also respect her as an equal, and not use her for his own selfish gains. If she can stand firmly on her own two feet, she will be prepared to hold her head high as she stands alongside the right man when he comes along.
These characters also go by their other names:
And Rich: The United States
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