Our last night’s adventures had their effect on us. We were tired and needed a good rest. And the accident was a good excuse to sleep longer than we intended, so we woke up around noon only. Andrey said there’s something strange with the car and he needed to check everything, so I had time to take shower and finish the book I was reading since I started the journey. Andrey returned at 2 PM only. “Weird thing. When I when down to the car, I swear I saw all 4 tires were deflated. I came back to pick up the keys and when I went down again, everything was just fine with the tires. Isn’t it creepy? Anyways, we can leave now, but let’s go eat something before. I’m starving,” he said. Rice porridge, a few pieces of bread and a cup of black tea with a slice of lemon – the only vegetarian option we were able to find at the hotel’s café. Both of us were silent during the lunch. Leaving the hotel, I was thinking about its rooms – how many strangers have they seen? How many strangers will pass by here and rest their heads on those pillows?
It was around 6.30 PM when we passed the city of Omsk. Andrey decided to make a stop for dinner. We found a restaurant on the road and ate as much as we could. A news report on the TV caught out attention while we were enjoying our meal. It was a story about a bus conductor, a mid-aged woman who forced a pregnant young lady off the bus out into the cold because she didn’t provide a document that certified her pregnancy which gave her a right of free pass in public transportation. She was on her 6th month. “What a bitch,” said one of the waitresses angrily. The rest agreed with her. We… well, Andrey paid, and we left.
At the speed of 120-140 km/h I was observing the night sky, and the Orion was one pure beauty. I looked at the driver, wondering what was he thinking about. He turned to me and said: “So your name is Artyom. How interesting. Do you know what it means?” I knew only that translated from Greek my name meant “unharmed, of pure health”, so I told him about it. “Yes, yes, yes. That is true,” said Andrey. “But not only this. If you divide your name into two parts – ‘ar’ and ‘tyom’, AR stands for for RA – the sun, the light. And TYOM comes from the Russian word “t’ma” (тьма) – darkness. So, Artyom is Light and Darkness.” “And if you divide it into ‘Art’ and the Hindu ‘Om’ sound, you get something like transcendental art,” I added and smiled. Andrey suggested two more interpretations of my name: “Artyom was a social status in ancient times. Say, there were centurions and others, and the highest rank was artyom, i.e. his spiritual level is very high. Also the word “t’ma” (darkness) can have another meaning – ten thousand. In Cyrillic numerals “t’ma” stands for 10K, or 100K. So then ‘artyom’ means someone who gives light to tens of thousands of people.” I freaked out on that one and looked at Andrey. He smiled. I knew then I need to learn more about him.
Andrey considered himself a Slavo-Aryan and pagan, and believed that life on Earth is of extraterrestrial origin. “Many centuries ago, the gods from the other planets settled the first earthlings around the North Pole and left for 10 thousand years to come back in 2012 to take them back home,” he said and added that these 10,000 years are called Kali Yuga. “Our Earth is the only planet that has a portal to the spiritual world, and the only place on Earth where the ‘keys’ from that spiritual portal are still preserved is India. Our goal as humans is to visit India and learn from the people there how we can go back to our true origins,” he continued. I was familiar with the concept of yugas, but his interpretation was something very new for me.
At 2 o’clock in the morning we arrived in the city of Novosibirsk. Andrey drove me through the entire city and dropped off at a parking lot just outside Novosibirsk on the road to Kemerovo. He decided to take a little rest in Novosibirsk. By now I have crossed about 3500 km, and there was no reason for me to wait for him until morning for another 270 km before he’d take his turn to the city of Tomsk. It was time to part. We said goodbye to each other. I felt sad. After 2 days and 3 nights spent on the road together we were like good old friends now.
Tea with Strangers