The last time our friend C. saw Chriftor, the crazed artist shoved a mildewy canvas knapsack inside the zippered opening of his windbreaker, tucking it up under C.’s armpit, pinning it in place with a frenzied thrust.
“Take all of that and use it,” he begged. “Or not, I do not care, I must become invisible.”
The panicked shadow then sidestepped swiftly between two overfilled dumpsters behind a disused barracks, near the edge of the slowly snaking Neva River, and simply disappeared.
C. had spent a good deal of time with Chriftor Marovsk, if one were to aggregate the numerous encounters over the past two years. None had lasted more than an hour, and were always random, serendipitous encounters, as though Chriftor were dropped into his life by an outside hand, pressing him to cross their colliding timelines and to merge for mere moments, always leaving something behind in his mind for him to ponder.
There were times when C. would spot Chriftor out in the wild, at a café table in a dapper suit enjoying the low sun of a late summer afternoon; or poking through a bin of art prints at a kiosk alongside a river in some aged town with a winding watery artery. There were plenty of those locales throughout the broad expanse stretching across Europe and into the western edges of Russia – the stomping grounds of the great and mysterious Chriftor Marovsk!
Other times C. simply felt a presence while poking through a book shop or minding his own business buying bread at a lonely bakery at the end of a cobbly road. He would inevitably answer to the throaty rasp of a gravelly “we meet again!”
Like this time in Vilnius, Lithuania.
“How is it that I always seem to find you when you are under the thrall of the mundane?” Mr. Marovsk prodded our friend, as he was discovered contemplating toilet paper options in a small corner shop.
“I figure this procurement is necessary, I suppose, rather than droll, as you seem to imply,” he replied. “You could have waited and snuck up on me somewhere else. Although it is always good to see you wherever you may spring into my life.”
“I just wanted to let you know that fresh fruit is the very best remedy for any failings you may find in that little walking meat puppet that carries that big mind of yours,” advised Chriftor. So dramatic, pompous, and theatrical were his phrasings, that C. imagined him rehearsing them in the mirror prior to their meetings.
“I am more concerned with the fact that there is newsprint in this roll of paper,” he replied. “And if you are recommending the addition of further fiber into my diet, this becomes a pivotal decision. Which do you suppose is softer?”
Following the essential purchase, the two wandered for half an hour in a nearby park, trading stories. Chriftor was especially enthusiastic about the oranges in Valencia, having left a ship on the coast of Spain more than a month ago, still savoring their sweet tang after so many weeks. C. was surprised to hear that Marovsk was so far west, as he tended to hover in the Slavic and Balkan part of the continent. Upon parting, Chriftor’s only response when asked where he was off to next was “East! East! East!”
East of Vilnius would now mean Russia. During the first year of their encounters, Chriftor seemed to zig and zag through the zipper separating eastern Europe and Russia. The two generally met on the western side: Krakow, Vienna, Budapest, Pilsn, and often in the smaller towns of this realm. C. tended to nest in an environment of several months, while Chriftor was more spastic in his wanderings, giving reports of life and adventures in Ukraine, Moscow, Petersburg, and once or twice various port towns on the Black Sea.
But then, after the hurried exchange in Saint Petersburg, Chriftor Marovsk vanished. There was no way to reach him, and C. was unsettled by a creeping realization that this may have been the last time he would lay eyes on the great wandering Marovsk.
He stood, shaken by the brevity of the encounter. An odd chill wound its way around his midsection, pausing near his navel, then shooting up his spine, causing his neck to and shoulders to shudder, the jolt finally passing quickly through his brain, and crackling out across the top of his skull. His eyes were on fire, and he felt the sudden need to run. His boot heels clacked along the cobble-stoned riverside and over the bridge toward his neighborhood near the Peter and Paul Fortress.
The knapsack remained concealed under his coat, despite the awkward gait it forced.
He shed his jacket and tossed the moist bag onto the square wooden table in the center of his room, pried his feet out of his boots, and turned on the heater in the corner to ward off the physical chill, while the mental one only intensified.
The canvas straps had expanded in the three buckles securing the flap, and he fussed with them as the room began to warm. He was eager to learn just what the contents would reveal. Was Chriftor in trouble with the law? Which law? Which country’s laws? His hasty retreat was unlike his normal departures, which were often sudden, but never bore the sense of fear and urgency he had just experienced. The great Chriftor Marovsk had to “disappear.” What did that mean?
The contents of the bag were well-organized in their chaos. There were several journals, some rolled pages secured with rubber bands, an IFK Goteburg football jersey, and about two dozen rolls of film clacking against each other in the bottom. There was also a stiff, clear protective sleeve with a folded clutch of pages bearing a bright red “Read Me First” on the cover.
So, C. read it first, and learned that he would likely never see Chriftor Marovsk again, but, according to Chriftor, they would still communicate - in a way. He was, indeed, in trouble, though would not specify the conditions of his peril. Once his wanderings came to an end, C. was to use a brown envelope and send his mailing address each time he had established a home base. There was to be no missive included in the mailing. Chriftor specified that the letters be addressed to Charlos Martink via Poste Restante, Ventspils, Latvia.
Chriftor then indicated that the journals in the knapsack contain much of his very best writing, spanning multiple genres and styles, and he would like for him to arrange for their publication. The modest Marovsk then demanded that the film cannisters be developed and printed, sparing no expense. There would be considerable expense, however, as the rolls of black and white film would demand manual processing.
Lastly, he demanded that, should it be possible, he wanted C. to indicate to the rest of the world that Chriftor Marovsk was a reclusive, yet productive writer and artist living somewhere in the United States. The location was up to him. “Make a pretend me,” he wrote. “I have vanished, yet am everywhere.”
We now have evidence of the publication of several of Chriftor Marovsk’s writings in various small press magazines and journals. The initial whereabouts declared in the biographies indicate that Marovsk lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA, which is fitting as the town is a blend of eastern and western immigrants, bound to a large body of water, as was his favor.
It took many years to carefully develop and repair the damaged film, though several of the cannisters were unharmed. The trove continues to grow, and demand from collectors for the prints was tepid at first, but thanks to the flux of fancy in the art world, they are joining many fine portfolios and appear on the walls of the most savvy art fans.
Chriftor Marovsk remains unchained and invisible.