Posted by: sean | January 21, 2009

The Most Miserable Girl in the World

I decided to choose my own for a bit and headed to Europe, a journey with maps, for a month. I took hot showers, partook in no stadium riots, saw no Tercels, it was fantastic – the hot shower part at least. I traveled by rail with my backpack. At an art museum in Berlin I bought a poster to decorate my house back in Liberia, which, until now, has been decorated in what I call the Silent Post-Expressionist Style (Don’t look at what I’m hanging, look at what I’m NOT hanging. It’s a deep movement; also cheap). They put the poster in a laughably large prism-shaped box. And then I traveled by rail with my backpack and a giant Tolberone bar. I saw old friends, lots of euro-mullets, and even made some new friends. But, this post is not about any of that. Not at all. This post is about the Most Miserable Girl in the World.

backpack and tolberone box

You see, bar this post, my blog is about small stories or events – observations – that hopefully convey some of the wonder and enveloping hilarity that I see in my everyday life. This post is about the Most Miserable Girl in the World.

She lives in Belarus. If you can call what she does ‘living’.

Now, you might say, Sean, that was a tad bit on the mean side, I like your blog because you convey some of the wonder and enveloping hilarity you see in your everyday life – don’t go negative! But you have not met the Most Miserable Girl in the World. I am doing you a service by warning you about her.

Belarus is billed to the intrepid traveler as the ‘last dictatorship in Europe’. Ah, the nostalgia. The train from Berlin to Minsk takes about 17 hours, with a healthy three hour border crossing between Poland and Belarus. Minsk is a wonderful city, apparently built from scratch after WWII modeled on designs laid out in licorice miniatures by Stalin’s half-brother Dimitry, who was fond of Orwell. Some of this may not be true. I traveled there with my friend Laura. Laura, I’m not quite sure how or why, befriended the Most Miserable Girl in the World at Oxford, where they both study, one of them miserably. The Most Miserable Girl in the World invited Laura, and in turn me, to visit Minsk. I jumped at the opportunity, provided that I could bring my giant Tolberone. I could.

The train cabin was smoky and poorly ventilated. This, coupled with the healthy three hour border crossing, meant that I didn’t get much sleep. We arrived in Minsk at 10am on January 3rd. It is important to note, at this point, 10am on January 3rd, that the Most Miserable Girl in the World had not been described as such by Laura. Laura used words like, ‘Nice, Forward, Sensitive, Nurturing’ to describe her. This sounded like a person I would want to meet. And meet her we did on the train platform. She seemed absolutely normal, hiding all traces of the deep, intense misery of her soul.

In less than 48 hours, I would be back at the train station, buying an early ticket to escape her.

Now, it has been well documented by family and friends that I walk insanely slow on snowy, slushy, or icy streets. When it gets cold outside, my inner ear falls asleep and I adopt the sense of balance of a drunk hobo. I cope by walking slow, taking my time to think through each step. My thought process when walking on snowy, slushy, or icy streets goes as follows:

1.Ok, I think I should move forward.
2.Alright, let’s lift the left (right) leg.
3.Phew. That wasn’t so bad, one leg up, the other stationary….
4.Alright, swing that good ol’ momentum forward!
5.Whoa!!!! Easy boy!!!! What the hell are you trying to do?! Swing it slower than that: you ‘ve only got one foot planted, genius.
6.Ok, better. Now, let’s put ‘er down nice and easy. Not there!!! It looks slick. Closer to the planted foot.
7.Touch down! Now, let’s not transfer the weight just yet, we don’t know how slippery this might be, ease into it…. Slow and steady doesn’t slip.
8.Easy. Easy. There!
9.Looks like we’re good, I think we all agree that that was a job well done. The human body truly is a miracle.
10.What now?
11.Back to Step 1.

It’s a long process. The Most Miserable Girl in the World did not appreciate the process and thought, which I was soon to find was par for the course, that my actions were deliberately designed to slow her down and to get on her nerves. Look at this Belorussian, walking all fast, I’ll show her! Cackle cackle.

Walk faster
I wish I could, but I can’t, sorry
What do you mean, you can’t?
Um, I can’t, I’ll fall. I have horrible balance.

Subway in MinskShe rolled her eyes and went back to talking to Laura about how orange oranges were, or something similarly interesting that a deep, intuitive person would feel about the world. We had to go register with the government immigration service, which turned into a bureaucratic chase from one building to the next, though not a bad process. When Laura and I were alone at one point she sensed that I wasn’t exactly warming to her friend and explained to me that she, ‘feels things really deeply’. This was the lens through which I was to interpret her actions…then I’d understand. We eventually gave up on getting the proper forms filled out for immigration and went back to the apartment for the evening. I was exhausted at this point and wanted nothing more than to collapse somewhere and catch up on sleep.

Eat this.
Well, I’m not really hungry, I’m just really tired, you see the train….
You should eat this.

Over the next hour she and Laura talked while I remained too tired to express anything, but I hoped that the fact I was falling asleep at the kitchen table was a subtle hint. It wasn’t. Her mannerisms resembled those of a pouty child too close-minded to put herself in someone elses shoes. Over the next hour, she would make immutable decrees on the nature of humanity and, only when they veered into the absurdly unfounded would Laura say something to the effect of: weeeeelll, that’s not entirely true, I think there’s more room there and that’s one opinion…. The Most Miserable Girl in the World was the type of person to whom nuanced thought of the kind Laura was suggesting was an impossible endeavor. She conceded nothing.Minsk

Now, I’ve met a variety of people. I can handle, even enjoy, stubborn, self-centered people. They usually have some redeeming character trait. The Most Miserable Girl in the World had none. All the qualities that Laura liked seemed to me to be absent, contrivances, or some misinterpretation of her horrible behavior. Her admirable ‘forwardness’ was just her lack of consideration for other people, desire to twist a situation to her own desires, and social ineptitude. Her admirable ‘nurturing’ was just her telling you what you had to do. Laura saw this as her just ‘feeling everything deeply’, and I was starting to feel deeply that, for the first time in my life, I had met a person that I truly despised. She was miserable. Perhaps the most miserable one.

Eventually, I laid on the floor to stretch out my back while she watched a funny Soviet movie about inept hunters who drink a lot. When the movie was done, I crawled into bed, clothed, and collapsed.

I awoke to the lovely sounds of the Most Miserable Girl in the World, whose voice has a soft, whiney air to it.

Sean, you need to get up, we are leaving in 20 minutes.
Huh? Wha?
You go to bed in your clothes, and don’t say that you want to use the covers, but you have used the covers now. You should not go to bed in your clothes. I don’t know why you did that, here we don’t do that.
I was just really tired, all day yesterday, like I said – I don’t mean to be rude.
We leave in 20 minutes.

I was feeling slightly sick, exhausted, and the thought of spending an entire day with the Most Miserable Girl in the World was not too appealing, so I opted to stay home and relax…because I was on vacation. She agreed to this. I had a fantastic day. They came home at about 5:30 and I felt refreshed and ready to have another crack at relating to the Most Miserable Girl in the World. She asked us what we wanted to do that evening. A hilarious tourist brochure we picked up in Berlin said that bowling was a ‘democratic’ sport and ‘everyday growing in popularity’ as people tried to get the ‘long-awaited strike’. Before we boarded the train in Berlin, Laura and I had decided that bowling in Belarus was a must!

No bowling.
Oh, you don’t like to bowl?
I have never been.
Then let’s go!

She then explained that bowling was a sport of the government elite and that she would be passively voicing her support for the government, and those type of people, if she went bowling – all of which made sense. There would be no bowling in Belarus. We went to a restaurant then came home. Laura went to bed and I talked with the Most Miserable Girl in the World for a bit, and we had a decent conversation about her fears on graduation and opinions on life in Oxford. Afterwards, I went to the bedroom, exuberant. Peace in our time!!

MinskI woke up of my own accord the next morning and wandered into the kitchen to find the Most Miserable Girl in the World sitting there, miserable. I was duped by her Hitleresque shenanigans duringthe previous night’s peacemaking, but still I clung to the idea that I could appease her and all would be well.

Is everything ok?
Yes, I am fine.
Ok, hey, do you know a place in town where I can drop off my clothes to be washed?
I don’t know. And it does not make any sense anyway because it will take time and be hard and it won’t work.
Yes, you’re right, it doesn’t make sense at all.

I retreated to the bedroom, baffled that someone could so effectively ruin someone else’s day so quickly. Was it her eye rolling when she told me that my idiotic plan to clean my clothes was not feasible? Or was it the fact that she sat motionless looking out the window, declining to look at me? I think it was both.

We had to go finish registering with the immigration service, which also required us to purchase Belorussian health care coverage. At the doorway to her apartment, I decided to make one last attempt to get us in good spirits. I tried to think of what to say to the Most Miserable Girl in the World. It had to be something that she already agreed with, something easy to grasp. The day before she had talked about the crazy bureaucratic processes in Belarus, so I picked up from there.

Are we all ready for some bureaucracy!

She turned to me.

There is the same bureaucracy in the West, even worse than here.

Yes. Um. That’s what I was trying to say… I couldn’t win. She was miserable. As Laura tried to explain to her that she had misinterpreted me, I made my way down the stairs, confounded by her behavior. We walked in silence – I had been silent when we walked since everything I said seemed to be torn apart or judged, or I had nothing about oranges or the misery of life to relate to – until she exploded.

Yes, let’s all just be silent and pretend that everything is fine! I don’t believe that you walk that slowly. And why don’t you eat food at my house? Some people, like Laura, you meet and you just know that they are good people, they are nice, and you can see it in their face.
Hey! I’m trying to be nice!
Yes, you are trying. Some people, like Laaaaura, don’t have to try to be nice. Everything is nice. Americans are so nice all the time. They are never angry.
I could get angry if you want. I didn’t eat breakfast this morning because I wasn’t hungry…
Sure. ‘Because you weren’t hungry.’ And now I hear that you were inviting other friends to Belarus!

And there I zoned out. She wasn’t worth getting angry at; she was just miserable. At New Years in Berlin, I had tried to convince my friend Dan to come to Minsk. He clearly wanted to go and I said we could grab a cheap room and go bowling – apparently the Most Miserable Girl in the World held a monopoly on who could enter her country. Laura told her that she was being ridiculous…I think…I zoned out and decided to grab a train to get away from the Most Miserable Girl in the World.

When I told her my plan, it was the first thing I said that didn’t get an eye-roll or a snide comment from left field.

Is this what you want to do?

Was she serious?! Did I want to hop on a train – to anywhere – and get away from her? Would I rather leave than spend an hour more in her miserable company? She studied at Oxford, but she didn’t seem too bright. I held back all the things that I wanted to say, instead saying: Yes, I think this will be for the best, I need to get to Budapest earlier and you should enjoy (Orthodox) Christmas….

I bought my ticket. And lo! For the next five hours she was a bearable, relatively normal, engageable human being. She was the child who had pouted for a toy for the past two days and finally received it, realizing sheepishly now that they had been acting like a fool. Before I left I met her sister who seemed the polar opposite – she wasn’t miserable at all.

I was dropped off at the train station and said goodbye to Laura and the Most Miserable Girl in the World. Laura apologized for her friend’s behavior. The Most Miserable Girl in the World gave me a pathetically weak smile that seemed to show that she knew she was miserable. I walked into the station and didn’t look back.

I would highly recommend that you visit Belarus and Minsk. The city is alive. When you go, however, steer clear of the Most Miserable Girl in the World. She is not alive. She is miserable.


  1. Geez…the Russian’s cutting off the heat get to you? Sounds like she was the ‘Picasso’ of the Silent Post-Expressionist Syle….so close to genius and you just did not realize it!

  2. hmm…I’m shocked that you opted not to pick a fight with that ‘thing’. That seemed like the typical “sean” thing to do.

    I also think that you should give me a taste of what this “euro-mullet” looks like….sounds intriguing.

  3. never mind I know what a euro-mullet looks like….and it is intriguing

  4. Actually, I’ve been wanting to say those things to you for a long time. What’s with your habits of constantly washing clothes and eating when you’re hungry?

  5. I think I know that girl. Did she live with me my Sophomore year of college?

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