Gleb’s Story

Vadim Bystritski

The sickness was not really gone. I dreamed that my mother was shaking me by the shoulder and it was as difficult to wake up today as it had been then. The undergarment with a small hole in the seam made me think of the other more expensive models without seams. Dima was already in the kitchen, slicing baloney and lemon. I could only eat half of the sandwich; and with the sheepskin on, my impression was that only half of my body was mine. Walking down the flight of stairs, a metallic noise from the epicenter of the illness made me adjust the coat; but with the next flight of stairs, the noise only moved a little to the left. I began to unbutton the coat and the jacket when from the porch I saw the Lincoln in the warm white cloud of exhaust smoke. The seatbelt had to go under the arm, but inside there was the spirit of movement that made me forget the malignant conspiracy of trifles.

From where we parked, there was a short walk across the marketplace and the metallic cricket inside me woke up again: it was certainly not pain, but a sound stuck somewhere between the parts of my body, as if these were floor boards—an audible feeling I could not share with anyone. There were already forty of us and moving inside this walking group made me remember riding a bicycle in a quad. We had stopped when Tolyan brought the news that the Chechens were already occupying the store. His idea was not to go in but throw a few hand grenades instead. It began to snow and I thought of that supernatural moment at the beginning of every war: the understanding that there was no other response but to grasp your part of the event. At forty you are careful about keeping what you have gathered—not property, but personal notions like the wheels of the bicycle in the snow.

The group was jovial—the prank seemed to replace the difficult negotiations. Tolyan threw away the cigarette which he couldn’t smoke with any satisfaction when it snowed. Dmitri said something. Ten-twenty: the mud outside the store made no sense. The falling snow made it look earlier and the decisions and actions taken at such an hour were not supposed to be dangerous or improper.

I was cold, but not in a hurry and examined the kiosk with drinks when from behind came a voice, “Hey, buy me some ice cream!” and the shove forced me to make two extra steps; and when I turned and gazed into her face, it was not that I had borne the chalice of my body through the day, but simply the fact that I had nothing to say to this market whore that made me nod to Dmitri whose choreography could not be stopped by, “Dima, let her go,” for the fingers of the harpist were already in the strings: her fur hat had fallen and the hair tossed from side to side. “Go,” he said softly to the body sliding to the pavement...

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