All original work © 2009 - 2017 Alexey Provolotsky

28 December 2011

Demonstrations under my windows



They keep demonstrating under my windows. Draped in flags and slogans, they do something to my blood. They make it cold. So that I have to put on clothes, more clothes – every time it’s more clothes. I listen up, I take my pencil, I write it down. I don’t know why I bother, but it must be the words they shout. Each time their words are like a bite of ice-cream gushing and whooshing through my warm, comfortable, unprepared teeth. I busy myself with some odd writing. It’s good therapy. It stretches the muscles, it numbs the effect.

Every step of theirs is a step of a trespasser invading my private space. It makes my heart heavy, and I look around. My kids: are they safe? They are, beautiful and oblivious between screens and headphones, they won’t notice or hear a thing. For them, it’s all about Facebook friends, tight jeans and pop stars. The demonstration has nothing to do with them. And while we are at it, it has nothing to do with me either. Me? I just want my warmth back.

Gone are the days when you could just look out of the window sucking on an orange, watching telly or doing some abstract knitting. These days you have to pay attention. Which is annoying. When you are a teenager and something’s annoying, you are just annoyed. But when you are my age (48), and something’s annoying, you are not just annoyed: there’s also something about your lungs. About your heart. Some headache. Some kidney disorder. Something to consult your physician about. Something about your blood.

Also, this uncertainty. Win it, for God's sake. Win it, please. Win it. Or get lost.

In the meantime, I’m reduced to a sorry figure so reminiscent of an old spinsterish woman leaning against the wall, pricking up her ears and trying to discern the details of the hysterical row of the newly-weds. Still, I’m more than that: I’m writing it all down in my notebook. I’m keeping my secret diary: the slogans, the number of demonstrators, the exact date… There's no easy way to explain this, but I guess I’m not doing this for others. For once, I'm doing it for myself.

And then comes the snap, at the end of each day, when suddenly the whole thing ceases. I switch off the lights, roll down under my window-sill, and cover my eyes and ears with the palms of my hands. Outside there are screams, sounds of violence and apparently the sight of blood spurting out on the pavement and on the road. The raving hissing of cars means that the demonstration's well and truly over. 


I wish they stopped. I wish the goddamn demonstrators didn’t have to come tomorrow, for their own sake.

When it all quiets down a bit, and it does, somewhere around midnight, I start tearing off my clothes. I do that because I sincerely believe that I won't be needing them, now that another demonstration has gone astray. Deep down, there's a fear that they might arrest me – for I have this notebook full of bad letters and cold, uncomfortable words. My secret diary: something to arrest me for.

Also, even when it all quiets down to the point of total, undiluted silence, even at those rare moments: I’m not getting any warmer. I’m not. I'm just not.


8 December 2011

Pornographic fantasia on Sarah Lucas


Sarah Lucas woke up one morning to find her room covered in genitalia. On first glance, the genitalia was all human, but as her eyes kept piercing through the fuzzy cobweb of recent sleep, Sarah could see that this was in fact not the case. The genitalia (and Sarah was quite an expert on the subject) was way too exotic, bizarre, inexplicable. Some of it could belong to porcupines, to giant hedgehogs, to unicorns, to creatures from Mars.

Sarah Lucas was greatly animated. Her first intention was to call the police, but it was soon replaced by another one: to call her manager and set up a London exhibition for next Sunday. In the end, she decided against both. Partly because all the sockets in her room now strongly resembled vaginas (which meant she could hardly plug in her discharged mobile phone) and partly because the moment she picked up her Blackberry from the bedside table, the Blackberry turned out to be a ridiculously huge penis with what seemed and felt like a monstrously stiff erection.

Sarah got out of bed. She wanted to believe that hers was a case of an extremely high postmodernist fever, but the more she familiarized herself with what insisted to be her room, the less it looked like some particularly fucked-up hallucination. Oddly, all was in place: the Oriental vase, her working tools, her hat, the beautiful disarray of her works – it’s just that by some divine or devilish will it had all turned overnight into this amazing mess of cocks and pussies. Sarah was again and again reminded of that typewriter scene in Cronenberg’s adaptation of Naked Lunch… The Oriental vase was a true sensation. To say that she had never seen (or, indeed, imagined) anything quite like that would have been a gross understatement. This was monumental, this could humble a mammoth.

She cast a heavy but already sleepless glance in the direction of her bed. Yes, that too. Jesus, what kind of female (bar Mother Earth, of course) could possess that?!

Did Sarah enjoy it all? Did she consider this… interesting, exciting, alluring? In some strange way she did. The whole thing looked kind of breathtaking, artsy and edgy to the point of total delirium. But there was some restless feeling, too. What if it wasn’t just this room of hers that had genitalia spread all over it? What about the kitchen? What about the forks and the cups? What if a saggy pair of walrus testicles was now hanging from the ceiling in every room of her apartment? Instead of her exquisite chandeliers? Her imagination kept painting the labialized toilet bowl. No, she couldn’t possibly bring herself to that. No way.

Sarah made her second move of the morning and immediately stepped onto something. She looked down. The strangely soft and inflated pencil ejaculated lavishly all over her bare feet. Now this was disgusting. What else was disgusting? Well, the fact that it was all her yesterday’s work. Her sculptures, her sketches, even a couple of still-life paintings. Ruined now, mutilated, gone, dead, turned real.

And then Sarah remembered something. Her drawings! Her childhood drawings were stuffed somewhere under her bed, and without thinking twice Sarah Lucas selflessly threw herself on the floor (which, thankfully, still looked like the floor). There was a long cancerous pause before Sarah reemerged with a dusty, yellow roll of paper.

- Intact, – uttered Sarah, trying to spread it open.

She couldn’t. In her very own hands, right there and then, the roll of paper was slowly but mercilessly turning itself into a ridiculously huge… banana.  


19 November 2011

Turn on, sign in, drop out



I got John’s message while searching for top hats on eBay. Buying and ordering top hats on eBay is an obsession of mine – I’m certain we all have them, obsessions. Mine is quite harmless, I believe. Ann, for instance, watches YouTube videos about Mexican drug dealers of the 80’s. Peter is seriously into this wicked message board dedicated to Nazi architecture. As for Sam– well, Sam keeps voting for his favourite Hungarian Playboy Playmates using different IP-addresses.     

Anyway: John’s message. I heard a vibrating click on my computer, which meant there was a new e-mail to check. I knew the message was from John before I even clicked my way to the mailbox: John is the old-fashioned sort. Poor bugger, of all my friends he is the only one who still uses e-mails. The message had this lazy but inevitable ‘none’ as a title and was in capital letters. The whole thing contained five words as well as an endless row of smileys. The words were: BAD CONNECTION – BUT GOT ACCESS.

This was, of course, some news. My first reaction was that I simply had to reach him right away. But my initial idea, which was Skype, wasn’t too good: John wouldn’t be on Skype. He practically never was, which was the reason why so many people kept ‘unfriending’ him on Facebook. I’ve long resolved against it – ever since he let me know he could hack the system and get occasional access. Not often, mind you, but at this moment in time 'occasionally' seems good enough. John is a crafty bugger, possibly the craftiest in our town, and I have to hang on to him. So I clicked ‘reply’ and wrote him an e-mail full of hopeless typos. I’m saying ‘hopeless’, because not even my illegally downloaded Google Grammar Checker could identify most of the words I was after. But what does it matter?..

I gave it another think. Bloody hell, John got access. Somewhere below the coffee-stained keyboard my limbs are getting all tingly. I am genuinely excited.  He’d been desperately looking for the connection for about a week or two, so mentioning that the connection is bad is like telling the loser that all he gets is the third prize.

This access is a sensitive issue. Take Ann. Like a good girl she is, Ann doesn’t even believe this connection exists. Peter thinks it’s possible, but he tweeted yesterday that he thinks we don’t need it. Sam doesn’t seem to give a damn.

But I do. You see, if the connection does exist, then there is still hope.

I’m blogging now, blogging like mad – my fingertips hard and checked like they belong to a guitar player. Except I can’t do so much as a single chord.   

John hasn’t replied yet, and there’s a huge part of me that hates him for that. Because if you aren’t there at somebody’s first whistle, then what is this all for? But there is another part, too, that knows that John can’t be around if the connection really does work properly. And I so hope that it does. In my impeccably pixelated cyber dreams, amid ugly porn stars and beautiful avatars, there’s this scene when I open my front door, take a breath of fresh air, and drown happily in a swarm of eBay top hats waiting for me on the threshold.    

10 November 2011

Книги и имена


Вниз по стене, над самой ее головой, полз огромный паук. Он настороженно посмотрел в ее сторону: нет, ее взгляд был по-прежнему спрятан в дрожавших белых коленях, которые в полумраке казались ему фарфоровыми. Он удовлетворенно вздохнул: она наверняка вскрикнула бы, истошно, по-девичьи, если бы увидела паука, и все бы на этом закончилось. Как какой-то отчаянный комар, который вдруг осознал, что ему осталось час или два, тишина продолжала пить кровь из него, из нее, из всей этой комнаты. Состояние казалось ему приятным.
Кроме них двоих, а также нескольких полусонных пауков, растекавшихся по грязно-желтой стене, в комнате был кто-то еще. Возможно, мыши. Когда поздно ночью они приехали в этот отель, он первым делом спросил, не будет ли в их номере крыс или мышей. Управляющий, казалось, был сбит с толку и нервно и почти обиженно ответил, что нет и как такое вообще могло кому-то прийти в голову. Он извинился за свой вопрос (он вообще был очень обходительным все эти три дня), но он должен был знать наверняка. Вчера она сказала, что больше всего на свете боится мышей. 
И вот теперь ему казалось, что он слышит отдаленный скрип, шорох, писк. Хотя, возможно, ему все это только казалось: она ничего не слышала. Или не хотела слышать. Интересно, если бы он спросил управляющего о пауках, что бы тот ответил?..
- Какой здесь жуткий запах, – тихо произнес он. – Тебе не холодно?
Она не ответила, но он видел, как она тряслась. Он подобрал скомканные полы одеяла и прикрыл ее голые плечи. Там, у школы, три дня назад, она не казалось ему такой субтильной. В холодном паркете под ногами он вновь и вновь пытался рассмотреть тот день. Отчего-то он едва его помнил. Единственное, что все еще представлялось достаточно четким, – это цвета и ощущения. Ее красное пальто, например, которое они забыли в первом же отеле. Ее восхищенный взгляд. Он так боялся поначалу, что взгляд этот был предназначен не ему, а его роскошной машине. Он вдруг поймал себя на мысли, что теперь, пожалуй, было уже все равно.   
Но даже под одеялом ее продолжало трясти. Он аккуратно расправил складки, чтобы ей было теплее и уютнее. Ему нравилось вот так заботиться о ней. Так можно было не думать о многом другом: в особенности о ее мрачном настроении, которое все не оставляло ее. Вокруг продолжала виться тишина, и тишина могла вместить в себя так многое.
Он осторожно обхватил ее ладонь своими, но она тут же судорожно вырвалась. И он увидел перед собой ее бледный, холодный взгляд.
И она назвала его по имени. Он не мог поверить. Она сказала, что хочет домой, но не столько это поразило его. Его поразило имя, которое она назвала. Это не было его имя. Это имя было слишком коротким, слишком однозначным и слишком простым.
- Что? Как ты меня назвала?
Она повторила.
- Чье это имя?
Она молчала. Он перестал слышать скрип.
- Чье это имя? Лолита, чье это имя?
Она вдруг резко посмотрела на него. Тяжелый взгляд, от которого пересыхало во рту.
- Лолита? – изумленно спросила она. – Какая Лолита?
Он раскрыл рот, чтобы что-то сказать, или хотя бы не дать сказать ей, но он не успел: она успела назвать свое имя.

8 November 2011

MADELEINE



short story

The weird thing was that you couldn’t sit on that chair. The chair was a most dull, plain little wooden thing – and yet you couldn’t sit on it. Almost everything about the rest of the room as well as the tone of the conversation suggested that you were perhaps supposed to, but you had to fight it back. Because the moment you approached that chair with the most natural intention of sitting on it, her eyes angrily, unequivocally told you to stay away. And it got strained from there, and pretty soon, shattered and confused, you would have to go home.

She wasn’t a widow – though that would have explained a lot. She was a 30-odd spinster with no decent prospects, family or friends. Just the three of us; three students who once caught a glimpse of her emerging from a local grocery. And daringly approached her, and got acquainted, and said yes to her honey biscuits and peach tea (the first and last time we visited her together, cheeky in front of one another but inside trembling all over – fearing she might poison us and then abuse and mutilate our dead bodies). Of course, young and smug, we wouldn’t have bothered in the first place, but there was this one thing: Madeleine was beautiful. Insanely beautiful. Beautiful and unmarried.

And the thing is, we weren’t simply after her underwear (though I, for one, did get to see her stockings a number of times) – we were genuinely interested in marrying her. Madeleine was the first woman who did that to us, and back in the wintry street that night, with her telephone number stuffed lovingly in our back pockets, each of us knew what he had to do. I distinctly remember that Terry was whistling some contemporary pop hit – something we wouldn’t normally do. And all those dimly lit street lamps we encountered on our nippy, silent way home were an endless succession of faceless girlfriends we were to say goodbye to.

Though Madeleine’s fragrant, feminine presence made us too timid to voice our intentions, she knew perfectly well what it was that we wanted. And did nothing to discourage us. Alone in her huge but non-spacious flat, she’d make preparations: teas, cakes, wines, cigarettes. She knew what each of us liked, and she was clearly trying to please us. By turns we’d be there, talking to her, eating her food, listening to her records, and even making inhibited passes. She wouldn’t go to the movies or make love to you or have you talking to her about marriage, but everything else was allowed. Everything except sitting on that damned chair – which was exactly like all those other chairs in the room, only this one was invitingly, conspicuously sticking out. That chair was wrong. I remember that on our very first date I was close to actually committing that crime – which was sitting on it. But something dragged me away at the last moment and made me choose a sofa or another chair. Some hysterical whisper. I could swear she whispered ‘no’. I could swear she did.

Madeleine’s flat looked straight from Tolkien’s shire – as cozy and cove-like. It had four or five rooms in it, but besides bathroom and an occasional three-second peek into her dark bedroom (when she was not around), I don’t remember ever spending any time outside of her living-room. The living-room was stylishly, expensively furnished and had this really strong smell of mahogany – dense but artsy. (The money, I was later to learn, was coming from her bank account – the only memory of her well-off father who had long been deceased. Madeleine worked as some kind of freelance writer for a fashion magazine – which certainly explained her impressive collection of dresses I was lamely fighting off with my cheap ties.) Still uttering breathlessly how beautiful she was that evening, you would enter the living-room, and be immediately seized by that grand mahogany table in the middle of the room, the food and the drinks, and her stiflingly warm presence nearby. She wouldn’t make any fuss – she would gently lead you to the table, say something about her neighbour’s strange cat in that seductively nasal voice of hers, pull one of the chairs and sit on it. You would then have to notice the chair that was waiting for you to the right of her – but you somehow knew it wasn’t for you. God knows who it was for – but it wasn’t for you. It wasn’t for me.

Strangely, throughout all those evenings you always had this feeling that you could sleep with Madeleine, could even marry her – but first you’d have to do something about that chair. And I know how crazy it sounds.

I honestly tried it all: I circled it, I gazed at it, I acted as if it wasn’t there, I actually touched it once (despite her unspokenly violent protests – after that she wouldn’t call or invite me for two weeks). One or two times I almost threw it out of the window in suppressed fury and blind frustration, but one thought that it could put an end to all these after-University evenings with Madeleine made me reconsider. Another anguished impulse I remember was to say to hell with it and jump at Madeleine and tear her clothes off and do the thing right there and then (taking her by force wouldn’t have been a problem – considering my full-blooded age and her delicate disposition). But surely that would have ruined it all: our meetings, my marriage plans. Madeleine lived quietly, desolately, so I don’t think there would have been any charges. But all the same – being called a rapist in my early twenties and in a town like ours wasn’t exactly part of my plan.

- Madeleine, – I’d say, entering her flat. I made a point of pronouncing her name as often as was possible – the sounds made my larynx dribble sexually. – Here, brought you a record. You should love it.

- Really? What’s that? – Her voice was always uplifting, pregnant with beautiful prospects and my tormented expectations.

Tonight, – you’d think. – It will happen tonight”.

Our musical tastes couldn’t have been more different: she loved jazz, and I was at that time going through my inevitable punk rock phase. This would have worked brilliantly in a Woody Allen film, but to me it looked like a dead end. It looked hopeless. Surely enough, prior to our first real date I made my homework: I carefully examined numerous books and articles dedicated to jazz, I sheepishly borrowed a couple of Miles Davis’ LP’s from my library (and detested them, of course), I even studied a couple of jazz licks on my guitar that was more familiar with power chords of Joe Strummer and Johnny Ramone. And on that memorable Wednesday evening I came to her with a crappy John Coltrane compilation I’d fished out of some record store. She of course dismissed it. She said she liked Coltrane, but certainly not in a cheap compilation sort of way, which made me shrink by about an inch or two. I said I agreed. I said I adored jazz, and it was a poor choice and God knows what had come over me and things like that. To my defense I never again repeated that mistake. Having learned a lot about her record collection, I was on a constant lookout for the most obscure jazz rarities.

So we’d listen to some new record (quite unbelievably, I almost tricked myself into thinking jazz was okay), we’d smoke, we’d talk about my day, her day, we’d go through some of our thoughts and anxieties, as well as lots of unimportant stuff I can’t even remember. All very easygoing and even lighthearted. Her head half-thrown back, her mouth half-open, her posture half-expectant – my sexual experience was wide enough to think that it was all suggestive enough. I could see she enjoyed my company, but for me this was merely an outset, an overture. I craved for some continuation, and there wasn’t any. Like something was wrong; some distant feeling of restlessness, some dull pain you have in you but find hard to identify. You paced the room, you bit your nails, you hysterically thought about time, and at some point you were bound to break it off and do something stupid. And it came so naturally:

- Madeleine, let’s go out, let’s go somewhere…

- Madeleine, let’s meet someplace tomorrow…

- Madeleine, have you ever thought of marrying someone?..

She’d hold my hand, she’d stroke my hair, she’d kiss me lightly on the cheek, she’d tell me about her childhood crushes, but there was never any convincing reaction to any of my suggestions. Also, at some point, strangled by anticipation and annoyance, I would start looking at that chair, again and again, feel its bizarre and insistent presence. And you saw it then, didn’t you? You identified it – right when the very clock on her living-room wall was beginning to seduce you with its heavy pre-orgasmic beating, and Madeleine made it clear that it was time for you to leave.

You saw it: that one chair, that wooden little bugger, it kept scoffing snottily at you: it’s all down to me, my dear, it’s all down to me.

But why? I didn’t understand it, and I had to go home – like a lost beggar robbed of his last hat. Thinking on my way that there was but one thing I wanted more than anything else in the world: to be back with Madeleine again. Oh the constant menace of those long, torturous, empty days that lay ahead!..

Was there perhaps something we didn’t know? Some incident in her past? An ill-fated affair, unrequited love, a stillborn? It could really be anything, and my still boyish imagination pursued every slight and unlikely possibility. But then Madeleine was never too secretive about her life, and I can think of half a dozen instances when she was the one who actually instigated that kind of intimacy. As it happened, there’d been nothing even remotely tragic about her personal life. “Total void, – was the way she’d put it. – Nothing”. There were men (lovers perhaps), but in the long run they proved to be disappointing. Which made me fear for my chances, because several months and at least a dozen evenings into our acquaintance, my case was still pretty much hopeless. And I wasn’t getting any more charming. Obviously, Madeleine could have lied about her past, but then not with that bright face, not with that easy, lighthearted tone, not with those lovely eyes. I somehow knew it for a fact: no, Madeleine didn’t lie.  

But what of my friends? Well, we fell for her simultaneously, all three of us. Was it her body, her looks? In retrospect it probably was. Unlike all those sickly, anorexic University girls we knew, Madeleine had a fully realised, mature body. It was voluptuous (but then: we would have probably rejected anything else), yet that voluptuousness was delicate and understated. It of course pained me to think of those weekly dates Madeleine shared with my two friends, of all those Mondays and Thursdays that were not mine, of all those jazz records or cubist paintings or 19th-century romantic novels they were probably discussing, and sometimes I felt an urgent need to settle it between us. But there were several things that kept it all as it was. First, I wanted to win, I wanted to be the one, and I wanted those other two to fail. Second, I could have no special claim on Madeleine, and, considering my endless failures, could hardly play a possessive lover. And finally, I was somewhat perversely curious about whether they were having any luck. With Madeleine? Oh no, never, not that. With the wooden chair. 

We did discuss the whole thing between us, during lunch breaks and in hushed tones, but the further it got, the more we drifted away from each other. We were becoming more independent, more cold and estranged. We’d only known each other since the freshman times, we were not childhood friends – so we didn’t have any stolen sweets, damp and smelly dog-ends or nude girls to fall back upon. Instead, we had dope, swapped girlfriends and a half-assed punk rock band with a bassist (me) who didn’t even know how to tune his instrument. Our ties not too strong, that friendship was growing dusty, uneasy, compromised. I could read frustration in their eyes, and they could probably read it in mine. But I didn’t care about mine – safe in the knowledge that they were not faring any better. Instead, we talked about the chair (for which I was oddly grateful – after all, it was my only insurance that neither of them could fuck or marry Madeleine).

- I asked her about it.

- About the chair? And? What? What did she say?

- She grew tense. Well, you know. The evening was over.

- Yeah, – I’d sigh understandingly, immediately regretting that ‘yeah’ and that sigh – for it gave me away, for it meant that they knew that I also could not fuck or marry Madeleine.

There were dreams, too. In these lush, disjointed dreams I would take her by the hand and we would enter her living-room, slowly, step by step, talking about the weather or perhaps her neighbour’s strange cat. She would then proceed to sit on her chair, and I would sit on the one that was waiting for me. The one that was sticking out. I’d say something about marriage and she’d say yes. Or, alternately, she’d take my hand and tuck it tenderly under her dress. The feeling of those silky, pulsating textures of her stockings and her soft skin was so strong that my hand would be red hot even in the morning – when the dream was already over.

And then I remember how surprised I was when I spotted Anthony walking down the street with one of his former girlfriends. This was already early summer, I think. I hadn’t talked to him or Terry for about two months, and that was some turnaround. I badly wanted to approach him and learn the details, but the weight of those two silent months made me think that a phone call would do better. I thought about Terry. Suddenly the humiliation of having to share Madeleine with two of my best friends changed into something new: the confusion of not having to.

- What about Madeleine? – I asked Anthony over the phone that evening.

- It’s all over now, – he said. – Was over before it even began. Wilson, don’t tell me you still…

- I do. I do, Anthony. And Terry?

- Same thing. He’s with Kim now – though she did make a scene out of it. Kim, surely you remember her?.. Face it, – he said. – This is not going anywhere. And you almost flunked your last exam.

- Well...

- No, come on, you’re the only who keeps trying to get something out of it. It’s pathetic. Call your Linda. Or Lisa. What was her name anyway?

- No, you come on. – I was beginning to get angry. – Madeleine is beautiful. You said so yourself.

- I did. Who’s saying she isn’t? But it’s not going to work. She won’t fuck you, Wilson.

- It’s not about that.

- But she won’t marry you either… Tell me this, – he added. – You’ve met her so many times now. Have you ever brought her a single flower?..

Actually, I didn’t. I couldn’t bring myself to coming to Madeleine with flowers. I’m trying to picture the scene now, but it won’t come. Instead, what’s coming through Freudian filters and memory cracks is our last encounter, somewhere in July of that year. Though standing there at her door, going through the list of songs on some hard-to-find collaboration LP of Charlie Haden and Ornette Coleman, I had no idea I would never ring that door-bell ever again...

She was her usual self, but there was something remarkable I noticed as I was on my way to Madeleine’s bathroom. That chair in the living-room wasn’t where it had normally been: it was under the table with the others. This was new, and alone in her glossy, perfumed bathroom, I kept thinking about my underpants. Did I have a clean pair on? Did it have no skid marks?..

But when I entered the living-room, I saw nothing new: the chair was standing there in the open, defiantly waiting to be sat on. Ornette Coleman’s sax was wailing quietly in the background, my head was burning (it was a hot, hot evening), and I thought that this was it. I went forward and sat on that damned chair, for the first time ever, without so much as a single look in Madeleine’s direction. When I did raise my eyes and looked at her face, Madeleine’s features were pleasant and relaxed. Madeleine didn’t mind. Oddly, this had an unnerving effect on me: I grew all tense and uneasy. The angry, aggressive saxophone was nibbling my brain, and I saw that Madeleine was waiting for my words. But the words wouldn’t come.

And before anything worse could happen, I was on my feet mumbling something about my sister coming home that night or my dog that needed to be walked. She knew I had neither sister nor dog, but she let me go. Still muttering some silly excuses, I was putting my shoes on – scruffily missing them again and again with my leaden feet.

I would never see Madeleine again.

---

- Wilson! – I started turning my head around, as if gasping for air. Swarms of people were rushing by in a rapid and noisy succession – their roaring motion an inevitable, indispensable act of breathing.

At first I struggled to recognize the face, but when he repeated that ‘Wilson’, I knew this was Anthony. And now that I could place that voice and that face, I could see he hadn’t really changed all that much. He still called me by my second name – which I still liked after all these years. There was an oddly familiar woman of his age standing nearby, as well as some 5-year old fiddling with her hand – like a child would. I presumed that this was his family.

- Hey, Anthony! Good to see you.

-Yeah, Wilson, same here.

He then introduced me to his wife and his son – in a solemn, matter-of-fact way, which I thought was interesting. He also mentioned that he had a daughter – but she was about ten now and hated all these shopping mall family outings. His wife protested mildly, assuring me that this was not the case, so we smiled and laughed about it.

- Go look for that water pistol he wanted, – Anthony told his wife. – I’d like to talk with Wilson here for a minute. God, when was it last that we talked?

- Must be graduation night, – I suggested when we were alone. – How’s Terry?

- Terry? Terry’s all right, I guess. I think I last talked to him three or four years ago. Was hiding at that time – evading alimony and stuff like that. And how are you, Wilson? Married? I can’t see no ring.

- Well, that may be because I’m not married. Have never been. Got a girlfriend, though.

- What, Lisa? Linda?

- No, no. Of course not. That was long ago. But yeah, we’re planning to.

- About fucking time, Wilson. It’s now or never. By the way, did you recognize Kim? Seems like she didn’t recognize you either. You should remember her. No, Terry didn’t mind… Well, I have to mention that I find it sad the way we fell apart after the University. We were close at some point. It was that woman, I guess.

- Yeah, – I replied. – Madeleine. Remember her chair?

- Chair? What chair? I remember the woman, but I don’t remember any chair.

- Anthony, you’re joking! The one that was in her living-room. Don’t tell me you don’t remember it. Or how we kept discussing it…

- Ah yeah, – Anthony said. – Now it does ring some sort of bell. A chair, yeah. But of course it was total bullshit. 

- What do you mean?

- There was no chair, Wilson, surely you must remember that. It was all fake. Like I say, bullshit. There was definitely no chair.

But before I could say anything, his wife Kim and his glowing son returned with a huge water pistol that was immediately pointed at me. And next thing I knew, the pistol was fired, and a string of lukewarm water soaked my left cheek. Chance had it that both Kim and Anthony had looked away at precisely that instant, and I thought it somewhat ridiculous to bring it up. The kid smiled triumphantly, which was annoying.

- Actually, – Anthony whispered. – That woman was a pretty dangerous type. I’m telling you. We were not the first and we were not the last. I’m telling you, Wilson, I heard stories…

What woman? – This was his wife.

- Never you mind, – Anthony said. – An old woman. And from a different story, too. By the way, Wilson, here’s my phone number. Do call me when you have a chance. We should meet again someday, the three of us.

I took the card, and they were gone.


---

It was a week ago. But I shouldn’t fool myself: it wasn’t this incident that made me remember the whole thing in such a detail. I still think of that occasionally, much to the annoyance of my girlfriend, who doesn’t like seeing me in this brooding state of mind. But Madeleine? Well, when I close my eyes and think about it – the chair is the first thing I remember. That and Terry whistling some old pop hit that long-gone December night.


November, 2011

4 October 2011

Политические сны



В нашем городе всем стали сниться политические сны. Поначалу никто не обращал внимания – большинство даже не замечали. Сны быстро уходили на второй план, растворялись в работе, детях и плохой погоде. Их было легко не замечать. Многие знали, помнили, но все же пытались думать о посторонних вещах, перебивали себя отвлеченными мыслями и проблемами, интернетом, ценами, новым телефоном и еще бог знает чем.
И ведь страшно подумать: еще год назад мы все были счастливы. У нас был покой.
Теперь мы ложимся спать с одной лишь мыслью: только бы сегодня их не было, этих снов. Только бы сегодня нам ничего не приснилось. Но наутро суровое выражение лица, холодный взгляд, холодный автобус, изучающие глаза прохожих.  
И главное: что это за сны? Так, ничего особенного. Мне снится, что я, совсем еще ребенок, стою где-то на улице с кучей разноцветных воздушных шаров. Вокруг тишина, на улице никого нет, но вдруг за моей спиной образовывается какой-то старик, берет меня за руку и куда-то уводит. Во сне у меня и в мыслях нет сопротивляться: я покорно иду за ним. Иду, но чувствую, что шары в любой момент могут поднять меня в воздух и куда-то унести. Я боюсь этого: почему-то я убежден, что обязательно должен идти за этим человеком. И я иду, не взлетаю. Человека я толком не вижу; знаю только, что он есть. В какой-то момент нашего пути сон обрывается.
И так каждую ночь.
Сначала я пытался доказать себе, что во сне нет ничего политического, но со временем это стало слишком очевидным. Мне некуда деться.
Но так со всеми. Я не знаю, какой сон снится остальным. Возможно, он очень похож на мой. Возможно, их сон – это точная копия моего. Но только каждый день я не могу не видеть беспокойство и даже ужас в заспанных глазах жителей моего города. Я знаю: им снятся политические сны. Я стал слышать ропот: бескровный, бесшумный, слегка оглушенный. И ведь год назад, до всех этих снов, они были счастливы.

А вчера случилось следующее: возвращаясь с работы, я увидел, что рядом с моим домом стояла какая-то девочка. Она словно ожидала кого-то. Я подошел и положил руку ей на плечо. Она обернулась, и только теперь я заметил: в маленькой руке было зажато несколько огромных воздушных шаров.
И вдруг я понял. И стал поспешно уходить. Девочка, конечно, последовала за мной. Я ускорил шаг, но вслед за мной шаг ускорила и она. Мне стало страшно: девочка не знала, что это только лишь сон. Но еще страшнее мне было оттого, что я пытался прокусить собственную губу, ущипнуть себя за руку, поплотнее вдавить ногу в тяжелый асфальт, но все не просыпался. Дело в том, что в тот момент я не видел снов: ни политических, ни каких-либо иных.
Но она шла за мной. Эта маленькая девочка с целой кучей воздушных шаров: она шла за мной.