Talking to Sergey about my father only added to my guilt. Since my father had been laid off from the company, he had been doing some odd jobs. I remembered my father’s and my business work – supplying detergents and other special agents for food production – and went to see my father. He was having dinner.
“Dad, why don’t you get on that enterprise chemistry thing?” I began, sitting down next to him.
“Maybe I will…” my father replied, looking at me carefully and continuing to chew a piece of meat angrily. “What do you care?”
“I don’t care,” I shrugged. “I just remembered that we wanted to do it with you, but we didn’t… I understand that it’s a specific product, and to tell the truth, I don’t really believe in it myself that anything will come of it, but as an option?”
“As an option, maybe,” my father nodded with a chew.
“If you want to do it, you’ve got all the requirements!” I rejoiced and ranted. “The goods, I’m sure, will be given with a good delay. There is a warehouse. You can always unload and store as much as you need for free. You don’t have to buy, just work for orders. Make a commercial offer and drive around companies with it… I can make a price and all the necessary paperwork… will you do it?”
“I will!” my father said sharply. “I said I would. Get the price ready.”
I nodded, stood up and left the kitchen.
“Vera, let’s print something!” I said as soon as I arrived at the office in the morning.
Sergey and Vera stared at me with interest.
“Seryoga, let me sit here!” I added impatiently. “I have to count something! Come on, come on, get up!”
Surprised and intrigued, he sighed, got up reluctantly and lazily from the table, and with the words “Oh, Roman!” went to the chair by the door.
I sat down at the table and told Vera and Sergey about yesterday’s conversation with my father.
“Well, if he wants to do it, let him do it, why not!” Vera shrugged. “Come on, say what you want to print, we’ll do it now…”
“Do you think something will come out of this?” Sergey grimaced and folded his arms over his chest.
“Seryoga, I don’t know! Maybe yes, maybe no. I don’t have much hope, but why should my father hang around? Let him try… Maybe he’ll earn something…”
“I don’t mind, no! Don’t get me wrong…” Sergey said, waving his hand warningly. “Let him do it if he wants to… But how will he work, on his own?”
“I think we should let him work with us. We’ll give him the goods at a minimal markup, and the rest of what he earns is his…” I suggested.
“Oh, well…” Sergey yawned and finished lazily, “I don’t mind… let him work…”
By the end of the day, everything was ready – the commercial offer, the price list, and the contract with the manufacturer. Vera completed her part of the work quickly. I solved all the questions about the terms of delivery. Sergey sat idly by the door, looking at us with a bored look and occasionally picking his nose.
Vera clicked the mouse, and the printer produced a stack of paper, which I immediately began stamping. When I finished, I looked at my partner and said:
“Seryoga, sit back down! I need the general director’s signature!”
Satisfied with what he had heard, he returned to the table with considerable dignity. He took the papers in his hands, thumbed through them, and said with a faint sarcasm in his voice and look:
“We sell so many things! Now we’re going to sell this, too, aren’t we, Roman?”
Sergey turned his face in my direction, and there was a slight sneer at the end of the sentence. And I felt that what he was saying was not only about the product, but also about me and my father. It was as if Sergey was making it clear that he thought this was a fool’s errand.
“Yes, Seryoga!” I parried the mockery with a grin. “We’ll make money on everything!”
“Sign here?” my partner poked at the top sheet.
“Yes, the commercial offer, there are fifteen sheets!” I nodded.
Sergey leaned his head on his right shoulder and took his time signing each sheet.
“Anatoly Vasilievich decided to do something stupid,” he murmured with a smile.
“It wasn’t his decision, I suggested it,” I said, catching the joy in Sergey’s words that stung me unpleasantly. “We’ve been talking to this manufacturer for a long time, but we haven’t started work. It’s unlikely that anything significant will come out of it, but maybe my father will earn something.”
“Oh, Roman…” Sergey shook his head, put the last signature, raked the sheets together and pushed them haughtily away from him to the edge of the table. “Here… that’s it… I signed it…”
“Okay, that’s done, great!” I took the stack. “I’ll give it to my father at home, let him study it…”
Sergey put his clasped hands on the back of his head, leaned back in his chair, turned slightly toward the window, looked out, and let out a soft yawn.
“What’s with the perfume?” I started the next day, Friday, December 9, with a question as soon as I got to the office. “Did you call the shipping company?”
Sergey sat with his elbows on the table and his fingers on his forehead. When he heard the question, he slowly raised his head, looked at me and extended his hand:
“Hi, Seryoga!” I shook his hand and plopped down in the chair by the door. “Where’s Vera?”
“She’ll be here soon,” he said tiredly and leaned back in his chair.
“You’re a little sluggish!” I blurted out.
“I have a headache,” Sergey mumbled weakly, putting his hands on the back of his head.
A woman’s footsteps were heard in the hallway and Vera entered the office.
“Have some Citramonum,” I suggested, “it always helps me.”
Sergey gave me a pained look, put his hands tighter around his head and shook it.
“Let’s go to the drugstore!” I added. “Otherwise it’ll be sore all day!”
I didn’t have to convince him. I took the waybill from the first trip, gave it to the storekeeper, and caught up with Sergey on the street, walking sluggishly towards the “Mazda”.
We passed the intersection and what had been in my subconscious came out.
“You know, I was talking to Vera the other day…” I said. “Well, we were talking about the moment when my father left us. And Vera said that, you know, when my father and I came to you in ‘Sasha’, when you saw us for the first time, you thought that he, well, my father, is an impressive, thorough, reasonable man, I mean, well, that he is in charge, ‘and Roma is some chump’, running around, fussing, a chump in general… Can you imagine? Vera just stunned me with those words! I was even a little bit shocked. I thought about what people think about me, how you, Roma, look like from the outside! I was even embarrassed… Shit, Seryoga, do I really look like that? Do I look like a chump? Hmm, that’s amazing.”
As we bounced along the snowy road in the “Mazda”, my words went unanswered. The car climbed onto the asphalt and drove more smoothly.
“Vera just talks too much,” Sergey grumbled petulantly.
We arrived at the pharmacy in silence. Sergey took a pill there and we drove back.
“Guess what, Romych, my headache is gone!” he said when we got back to the office.
“I told you so,” I nodded, “I wouldn’t advise anything bad.”
The perfume shipment arrived at the very end of the workday. The sun had just set, and the remnants of the day were quickly fading into night.
“Let’s go help unload!” I said, getting up from the chair and pulling on a jacket. “There’s a lot of goods, five pallets… It will take the two of them two hours to unload it.”
Sergey got up silently and left the office after me.
We were done in an hour. I jumped off the truck. It was dark all around. Only one lantern was shining over our warehouse. The snow that had started to fall just before we unloaded was now coming down in big flakes, as if it wanted to defeat the light of the lone lantern.
“We did a good job of filling the warehouse, didn’t we, Seryoga?” I said, entering the warehouse.
“Yeah, not bad,” he replied, sniffing his nose in satisfaction. “I didn’t expect everything to go so smoothly with us…”
“It will be totally packed by summer!” I said, feeling the fire of activity in my chest. The shark inside me rumbled, feeling not a drop of blood, but thin streams of it. I felt we were moving fast in the right direction. And while other companies were slow to react to market changes, as if half asleep, we were grabbing all the fat pieces in a row and greedily gobbling them up, whetting our appetites.
“I hope to God you’re right!” Sergey sighed and waved his hand. “Do I mind?”
I gave all the paperwork on the cleaning products for the companies to my father. Without enthusiasm in his voice, he promised to look into it. I understood my father, it didn’t look profitable. But I didn’t want him to stagnate. I tried to shake him up, to cheer him up. Even in this way.
My life changed. Smoking cessation and skepticism of alcohol turned on a source of energy within me. The cells of my body began to rapidly fill with this energy of health. I began to feel the taste of food and see life more vividly. The negative and depressed state disappeared and I began to smile more often. When I felt the taste of life, I realized that I would never give it up again.
“Are you drawing term papers again?” I said, watching Vera’s fingers tapping tirelessly on the keyboard. Monday, December 12, 2005. The time had passed three o’clock and it was rapidly getting dark outside the window. Sergey was gone.
“Not again, Roma… still,” Vera smiled and continued.
She typed non-stop as if this work was the meaning of her life. A straight-A student. Vera was clearly affected by the syndrome of the same name. “Good wife, lucky Seryoga,” I thought without a shadow of envy, realizing it only as a fact.
The next moment, Vera suddenly clasped her hands to her chest and sobbed. She wasn’t crying softly, she was sobbing. She sobbed uncontrollably, the way you sob when you burst into tears and can’t hold it in.
“I can’t take it anymooore!!!” she wailed. Tears rolled down Vera’s distorted face, interspersed with deep, uncontrollable sobs and convulsions.
I was petrified, mouth open, frozen in my chair, staring at the scene in utter confusion, not knowing what to do or say, or even if I should.
“Roooma, I can’t take it anymooore!!!” Vera wailed, her whole body shaking.
The hysteria lasted less than a minute and ended just as suddenly. Exhausted, Vera fell silent. She immediately cleaned herself up and wiped the tears from her face. A few minutes later, the same Vera was sitting in front of me – concentrated, calm, polite, industrious. Her fingers fluttered over the keyboard with the same diligence.
“Vera, well, it happens…” I forced myself to say.
After five minutes of awkward silence, our conversation resumed as if nothing had happened. But my mind kept returning to what had happened. Soon Sergey arrived, all three of us plunged into work, and the incident was left behind. But in the following days I returned to it, went over it in my mind again and again, trying and failing to understand. The episode seemed to fall out of the whole puzzle, and it was weird. I had known Vera and Sergey for six months, and I couldn’t get enough of the joy of their mutual understanding. During that time they had never spoken an unkind word to each other, let alone quarreled. Some small things, which can be more in married couples, yes, they happened. But the hysteria… Why all of a sudden!? How!? What’s the reason? I kept running this fragment around in my head and couldn’t put it anywhere. It was clearly not part of the picture I knew. Exhausted from trying to solve the problem, I left the case and almost forgot about it.
Either Vovka called me or I called him, but in the middle of the week we met in the evening at “Clear Skies” – me and Vovka and Lera. There were few visitors and music played softly in the background.
“Have you seen Ritka?” Vovka said as soon as he sat down at the table.
“I have,” I nodded, sitting with my back to the bar. “I already said hello to her…”
“Said hello!? Hee-hee-hee!” Vovka grinned snidely and began to study the menu. “So, for fuck’s sake! What is there to eat in this shithole?”
“Shithole…” Lera grinned.
“Here we go, Lera!” I nodded and stared at Vovka with a playfully stern look. “Six months ago he was hanging around here so much that you couldn’t get him out! And when he stopped coming here, it’s a shithole now! Oh, Vova!”
“Don’t Vova me!” He squirmed on the sofa with his ass. “Well, I just said that, just like that… It’s a good place, of course… something to remember… hee-hee-hee! There, Ritka is here!”
“Who’s Ritka?” Lera craned her neck and looked behind me.
“Roman’s love!” Vovka blurted out.
“Wait, he was with Lilya, wasn’t he?” Lera was surprised.
“That was later, but first he was with Ritka,” Vovka explained.
“Aha…” Lera said and laughed. “I can’t keep up with you!”
“Yes, Ramses is like that! He changes girls like socks!” laughed Vovka.
“Don’t listen to him!” I said to Lera and got up from the table. “I’ll be right here.”
“All righty!” Vovka continued to sneer, giggling at my back.
I walked over to the counter. A moment later, Rita was there, too.
“Hi, Romochka!” she said, beaming.
“Hi, Rita!” I nodded and leaned against the counter. “How are you? Not many people?”
“I’m fine,” Rita came closer. “No, not many. There was a lot on the weekend. How are you?”
“I’m doing well. I quit smoking. I’m thinking about going back to the gym, getting in shape,” I smiled, noticing that Rita was looking at me the same way she had before. The coldness, the arrogance, the haughtiness – all gone. Rita’s feminine vibes fluttered back in my direction by the thousands, surrounding me, enveloping me, trying to enchant me anew.
“Oh, really?” she said. “You’ll be handsome, girls will stare at you!”
I grinned. I liked Rita. I loved her way of talking – a cocktail of irony, warmth, tenderness, sarcasm, and kindness. For a moment, it was like I was back in our relationship. But that time was over.
“I’m tired,” Rita said, resting her head on my elbow and closing her eyes.
I was confused for a second, but I didn’t feel my heart beat any faster. Rita opened her eyes and looked into mine. She sighed and, as if she understood, picked up the tray.
“Oh, right, just a minute!” She suddenly perked up and went into the back room; when she returned, she pushed something dark into my hands. “A present for your birthday… Many happy returns. I forgot to congratulate you back then, sorry…”
A black wallet of cheap leather. I turned it in my hands, opened it, closed it. You could buy such a thing at any stall for three hundred rubles.
“Thank you, Rita! It’s unexpected and pleasant!” I lied and smiled. There was a pause. The very uncomfortable one, when there’s nothing more to say and you have to end the conversation somehow.
“Okay, I better go,” Rita touched my hand with the palm of her hand. “I have to work.”
“Okay, see you later…” I said and walked back to the table.
Soon we were leaving the club. As we walked, I nodded to Rita, who nodded back and continued to stare. I couldn’t bear her gaze, so I looked away – our time was gone.
Back home, I wondered what to do with the gift. I twirled the wallet in my hands and didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to use it for its intended purpose. I wanted to throw it in the trash, but I couldn’t. I opened the desk drawer and threw the wallet in.
A few days later, on a Saturday, I went back to the club.
“Romka! Hiya!” someone shouted, looming over me with a curly, shaggy head and a strong smell of alcohol. I raised my head.
“Oh, Sanyok, hi!” I held out my hand to the gangly fellow as soon as I recognized him.
“How are you? How’s business?” He smiled and tried to focus his drunken gaze.
“Everything’s fine, Sanya. Working hard,” I said, automatically pulling away from the acquaintance who was breathing in my face. “How are you?”
“Innka and I are going out again!” Sashka said, shaking his curls and breaking into a drunken smile.
“Wow! Well, congratulations! Inna is a good girl!” I put together a neutral sentence, thinking it was wise not to get caught in Inna’s tightly woven web of love.
“Yeah, she’s all right!” Sashka nodded and widened his smile, which looked either cunning and fake or stupid and artless.
“All right, Sanya, I’ll go…” I said.
“You’re leaving already? So early!?”
“I’m getting old, Sanya, I’m getting old…” I hummed, “I’ve already left ‘big-time sport’.”
“Aha… well, okay, Romka, it was good to see you!” he patted me on the shoulder.
“You too, Sanya,” I nodded and went to the exit.
“Strange character. I don’t think he’s a fool, but he’s not serious, or maybe he’s stupid, I don’t know… One thing is clear – he drinks, he has a weakness for alcohol, which can ruin him if he doesn’t get smart,” I thought about the guy who was a combination of incongruous things.
And already on the street, walking leisurely through the winter city, I realized what was wrong with that gangly Sashka – he had no inner core. The guy had the makings of a good man, but the lack of an inner core turned him into a spineless rag doll.
“Roman, let’s give ourselves a bonus, shall we?” Sergey said suddenly, sitting by the door in his usual pose, legs crossed, ankle on knee, kicking his foot and chewing his lower lip. “To celebrate the upcoming holidays…”
“All right,” I shrugged and looked at Vera, who was drinking cold tea without sugar. It was almost always like this: someone poured tea into three cups at once, Sergey and I drank it at once, and Vera forgot hers while she was working. In the end, she always drank her tea cold.
“How much should we take?” Sergey jerked his foot faster.
“I don’t know…” I crossed my arms on my chest and leaned back in the chair. “I don’t care…”
“Well… let’s write off five thousand each?”
“Vera, write it off!” Sergey ordered cheerfully and took a bundle of money out of his briefcase – his half of the “common fund”. “From me and from Romka, a bonus of five thousand each!”
Vera took a notebook from the table, rustled the pages, and made a note.
“Well, we’ll give some to Verok, won’t we?” Sergey said, glaring at me and looking at his wife, who was frozen over her notebook. “She does all the paperwork after all…”
“Yes, of course we will!” I agreed without hesitation.
“How much will it be?” Sergey smiled as he continued to look at his wife. “Right, Verok!? You deserve a bonus, don’t you?”
“Well, as the junior and the only office worker, I think three thousand will be just right!” I said, looking at my partner’s wife. “Vera, is three thousand okay?”
“Yes, Roma, it’s okay,” she nodded. “Should I write it off from you or from Seryozha or what?”
“You can write it off from either of us, I don’t know…” Sergey said and looked at me.
“Vera, well, let’s split it in half, so that everyone’s common fund remains equal!” I said and added, “Seryoga, take three of yours for Vera and I’ll bring you one and a half on Monday…”
My partner’s fingers clumsily grasped the bundle and, shaking, began to count – slowly, awkwardly, confusingly. Vera and I watched in silence. Suddenly his fingers froze, Sergey raised his head and said: “How much should I take?”
“Eight,” I replied. “Five and three.”
“Oh yeah, right!” Sergey nodded, and his fingers fidgeted with the bills again.
Vera began absent-mindedly going through the papers on the table. I leaned back in my chair and turned around, keeping my eyes on my partner’s trembling fingers.
“There, that’s it, eight!” he said, shoving the bundle into his briefcase and taking out the new wallet, carefully placing the counted sum into it and returning the wallet to the briefcase.
“All right, done,” Sergey exhaled, straightened up in his chair, and ran the back of his hand over his forehead as if wiping away sweat.
On Saturday, December 24th, I woke up late. Outside the window, snow was falling from impenetrable clouds. I didn’t want to get out of the warm blanket, so I stayed half asleep. At some point I thought of Lilya – the holidays were approaching and she had to come from Moscow to visit her parents. And at the same time I felt that Lilya would call me. I looked at the phone next to me and… it rang!
“Hello,” a deliberately soft voice said into the phone. “It’s me, Lilya…”
“Ah, Lilya, it’s you!?” I put surprise into my intonation. “Hi…”
“I arrived this morning… Maybe… I’ll see you tonight…?” she said.
“See me? Yeah, sure… let’s meet!”
I approached the movie theater at five to six and noticed Lilya first.
“Hi!” I said with a smile.
“Hi,” she replied quietly, fluttering her eyelashes a few times and looking down. Her favorite trick. Lilya was wearing a white fur coat and a white beret. For some reason I immediately realized that the coat was new and that it might be Lilya’s first outing in it. The beret didn’t match the coat and spoiled the whole picture. It was like wearing leather pants and galoshes, combining things only on the basis of color. I felt an acidic amusement brewing inside me. Lilya looked at me innocently and lowered her eyes again. Her whole posture spoke of humbleness and humility.
“Actress,” I thought, feeling the excitement of the game flare up inside me.
“Did you arrive today?” I blurted out mechanically, not even trying to please her with the question.
“Yes, today, this morning on the train,” Lilya replied, holding her white purse in front of her with both hands, the way children hold their school bags.
“Ah-ha… I see,” I said and turned my head.
Lilya waited, but I didn’t continue.
“Where shall we go?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” I shrugged indifferently. “Let’s take a walk, then we’ll decide…”
“Okay, let’s go,” Lilya agreed meekly.
We walked slowly down the avenue. Lilya’s hand gently took my elbow and I grinned. After half an hour of walking we turned into a cafe. And there our conversation flowed just as sluggishly. I didn’t bother to say anything, Lilya drank coffee and was too delicate. I listened to her with my ears half-closed, forgetting almost everything she said.
“Did I tell you that I want to buy a car?” Lilya said.
“No, you didn’t,” I shrugged. “Maybe you did, but I don’t remember…”
“After the New Year there will be good discounts in the showrooms, I’ll buy it then, probably…”
“Well, good for you, what can I say…” I chattered with a spoon in a cup of tea and looked there too, just not to meet Lilya’s eyes. “And what kind of car would you like to buy?”
“I don’t know, I haven’t decided yet. Some kind of small woman’s car, I don’t know much about it… Anyway, something small!”
I looked at Lilya, who was staring at me, and smiled languidly.
“As soon as I buy it, I promise I’ll take you for a ride!” Lilya smiled dazzlingly, and I unintentionally looked at the artificial teeth again. Not so long ago, everything I had seen as something magical, whole and bright, disintegrated into heterogeneous elements, each of which looked ordinary and cheap. A kind of post-love effect.
“It’s a deal,” I smirked.
The evening ended as boringly as it had begun – I took Lilya home in a taxi without kissing her or arranging another meeting, said goodbye to her and returned to the taxi.
I was sure that Lilya would call soon, because someone had to sponsor her holidays. The call came at noon the next day. I refused to meet and lied about not feeling well. I liked the game, so I bet on another call.
On Monday, December 26, our company worked. Despite the holiday rush, there were orders and we worked until Wednesday. And Thursday was the beginning of the holiday period until January 9th.
Lilya called me on the 27th and suggested that we celebrate New Year’s Eve together. I agreed, and Lilya turned on the old trick: she offered to go to a fancy club with her and her girlfriend or to go to a cafe with Lilya’s brother and his wife. My choice.
“But I don’t really want to celebrate with my brother,” Lilya led me to the first option. “His wife will be there and we don’t get along with her. And I don’t really like that cafe…”
Should I take the two girls to an expensive place and lighten my pocket, or should I go to a cheap cafe and share the financial burden with Lilya’s brother?
“Lilya, it’s the opposite for me – I would go to a cafe, but I don’t want to go to a club, sorry. Listen, if you don’t want to go to the cafe, go to the club alone with your friend, and we’ll meet after, we’ll go for a walk, drink coffee, as usual!” I parried, knowing that Lilya didn’t need “as usual” – to play a girl in love for a cup of coffee, not much of a profit.
“Well, yeah, we’ll probably do that…” Lilya said thoughtfully after a pause.
We exchanged a few more general sentences and that was it.
On the 28th my parents had a big fight. My father was provoked by my mother, and since she had a reason for her anger, she cursed at him for an hour. My father reacted slowly at first, and then he began to shout. The apartment shook with the noise. My head too. I was ready to go anywhere.
“Hey,” Lilya showed up. “I talked to my brother yesterday after our talk. He said he would invite us to a cafe. You said we could go to a cafe, shall we go?”
Lilya kept hogging the blanket. Not having a better option, she forced me to sponsor at least one evening in a cafe. I didn’t care about the money. I was willing to spend it to keep the game going. My yes would be seen by Lilya as another victory. I was ready to give up a pawn for the sake of winning the game I was leading with my weaknesses.
“Cafe? Yes, Lilya, we can go to a cafe. I’m in! Let’s go!” I reacted.
She got excited and cheerful. We agreed to meet at the cafe the next evening, we said goodbye and I left the hell of my home for “Clear Skies”.
The next evening I arrived at the cafe. Five people – me, Lilya, her brother and his wife, and Lilya’s girlfriend, whom she had brought along after all – sat down at a table, and then the banality began that was already making me sick. The repast. I was beginning to see something subtly stupid about such boozing. The inner changes that had taken place were becoming more and more insistent. I began to notice and see things I had not noticed before.
I looked around the cafe. I could see faces without any intellectual burden flashing before my eyes. Lilya’s brother started pouring vodka as soon as he sat down. I refused and ordered a glass of whiskey and coke, which I sipped for a long time, giving the others a chance to drink the bottle of vodka. Drunk, everyone started dancing. Lilya had fun, laughed excessively and clapped her hands. She couldn’t dance. I remembered that Lilya had told me that she’d taken dancing lessons. Lilya’s poor sense of rhythm made her movements stiff and angular. Time dragged on. I repeated my order. Inside I was anywhere but in that cafe. This kind of fun seemed like a waste of time to me. Lilya’s brother was heavily intoxicated, and he was talking nonsense mixed with a lot of profanity. “I have to stop swearing,” I realized and felt a pang of shame. I drank the second glass. Lilya was having fun and continued to pretend to be something important. The surrounding circus made me sick. The waiter brought the bill and Lilya’s brother and I paid equally. Eventually the crowd began to disperse. I went to the nearest taxi, negotiated a price with the driver, and opened the back door. Lilya got in first, and I got in next. There was a tense estrangement between us. The silence in the car only intensified it. Neither of us tried to pretend to be in a relationship. It wasn’t there in the first place. Lilya no longer fit into the innocent sheep’s clothing, and I began to see things clearly.
“Why don’t you say something?” she said with a grumble in her voice.
“What should I say?” I replied without turning my head and looking out of the window.
“Well, say something!” Lilya got angry.
“I have nothing to say. What’s the point?” I shrugged and looked at Lilya. She sat back in the corner of her seat and glared at me.
“What do you mean, what’s the point? I don’t get it!”
“It’s simple, Lilya!” I exhaled, realizing that no one was going to make my choice and decision for me. “We don’t really have a relationship. I don’t see the point in clarifying something that isn’t there. We don’t see each other much. You come, we hang out, you go, that’s it! There’s no perspective and no point, to be honest…”
“Oh, that’s how it is! Then why did you suffer all night, poor thing, if there’s no point!? Maybe we shouldn’t have seen each other tonight in the first place!?”
“Maybe we shouldn’t have…” I stared blankly out of the window, no longer willing to accept negativity and get nervous for a non-existent reason. We were approaching downtown.
Lilya was silent and I was overcome by indifference.
“There’s no point…” I said aloud, more to myself.
“Maybe there’s also no point in you driving me home!” Lilya said aggressively. “You sit here next to me and torture yourself!”
“Maybe there’s no point in me driving you home…” I repeated apathetically.
“Then don’t suffer, maybe you’d better get off right here! What’s the point of waiting?!”
“Yes!” I came to life at last, having made a painful decision and for the first time overcoming the softness of my character toward women that had always caused me so much trouble. “You’re right! I’d better get out!” I added to the driver, “Stop here! At the hotel!”
The car obediently pulled up to the curb. Silently, without turning around, I got out and walked forward to the traffic light. The taxi overtook me. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the puzzled and haughty look on Lilya’s face. There was anger in her icy eyes. I smiled, lifted my head and looked up at the sky – the big snowflakes were falling slowly and thickly over my head, materializing out of the blackness of the sky, falling through the yellow rays of the street lamps. As soon as the first snowflake touched my face, it was as if an unnecessary burden fell from me and an unbearable joy erupted in my soul. I crossed the street, jumping childishly, restrained myself, and walked in the opposite direction to the bus stop. But I had an unbearable desire to run. The stop was about fifty meters away. And then a yellow “GAZelle” bus overtook me from behind. “Mine!” I realized when I saw the number, and… I ran! On the run I suddenly felt unbearably funny, I imagined that Lilya was running after me and wanted to catch me! And my salvation is only in this midnight “GAZelle”! I ran as fast as I could without any embarrassment! The few passers-by just saw me as a guy trying to catch a bus! But I was not running after the “GAZelle”, I was running away from the barrier inside me. The barrier had cracked that evening, and it was only a matter of time before it was finally broken and left in the past. I was running from the past to the future!
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