You died, and you died, and then you died some more.
But that was later.
Before, you liked to drink something called “Tarkhoun” – green like absinthe, and sweet like candy. Your nineteen-year old boyfriend burned up in a fighter plane in WWII. That day you said goodbye to him on the platform, when you went off to fight the war as well, he ran after the train and waved, laughing and crying. You recited Edgar Allen Poe at dinner with your heavy accent and perfect diction – “Nevermorrr!” Your earrings dripped down to your shoulders.
My mother liked to quote you. You were quotable in all situations – when you put on your lipstick, when you stepped out of a taxi. You threw out your philandering General (while my grandmother kept hers), your first love was dead anyway. You prepared for the End of Days with a black poodle for company. Maybe you had a bit of a Faust in you, who knows? You worked with the dark strains of foreign languages, your heels clickety-clacked down the gleaming corridors of power. I don’t remember 1986 much at all – but I was a warm mess in your lap right after Chernobyl. You said that I would “blossom at seventeen.”
At seventeen, my cousin and I bounced through the summer rain puddles on your street. We sang, “I’m walking, I’m pacing, through Moscow. And I can also get across – the salty Pacific, and the tundra, and the taiga.” We were walking toward your flat. People in the street turned their heads and watched us pass. In your kitchen, with the gas-stove on, you asked us about the nonexistent men in our lives. We kicked our legs out and laughed. You utilized your pension to buy us little blocks of ice cream in cardboard packaging. Over tea, when the shadows began to lengthen across the faded Persian rug, you told us our future, and when we walked out of your flat in the evening, we began walking toward this future, heedless of the fact that these were our last days with you.
The remnants of your russet beauty lingered on in the 21st Century. You heaved yourself over the threshhold, and then you waited. Winter came late to Moscow this year, but it wasn’t about to let you go. I wonder if you were scared. I am scared for you now, when it no longer matters. I am scared for you – but I am really scared for myself, because for you, the bloody sheets, the bulging veins, and the crashing silence are all over now.
I sliced my finger open last night. I could see the blood standing still for a moment before it gushed out, and I imagined you gushing out of the world, finally. I had forgotten you for a while, and I will too be forgotten.