The only person in Kyiv who had a better New Year’s Eve than I did

Is a friend of ours I’ll call Vova.

Vova has a house by the river, which was where he and his wife were holed up, having a quiet evening. Around 11:30 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, Vova realized that they were out of mineral water, and ran out to the local kiosk, on the off-chance that it would be open.

The kiosk was open. There was a middle-aged woman sitting at the counter, sobbing her eyes out. She was crying so hard, she didn’t even notice him, at first.

Upon asking her what’s wrong, Vova received a short, terse monologue on the subject of being broke, and on the subject of her husband, who moved to work in the EU and stopped sending money after meeting someone new, and on the subject of her ill mother and her three kids in a village outside of L’viv, and on the subject of how much she missed them, but couldn’t even visit, because being the sole breadwinner meant that she couldn’t afford to travel, and on the subject of being alone enough to want to die, and on how the river was too frozen to go drown, and not having anywhere to go, unless you counted the kiosk, of course, and on the subject of how she shouldn’t be talking about all of this with strangers, but she just didn’t care, not anymore.

To all of this, Vova replied:

“Oh my God. Close up the fucking kiosk and come to our house and celebrate. I’m not a serial killer or anything, I swear. I’m your regular client, I buy cigarettes here. You have to remember me. And you must know my wife. It’s just me and her over at the house. Come on.”

After she protested for a while, he managed to drag her out of the kiosk, and the three of them rang in the New Year with some champagne in a warm living room, where they laughed and told dirty jokes, and Vova got drunk enough to start dancing (all eyewitnesses agree, he is a great dancer) while the women clapped and laughed, and there was caviar and cake, and salad and tea, though not exactly in that order, and there was a lot of bad pop music, and no more tears that night. After the woman insisted on going back to her kiosk, Vova and his wife ended up putting on warm clothes and visiting her in the early morning hours, to drink another bottle of champagne, and talk, and talk, and talk, about the people they miss and the people they don’t miss, about the bad roads and the latest theory that the world will end in 2032, and they toasted each other, and made wishes for 2010, which could be a good year, after all.

If you see Vova in the street, you’d think that he was just like everyone else. But not everyone is just like everyone else, and it’s important to remember that, especially whenever it is you decide to take the axe out of the shed and go chopping through the winter ice on the Dnipro.

16 thoughts on “The only person in Kyiv who had a better New Year’s Eve than I did

  1. That is wonderful. Thank you so much. Here’s wishing Vova, his wife, and the woman from the kiosk much love, health and happiness in 2010.

  2. Sorry this is off topic, but I’m wondering about your thoughts on Tymoshenko, from a feminist perspective. Also, can you vote there? Are you going to?

  3. Don’t have any thoughts on Tymoshenko that could fit into a pithy blog comment. LOVE the hair, though. And the fact that she is one of the few politicians who consistently gets shit done.

  4. fucking fantastic post. I hope you don’t mind my gutter language here but that is all I can think of to say – you tell the story just perfectly. I’m smiling at the end of a fairly crappy day.

  5. It’s a tale that I think will be animated brilliantly one day, perhaps as a gospel retelling if we can imagine Him saying, “Close up the fucking kiosk …” which I don’t think is a problem. I’ve never danced on New Year’s so in that sense alone these seem like extraordinary times in what must be the center of the world. I hope the toasts accompanied a head-nodding listen to “Moral Kiosk” by REM (Murmur, 1983).

    I’m also wondering if this piece would work in the New Yorker’s Talk of the Town section, which it wouldn’t, which is why I don’t read the Talk of the Town section and almost never have.

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