She Had Eyes So Blue

Original version was published here.

She Had Eyes So Blue They Looked Like Weather (Tom Petty)

My father and I sit outside the Armadillo (“Armadildo”) Grill on campus. He gets huffy with me when I try to hug him. The autumn is still warm, and our beer is rapidly approaching the air temperature.

He says he got the phone call about 7 a.m. on Sunday, September 25th. He was in the kitchen with Auntie Milla, getting coffee. They couldn’t reach him on his mobile, and so they found him at Auntie Milla’s, where he had stayed the night.

My brother was asleep upstairs, and they left him in the care of Uncle Jenia.

Outside the Mel’niks’ building, about eight other people had gathered. Yaroslava’s father was walking up and down the sidewalk, muttering that he couldn’t tell, he couldn’t tell, he couldn’t tell.

My father led the congregation to the third floor. Auntie Olya started screaming and tearing at her hair when she saw the procession. My father held her and told her.

The body was left abandoned in a village morgue right outside the city. The man who had hosted the party paid off the cops’ towing service and had the mangled car hidden behind his summer house. He made sure the other kid’s body and the still-breathing driver were placed in the hospital in the city, where he worked. He had intended to swtich the blood samples. He didn’t want anyone to know that he hosted the party and let people drive drunk; this is, apparently, punishable by Ukrainian law.

He had been a family friend.

There were no freezers in the village morgue, and she had been left among the rotting bodies of the unclaimed, her  own body beginning to grow cold. Nobody could stand the stench, and my father walked in alone, and identified her despite the dried rivulets of blood coming from her nose and mouth and ears. Her lower half wrapped in a bloody sheet, a pillow pressed to her chest. My father signed the necessary paperwork.

That night, he sat on the balcony, the balcony where we often sat, squeezed next to each other like sardines, popping open champagne bottles for no occasion whatsoever. My father drank half a bottle of vodka and didn’t feel a thing. He called me then. It was one o’clock in the afternoon on the East Coast, and I was just beginning to wake up.

My father made the funeral arrangements. He oversaw the grave-diggers, working next to his aunt’s grave. Right above her, my great-grandmother and her sisters are buried. My ghost-women. It feels right and wrong that her body should join theirs.

My father insisted on a normal casket. Some family members had been blabbering about getting one made out of something like cardboard, for a whopping 300 ghrivnas (60 bucks, in those days).

“Taras, your eldest daughter is dead,” my father said. “Don’t listen to them and get her a normal fucking casket.”

And so they got a normal fucking casket.

“How much vodka should we get for the wake?” Someone asked. “The Orthodox side of the familly booze like crazy. What a goddamn inconvenience.”

My father remembers he almost got into a fight. Uncle Roman stopped him. My father sat with his head in his hands.

Back at the morgue, they did the necessary things to slow down decomposition. I’m not exactly sure of the exact procedure – I don’t think they had the equipment to go all-out. I’m pretty sure they drained her blood. It wasn’t her in there anymore – but I will always think about it, all that young blood, getting drained.

When my father got there, they had dumped her on the floor, to make room for the new recruits. He started yelling and told the old woman in charge to move his niece. The woman refused. My father picked her up off the floor himself, picked up her small body, picked up the girl he used to twirl around the cobwebbed living room on Kominterna Street, and carried her into the next room, and found her a stretcher to lie on.

The next morning, a guy with shaking hands and what appeared to be track-marks on his arms did her make-up in the village morgue. They took off her chain, silver leaves, and handed it to my father. The make-up was all wrong, and Auntie Milla was yelling about it outside the morgue, and my father told her to stay quiet.

Taras wouldn’t look at his daughter in the casket; with the make-up wrong, and dressed like a traditional Ukrainian bride, with a garland on her broken head.

After the service, they carried Auntie Olya to the grave. She was screaming that Taras “got what he wanted.”

There was singing by the grave. It was a bright fall day. Over two hundred people were there to see her off. On the East Coast, I stayed up well into the morning with Anna, watching the sky change colors as the dawn came.

My father chain-smokes a lot now. Back at the apartment, he lets me make him a screwdriver. We sit outside with my boyfriend and periodically raise our glasses.

“Kingdom of heaven,” we say. “Memory eternal.”

“I feel like I’m looking for something,” she says, back in the kitchen in Kiev, the slanted rays of the sun bursting through the grapevine on the window. “I think I’ve almost found it.”

24 thoughts on “She Had Eyes So Blue

  1. Pingback: Natalia Antonova
  2. Indeed, you ARE a very good writer. You deserve much congratulations for being so fluent in a second language, not to mention talented and creative. If I tried to write anything in Russian or Ukranian I would doubtless come across like an idiot.

    And your way with sadness is deeply affecting.

  3. Natalia, you are a poet.

    I love the way you write – short, crisp sentences.

    Never give up on writing, and keep smiling – always.

  4. Hi Natalia, would you be interested in sending in a story to our zine, Greenbeards, having its first issue next month? Let me know, please, either way.

  5. That was very beautiful. Its so nice to just stumble onto lovely things like this. Very moving.

  6. I like it 🙂
    it is so nice XD

    Btw if you noticed Miss Natalia Antonova that my name is Ammar Huneidi , the guy who you blocked him just because I liked your blogs and I like the way you think and write 🙂

    Thanks anyway .

  7. I like it
    it is so nice XD

    Btw if you noticed Miss Natalia Antonova that my name is Ammar Huneidi , the guy who you blocked him On facebook just because I liked your blogs and I like the way you think and write

    Thanks anyway .

  8. Look, I block anyone on Facebook who starts badgering me for an inordinate amount of time and/or starts pressing the issue of being friends. I’m sorry, but I get way too many weird requests these days and frankly no longer have the patience for humouring *most* people on Facebook.

  9. Wow badgering you ! That’s show me how lovely you are .

    Thanks for respect XD

  10. I told you that you were badgering me before I blocked you, so I’m not really understanding the surprise being displayed here. None of us are entitled to be Facebook friends with just anyone we choose. That’s basic net etiquette.

  11. Hey Ammar, if you want to talk “respect” how about respecting the decision of someone who clearly doesn’t want to be Facebook friends with you? Instead of showing up to passive-aggressively complain about it? Sheesh.

  12. Lal : it’s not of your Business !

    NaraLia : okay thanks anyway , the point that I was asking you then you blocked me , you can tell me without blocking , I was telling you if you don’t want to add sure I’ll not send you msgz anymore .

    Thanks for understanding 🙂

    Take care .
    Bye .

  13. Actually, it is most definitely my business. I was the one who advised Nat to be more careful on Facebook. I would advise her to ban you from this blog as well, after you showed up acting like you’re owed something in the comments to the essay about the death of her cousin (very grown-up of you), but I guess she wanted to set the record straight.

    The “ban” option is there for a damn good reason and seeing that you appear to be the type who sucks up people’s time, I’m not surprised that someone would use it on you.

  14. May he or she rest in peace …

    Okay I’m a bad person I know myself block me or whatever you call it ban !

  15. You were way too young when you wrote this. Just shows how much talent you have. I’m SO wishing it didn’t take so long to learn a language like Russian. I’d love to read some of your plays. Later, I guess.

    Pardon me for changing the subject to something more hopeful. I hope I don’t come across as unfeeling about your loss. I know that kind of grief. I mean, I REALLY know it. And I can’t change it, for you or for me. I hope you don’t mind chatting about opportunity instead.

    You should try selling a screenplay. I bet you could do a really clever hipster emigre story about the “new” Moscow. I love palimpsest imagery in stories that cut across time and international borders. If Hollywood buys any of your work I will SO go and see the movie.

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