M’s dog has been shedding at a supernatural rate. It’s in my mouth. I put my boots on. There is hair in my boots, but still tight. I shake myself off best I can in the hall outside our apartment. It’s no use. I head out into the cold. It is late. The streets I walk down seem begging for a shot to ring out.
Someone turns out from a street ahead. A girl. Maybe my age. Maybe younger. Her jacket is red and pulled up to hide her face. I decide she must be the most beautiful woman in the world. She doesn’t walk fast. I do. I don’t mean to, but I find myself walking past her. She says something in Russian as I pass.
“Oh.” She smiles, I wasn’t far off the mark.
“Hello,” she says in a near perfect accent.
“Do you have a cigarette?” She asks. I nod and pull one from my pack. I light it in my own mouth and hand it over. She takes it, grinning.
“I don’t like to smoke and walk. Will you stand with me?”
“Sure,” I tell her. I pull another cigarette from my pack and light it for myself.
“Where are you off to?” she asks.
I shrug. “Nowhere.” I motion to my clothes. “My roommate’s dog is shedding like crazy, needed to just walk a bit. You?”
She nods, exhaling through her nose. Steam or smoke, I can’t tell. It’s that kind of weather.
“I’m bringing some food to my grandmother.”
“She must not eat a lot,” I say, motioning to her empty hands.
The girl laughs. It sounds like a lullaby in a dark room.
“I haven’t been to the store.” She snaps her cigarette to the ground.
She raises an eyebrow at me. “Would you like to join me?”
I look around at what my night has been and was going to be. Nothing.
“Sure. Is it far?”
“Not far.” She starts walking. I follow along beside her.
“Your grandma won’t mind, will she?”
“No, no, she would love to meet an American boy.”
I try to brush as much hair off my pants as discreetly as possible as we walk. Whether we walk for long or short, I do not know. We arrive at a street.
“Down there. Walk till you see the small house with a fence. Wait there for me.”
I frown. Hairs on my neck dance a warning. She smiles.
“I don’t live in a foreigner friendly neighborhood. I don’t want you to find trouble at the store. It is late. Just wait for me down there.”
I don’t move. She leans in and kisses my cheek just below my eye.
“Handsome boy,” she says. My face goes red as her jacket. She turns and walks off. I look down the street I’m meant to follow.
“Screw it,” I mutter. I light a new cigarette and walk down the street.
Sure enough, a minute later I am standing in front of a small fenced in home squished between two crumbling apartment buildings.
“Would you look at that?”
The door opens. A woman in her fifties, or maybe a bit older, peers out. She sees me. She waves. I look around myself.
“You, boy,” she says, in Russian. She motions for me to come to the house. I drop my cigarette, open the fence and walk toward her, slowly.
“Hello, I am a friend of your granddaughter,” I tell her, in broken Russian. I get to the doorstep. The woman smiles wide.
“Good boy,” she says. Something hits me, hard.
Everything fades to black.
To be continued…