There wasn’t a pigeon left in the city. Not a rat. People were hungry. People died. Bricks were laid.
A couple celebrating an anniversary walk over a mother who sold her wedding ring for a slice of bread; a tipsy woman clips her heel over the child who ate it.
It’s a placid night.
“The bones act up just before the rain,” J says as we walk down Nevsky prospect. He has neat hair and a clean sweater.
We pass a pair walking awkwardly arm-over-shoulder. The girl slips a little, the man catches her. They giggle.
“There are people alive who remember the names of these bones,” J says, motioning to the bricks passing beneath us. “Look, you can see, the bricks are wet.”
I look up, the sky is fattening itself up. I look down, he is right. I frown.
He shrugs. “No one knows.”
“Tears,” I suggest, “or maybe sweat?”
J shakes his head, thoughtfully. “Not sweat,” he says. “Winters were colder back then.”
I shudder. “Huh–but, no, I meant why are there so many dead people here?”
J gives me a remonstrative look. “You don’t know The Siege of Leningrad? One of the longest sieges in history.”
I shake my head, looking down at the stones. “A siege, like, everyone was trapped here?”
J nods. “Three years,” he says. “People could take their piano out to buy a half kilo of bread. That was in the beginning. Then, they could only get– what is less than a kilo?”
He asks, fishing for the word.
He nods, “Yes, then only a few hundred grams. And even then, it was mostly made of wallpaper and glue.”
“Damn,” I mutter.
“Yes, damn.” He nods. “History tells us a lot—“
J stops to dodge a flyer being passed out by a man in a wizard costume. I automatically hold out my hand and take it.
“Girls, Girls, Girls!” it offers, in English.
I put it in the garbage.
“History tells us a lot about people,” J says, “why they do what they do, what they might do if it happens again.”
He looks around suspiciously at the passers-by. I follow his gaze to a young woman with pink hair. She is browsing the street with what modernity has dubbed a bitch-face.
“We’ll all probably die,” I say, with little commitment. J smiles at me.
“I am an optimist, I do not want to die.”
I think about it a moment. I shrug. “Me either. But, probably.”
J looks at me, then down at his feet. “Yeah, yes, probably.” He sighs.
We walk faster as the rain begins.