Y and I walk along the street.
I look up at the way the sun reflects, orange, off an apartment building.
“I want to get out of this country,” Y says.
I look at her. She is watching two cows in blue track suits polish off a canned gin and tonic. The cows see her. They moo aggressively and call out something. Y flips them off.
“What did they say?”
I look back at them, then to her.
She sighs. “They said I look like a fine bag of feedstuff.”
I stop. She squeezes me hand, pulls me onward. I light a cigarette. We pass by some abandoned buildings on our way to the restaurant.
“Why do you want to leave Russia?” I ask.
I frown. “What do you mean, cereal?”
“You know, breakfast cereal, flakes, bit of sugar. Sometimes it comes in funny shapes.”
“Yeah, I know what cereal is.”
“Then why did you ask?”
We stop at a crosswalk.
“That’s not what I–” A man behind us taps me on the shoulder. He is pointing at my back. I take off my jacket. My back is covered in some white powder. I half brush it off, thank him, in Russian. “You’re welcome,” he tells me, in English.
“You’re a mess,” Y reminds me. I shrug. The light turns green, we walk. The streets are getting bigger, the buildings older, the people less colorful.
“So, you want to leave because of cereal?”
“My mom brought some cereal back from England. On the box there was a picture with little bits of fruit in the cereal.”
“So when I opened the box, there were dried bits of fruit inside. Mixed right in!”
I think about it. I realize I’ve never tried breakfast cereal in Russia. I’m not usually awake for breakfast.
“So, what is inside the box in Russia?”
“The same thing that is inside everything here, in every building, every box and bottle. Every person, everything with a lid or a lock,” she says, pulling me across the road as the walking-man turns red.
The door to the restaurant sits at the end. We stand outside it, I light a cigarette.
“So?” I ask.
Y is staring into the eyes of a brutish looking cow, eating its way through a pack of cigarettes, two at a time. The cow snorts and looks away.
“So what?” she asks.
“So, what is inside everything and all that?”
“Oh,” she smiles, “despair.”