Saint Petersburg summers are about as warm as a snowman’s pit-sweat and only twice as wet. A man, T, is visiting us from Moscow. T’s nephew is turning four. I don’t know him very well; his nephew, not at all.
T doesn’t like when I drop my cigarettes on the street, raining or not.
“Why do you do that?” His accent is strong, Russian. It makes me rethink where to next put my foot, always.
I shrug, looking guilty.
“I don’t always. Just when I can’t find a trash-can.”
He looks at me, then to the trash can five feet away. He scowls.
“Sorry. I am not always very environmentally conscious, I should be.”
He shakes his head. “No. It is this city. It is beautiful. We need to keep it beautiful.” He walks to where I dropped my cigarette and picks it up. He places it down a sewer drain. I frown.
“You know, that–” I stop at his look. “Sorry,” I finish. He nods. We make out way to a toy-store near my apartment. The shop is called “Play, Now!”
We go in. The front is mostly puzzles. We move into the back. It looks like the toy aisle in Walmart, fattened up and relabeled in Cyrillic.
“Aha!” I cry, heading for the Legos. I pick up the top box: a fire truck. I smile, thinking fondly of the days, sifting through oceans of Lego pieces, hunting down the elusive black visor (the real one–not the one we’d colored in.) I’d only find it hours later, in my brother’s dresser, on a caper for fresh socks.
I shake the box at T.
“These, are my childhood. I remember spending hours looking for this little black visor. My brother always stashed it from me.”
He looks the box up and down. He frowns.
“When I was young–how old are you?”
“Almost twenty-eight.” I shudder.
He nods. “Yes, not much younger than I. When I was a kid, we did not have Legos.”
“Yes,” he looks ahead, remembering, “they were everywhere then.”
“We put them in fire and they go BANG!”
He points finger-guns at me as he says it. He even smiles.
“Ha-ha,” I say. He puts his gun down, the Legos too, with disgust.
“Well, maybe, I think your nephew would like some Legos. Bullets are a bit, um, dangerous?”
T nods. “Pity. He would have fun with bullets.”
I give him a sympathetic look. “Yeah, well, maybe it’s kind of good. I don’t know if kids playing with bullets is–hm, best?”
T looks into my eyes. I quickly turn back to the Legos. I pick up the firetruck and hold it out to him.
“He’ll like this, trust me.”
He looks down at the box, then up at me.
“What do you do?”
“Uh, I kind of freelance at a few things.”
T nods, slowly.
“I am doctor,” he says, taking the Legos from my hand. He looks down at them, up at me. “So maybe,” he shrugs, “bullets, not so bad.”
He drops the Legos back in the pile.