You can find all sorts of things in the alleyways of St. Petersburg; mostly dirt and dumpsters, yet occasionally you might find a dog, a drunk, or in this case, a pleasant enough man trying to re-grow an arm in peace.
“Ah!” I tell him. He holds up his good arm, defensive. There is a lot of blood. He begins speaking Russian. I try to focus, but I am not entirely sober.
“Sorry, I understand little–speak fast, uh, no–hot?” I say, in Russian.
He looks long at me. “I speak English,” he says, his voice soaked in pity. He seems to have forgotten about his arm. That is, until I stare at it.
“Do you need a hospital?” I ask.
He shakes his head.
“I’ll be fine. I’m immortal.”
I frown. “Huh? I think you’ve got the wrong word.”
The man stands up. “I’m from Yorkshire, so, no.”
“So, I just need somewhere quiet to regrow my arm and I’ll be fine. Don’t concern yourself.”
I stand there, scared, but still a little concerned.
“I don’t live far from here. It’s a bit cold,” I say, surprising myself and him.
“Uh, okay,” he says. He steps towards me. I take solace that he is not very big. I walk first. He wraps his jacket over his stump and follows.
“Green or black,” I ask, back in my kitchen. In the light he is etiolated, skeletal.
I set the kettle on. I sit. I try not to look at his stump of an arm.
“So, why are you in Russia?” he asks, pleasantly.
I shrug. “I like it here.”
He frowns, but doesn’t argue.
He shrugs, something stringy falls from his stump onto the floor. I don’t mention it. “I fell in love.”
“Oh,” I nod, understanding.
“Yeah. It was perfect, really. We just worked so well together.”
I smile, feeling warmer towards him.
“She was a cannibal,” he adds, cutting me short. “Oh, sorry, were you saying?”
I shake my head. “No, no, go on.”
He sighs. “Well, I’m immortal, as I said. And well, we met online. Started as a long distance thing. I’d send her some fingers, some toes. But, you know how it goes.”
I can’t manage a nod. But I don’t stop him either.
“Well, of course, we got to talking more and more. I learned Russian a few hundred years ago so, it was tough at first. But, we fell in love and I agreed to come visit.”
“Yeah,” I manage.
“Well in person, she was different,” he whines.
He looks at his missing arm for the first time, his eyes well up. “She was just so hungry. So, I said she could have my hand. Just the hand you know. But, well, the word for hand and arm in Russian is the same and before I could stop her, she’d hacked it off.”
The kettle goes off. I almost leap for it.
“Sugar?” I ask.
“One or two?”
He holds up a finger. When I get back to the table he is crying, full bellied tears. I reach out to pat him on the shoulder, think better of it and say “sorry, man,” instead.
“We started arguing something awful. But then, I passed out from the blood-loss. I’d only just woken up when you found me. She must have dragged me there and dumped me.”
There is a sick crack as fully formed bone shoots out from the bloody stump. The man seizes, knocking over his tea.
“Oh, shit, sorry mate, I’ll get it,” he says.
But, I’m already standing. “No, you’re good,” I say, snatching up a dish-rag. “You’re good,” I add, watching meat slide out, covering the exposed bone.