A/S/L?

 

printings

Sometimes when I go to type a website into the search bar, I forget what I was going to look for–only a moment, then I look and realize my fingers have typed f-a-c-, and the autocomplete has already filled in Facebook.com.

This terrifies me.

Once upon a time, there was a time, a dark time, before snapchat, before twitter and Instagram, before even Facebook, there was AIM.

In this era, there were places of mystery, adventure, and–as parents always warned–danger. These places, rife with perverts and catfish, were called chatrooms.

I was ten. My older brother was fiddling around in Microsoft Paint. It was an advertisement for Tommy Hillfinger.

“What are you doing?” I asked. He showed me how skillfully he’d removed all evidence of advertisement from the photo.

“Some girl on this chatroom asked for a picture of me,” he informed me. He saved the picture of the Hillfinger model, then sent it. He clapped his hands. We went upstairs to have a snack. By the time we got back to the computer, the picture had almost sent. As we ate he said that the girl had sent him a picture of her tits! Which he then explained was another word for boobs. I asked to see.

He pulled it up. I whistled; I’d just learned to whistle.

“Want a copy?” he asked, conspiratorially. I tried to nod, but my wide-eyed look was answer enough. He hit print. At that moment, our mother called us to dinner. In a panic my brother shut the computer off completely. My heart calmed, he took a breath.

“Coming!” he called.

We scampered up the stairs, they were thick, carpeted–good for scampering. It was lasagna. Our father came home halfway through dinner, he didn’t care for lasagna.

We should have known better, thought more, but we really liked lasagna, even though we’d already snacked. We were both on our third, maybe fourth helpings, when our father came into the kitchen holding a piece of paper.

My brother went pale first.

“This,” he turned the picture to us, “is not what the internet is for.”

I, instead, went red. My father, shaking his head, walked out folding the paper as he went.

Our mother looked from my brother to me.

“Idiots,” she muttered.

We were grounded from the computer for a month. I couldn’t wait to be an adult; when I could print as many pictures of boobs as I wanted.

Paint Chips

paint_chips

I stand in line at the grocery store clutching three beers and a bag of popcorn. They are playing the Mission Impossible theme song over the loud speaker.

The man in front of me is short, hairy, from Azerbaijan, maybe. He smells like a man I met twenty-three years ago…

My Grandmother, used to go to AA. I don’t know if she still does, but, we were at AA; her, my brother, and I. There were donuts, I think. Coffee too, but I was too young to drink coffee. It was held in a church.

My brother and I were on these stairs, waiting. They were old and wooden; always leaving you with paint chips stuck to your trousers.

He looked a bit Anthony Hopkins, but fatter, with long hair, and a beard.

Maybe he didn’t look like Anthony Hopkins.

I don’t remember what my brother and I were doing; fighting, probably. This man, who didn’t look like Anthony Hopkins, approached us.

He walked right over, and pulled off his thumb. My eyes went wide, until I noticed the trick.

“It’s behind your hand!” my brother cried.

“Yeah!” I said, unsure.

He chuckled, “okay, okay,” he said. He held out his thumb to me. I grabbed it, confident. I pulled.

It came off in my hand.

The man, who didn’t look anything like Anthony Hopkins, roared with laughter. The little nub wiggled as he held it up to my brother’s horrified face. I dropped the rubber thumb onto the stairs. It rolled, gathering up paint chips.

The man snatched it up, fixed it to his hand, and walked off, laughing…

They are playing Shakira now, in the grocery store. The man, who might be from Azerbaijan, is trying to pay for cigarettes with a five-thousand ruble note. The cashier isn’t happy.

I lay my beers and popcorn down on the belt; stick my thumbs into my pockets, waiting.

Moving Day

moved

I moved into my own body at around twenty-three, only to find myself embarrassed and horrified at the nonsense it had been getting up to.

Especially my mouth.

I was in a club. It was dark. It was late. The Irish man I was talking to looked deep into my eyes.

“You know, I thought you were a decent guy. But you’re kind of a piece of shit,” he repeated. My mouth had just said “what?” even though my ears had been working perfectly fine.

I looked down at my hands. If my mouth has been pulling this shit, what have you bastards been up to, I thought. I used my hands to feel my ears, my nose, my hair.

When was the last time I got a haircut?

I looked back at the Irishman.

“I’m so sorry,” I said, “I had a rough childhood.”

What the hell are you talking about? I thought at my mouth.

“Stop it!” I cried.

The Irishman frowned at me.

“What?”

“Not you! Myself. I’m just really–ah!”

I cut myself off before lying again. I tested my feet, they worked as I expected. I turned around and ran to the bathroom.

I looked in the mirror. My eyes, pupils dilated, my shirt open way too far. I buttoned it. I splashed water on my face.

Not enough.

I walked to the stalls. The big one, even though I wasn’t handicapped. I tore off all of my clothes. I looked down at myself; covered in hair, full of drugs and beer.

“What the hell have you been getting up to?” I asked my nipples. They ignored me. My penis cowered between my legs.

“You’re certainly not innocent!” I remonstrated.

I looked at my toes, unclipped, dirty. I wanted to punish my own body, but I was trapped in it, now.

“I’m ashamed at you!” I told my body as I examined twenty-three years of memories; twenty-three years of no one behind the wheel of this suicidal sack of meat. I put my pants back on. My shirt, too.

“Things are about to change around here!” I proclaimed.

I meant it.

I forget what happened next.

 

Самая красивая вещь на свете

most_beautiful

Я помню самую красивую вещь, которую когда-либо видел. Не помню когда.  Не помню почему. Но помню где: Миннеаполис, Миннесота.

Была одна девушка. Мы встретились в Майне. Мы встретились вновь два года спустя в Массачусетсе. Она переехала в Миннесоту в тот период после первого поцелуя, когда повсюду буйствуют краски, а в голове кружатся мелодии.
Я работал на двух работах на протяжении двух лет. Купил билет в Миннеаполис. Сказал, что люблю её. Она взяла меня на вечеринку со своими друзьями. Была пятница. Музыка была громкая. Настолько громкая, что у меня начало ломить кости. Я сел в углу рисовать комиксы на подстаканниках. Она танцевала. Я вышел покурить. Было холодно, поздняя осень. В баре через дорогу горел свет. Я не помню, как переходил дорогу. Помню только, как сидел в баре. Внутри было очень светло. Бармен сделал мне джин и тоник: быстро и дешево, с сухим лаймом в придачу.
Лохматый музыкант в зелёных очках исполнял известные мелодии на платформе в углу. Мужчина, одетый в старую потрепанную футболку с обрезанными рукавами и банкой пива в руках, спотыкаясь разгуливал по танцполу, выкрикивая слова песни “Sweet Caroline.” Он был похож на ребенка, заблудившегося в супермаркете.  Он танцевал всем своим телом. Его пальцы водили по воображаемым струнам в такт мелодии, глаза вальсировали. Он был самым счастливым человеком на земле. Внезапно, сквозь музыку прорвался звук. Звук, который заставит вас убежать с лес: женщина, вызывающая у меня ассоциации с мокрой пепельницей, ворвалась на танцпол. На левом виске у нее была родинка.

Она буквально кинулась на мужчину. Ее растрепанные волосы встретились с его военной кепкой и влюбились. На мгновение они замерли в полном спокойствии, а затем растворились в чувственной джиге. Она наклонилась влево, он вправо. Они слились друг с другом, словно Инь и ян в блендере.

Мой взгляд упал на них ровно в тот момент, когда они оба прокричали «Бау-Бау-Бау» в воздух. Мужчина в зеленых очках начал играть громче, петь мощнее. Люди в баре начали опладировать. Я тоже, совершенно забыв про свой джин и тоник.

Они закружили друг друга. Мужчина отпустил женщину и она упала назад, продолжая извиваться на полу.  Мужчина встал перед ней и принялся трясти задом .Она шлепнула его. Он взвыл. Повернувшись, он поднял женщину с земли. Они приблизились друг к другу, напевая в воображаемые микрофоны друг друга. Одновременно с тем, как затихал последний куплет, они широко раскинули руки.   Их круглые животы поцеловались в первый и последний раз.

Песня закончилась. Весь бар зааплодировал. Мужчина с женщиной дали друг другу пять. Женщина вернулась за столик к своим друзьям. Мужчина пополз к ближайшему столику.

Кто-то дотронулся до моей руки. Девушка, которую я приехал увидеть, смотрела на сцену, а затем перевела взгляд на меня.

«Что ты здесь делаешь?» — спросила она.

Я открыл рот, но сразу закрыл, не найдя подходящих слов. Она схватила меня за руку и поволокла из бара на улицу. Я посмотрел на концертную площадку через дорогу: толпы высоких каблуков с нагеленными волосами курят снаружи.

«Ты иди, я подойду», — сказал я ей. Она пожала плечами и бросилась вперед. Я сел на тротуар и зажег сигарету. Глубоко вздохнув, я начал плакать.

 

Translation by Julie, click HERE if you’d like to contact her for any translation work.