A photo taken by my friend Ron, in Montreal
This is a dream I had, twice for some reason, so I remember it well. It’s a sort of zombie dream, I guess I was Grigoris and the girl I remember as Claire Danes. It felt very Soviet, very hard boiled, very noir. It wasn’t a bad dream, it was just like a movie. The first scene I suppose, is as follows – Grigoris was in the bedroom with the old man. He was lying on the floor, on a pillow. His daughter was waiting pensively in the living room, legs up, looking into the grey urban night.
He fumbled with the unfamiliar gun, withdrew the magazine.
“Do you have any more bullets?” asked Grigoris.
The old many was deeply polite, grateful. Over eager even. He dragged over to the desk and said “Yes, in the drawers.”
Grigoris rifled through the ones on the right, pulling some out as he grew impatient.
“It’s fine,” he said, “you can lie down,” instinctively recoiling away.
The old man smiled, “an old Sunday Leader,” he found “I never read this.” Grigoris was surprised people read the thing at all. The streets looked like a newspaper now. All grey and bad news.
“Here we are,” said the old man, handing Grigoris two bullets. One was ludicrously outsized, but the other would fit.
“That’s fine,” he said, “now why don’t you lie down?”
Grigoris left. Walked down the hallway to the living room. The daughter was still there, she looked away from the hopeless window to him, with hope. He couldn’t chamber the bullet here.
“How is he?” she said. Grigoris shrugged. “I know he’s bad otherwise you wouldn’t, you wouldn’t.”
“I wouldn’t be here at all?” Grigoris smiled, an offering. “I’m going out, to get something. Don’t go out, and don’t go in there.”
He opened the faded wood door, went down the faded, dimming hall, avoided the antiquated elevator and took the peeling stairs. It was dark outside, rainy, as he eyed the world beyond the apartment grate. His coat was dark, dreary, subdued. He tucked up the collar to keep out bad luck and demons.
On the street one saw in shadow and nuance. It was still possible to get the groceries, but it was equally possible to be swept into dark alleys, bayoneted, disappeared, bitten. It was grey, maybe brown, rusty. There was rain on the ground and in the air but nothing fresh falling. It was just sweat, a patina of anxiety on the streets.
As he walked he sensed two presences, one in a flowing coat, its features silhouetted by the night. The other was mundane, but what ever is. Best to say the other was unidentified. Grigoris did the junkie shuffle and pulled off into an alley. He didn’t light a cigarette, but it would have been appropriate at this time. He was stopped in an alley, under an arch, ensconced in urban, archival stone. It was like the mouth to a sewer, but it just led to another part of the city. The only escape was for the rats, scurrying down to the netherworld through the pipes and storm drains. Grigoris was here.
“How do you do?” said the man in the long coat, from behind. Grigoris held out three hundred and got a packet of beads, wrapped in newspaper.
“Do you have, do you have any cure?” he asked.
The man gave the street facsimile of a smile and looked askance. This was already taking too long. They both sensed fuzz at the other end of the street. Not there yet, but coming. The dealer had stringy hair, sallow skin, sunken cheeks. Unbelievably typical. He reached under his armband and pulled out a packet of flat leaves and handed it to Grigoris. His spider sense must have been tingling something terrible because he just left.
Grigoris went back down the street, his own instincts ringing like the division bell. He could see a soldier down the street, he hurried back to the apartment. Pulling a small, strong luggage lock from his pocket he closed the complicated rod and button gate and locked it. Running up the stairs he noticed a babushka and her child coming in and turned to explain. Her key just clicked and the child slid open the rod. His lock wasn’t connected to anything, it just jangled.
This wouldn’t do. He quickly ushered them and their groceries in. The soldier was nearby now, almost at the gate. Grigoris fumbled with the lock, the button, finally slid it into place, using the house locking system instead. Given this neighborhood, probably good enough. The soldier was there by now, the gig, apparently up. He tugged on the gate and didn’t make eye contact with Grigoris. He turned and went inside.
The daughter was there, as the babushka and child. Seeing their faces, curiosity left the latter and she quickly bundled off to relative safety. The girl looked at him, but before he could say anything.
“Tashi, come out, we need to talk about your father,” the soldiers said. “We won’t hurt you.”
As her head turned from Grigoris’s eyes, the soldier straffed the plywood doors with bullets, knocking one off the hinges. She ran to Grigoris, clutching his bent arms at the elbow, he quickly bundled her upstairs.
“We have time,” he said, “they’re just doing the rounds.”
But she was there behind him. Kissing his neck, clutching his stomach.
“We’ll leave,” she said, “we’ll get married, just kiss me now.” This was not unusual, or unreal. The whole world was going down in an plane crash. Every day felt like a gasp. People clung together at the last moments, in some kind of humanity more than lust. She probably meant it, and Grigoris was, quite frankly, equally interested in some emotional respite. He just wasn’t as immediately shell shocked as her.
He turned and held her, told her to turn of the heat. He sat her down, went to the kitchen and chambered the bullet. Looking, there was luckily four or five other rounds in there. He took the safety off, went into the old man’s room and offered him in a choice.
“Here’s the cure,” he said, tossing him a packet of leaves. “It won’t work.” He paused. “If you’d prefer, you can end it now,” proffering the gun. “The latter stages are quite painful and you,” he said, looking at the man’s ghastly pallor and bleeding foot, “are almost there.”
Grigoris looked out the window. Scratched his head.
“The soldiers are downstairs now. I recommend the latter.”
The old man nodded. Grigoris took the safety off and handed him the weapon, butt first. He left the room, stretched his arms across the hall and caught the girl when she came rushing in.