Nuclear Spring

Nuclear Spring
Evgeni Alyokhin
Translated by Victoria Mesopir

      Elina was, for me, undoubtedly, a talented person. I admired her. Her independence and wit. For example, she sold to dumbfucks school kids and college freshmen tablets against radiation for 120 roubles a set, passing them off as I dont even know what. And she got them for ten. Do the math: 110 rubles, like off a friggin tree. She also managed to get to classes, write random articles and party the last I didnt approve of, although I didnt tell her. Keep in mind, too, she herself was also a freshman. Like me, actually, only I wasnt on top of anything. And also she was my girl, the very first. The first, right, not counting the couple of occasions, as they say, the runner only made it to second base. But this has nothing really to do with it. I loved Elina, I wanted to cry, laugh, jump, fall, smash to pieces, die like a dog yet keep on living.
      -- You want? she asked when it became clear that the beer would soon run out, and we still had highs and lows to reach.
      And pulled out the tablets.
      Egor and I looked at each other. Id never considered whether Id start using wheels, if the occasion presented itself. I thought for half a second, then decided that I would.
      -- This is the Toren youve heard of, its just that I dont have anything better with me. And even this just a set plus two units. Wont be enough.
      -- Come on, I said, -- not enough! How many of them you have to eat then? Twelve for four not enough?
      -- Why twelve? she asked, -- Eight. Six in the set. Six plus two equals eight.
      She showed two tablets in her palm. Put them on the table, pulled out a little plastic packing, unscrewed it, poured out another six.
      -- If we had three each thatd just do it. But we can do this. Drink one. And snort the other.
      Egor asked:
      -- Snort the tablets?
      -- Uh huh. That way theyll work faster and stronger like. Gotta crush and snort em, just like powder.
      -- This isnt bad for the health? I asked.
      Olya let out a chuckle. Yeah, here we also had Elinas friend Olya. I actually didnt like Olya very much, because I suspected Elina was cheating on me with her.
      -- Give me some kinda sheet,  -- Elina said to Egor. Because this was his pad, you see, and obviously not because she might find him attractive in any way. This was out of the question. While Egor was looking for a notebook and tearing out a sheet, I, Elina and Olya (wouldve been better if she werent with us) each drank a tablet, washing it down from the bottles. Egor looked at us in doubt, but then also drank a tablet. Elina crushed a pile for me on a squared sheet of paper:
      -- You gonna?
      -- Yeah, and grease it up, -- I replied.
      I was her guy, and so I immediately snorted that shit. A cold and dry tornado rushed from my nose to my head. But I didnt flinch.
      -- Nah, Ill better have another drink, said Egor.
      -- Too bad, I said, and showed him a fist with the thumb up.
      In the bathroom, I tuned in to myself. Nothing. The Toren wasnt working so far. Thats good, if they start tripping, Ill have a great time of it. My system is stronger, at least in terms of weed and alcohol, I can take three times as much as Egor. I washed my hands and drank water from the tap. Of course, I know you cant drink tap, but what can you do, the urge was really strong and very pressing -- and so I drank.
      Stepping out into the corridor, I bumped into Egors mother, and smiled at her stupidly. Well, it was better than saying hi to her again. And just walking past her like past an empty space, also seemed stupid to me. Although smiling stupidly was even more stupid. I walked into stupid Egors room on stupid cotton feet.
      Egor was sitting at his computer. Elina and Olya were sitting on his bed, giggling about something. With your friend Egor theres nothing to talk about I thought to myself about my friend.
      -- School kids broke into the physics lab with the aim of looting the medicine cabinets, said Elina.
      -- School kids broke into the physics lab with the aim of looting the medicine cabinets, repeated Olya.
      They laughed again. Whether they were putting me on, I couldnt really tell.
      -- What the fuck are you bitches babbling about? I said.
      -- Whoa, said Egor.
      -- Its a quotation, I said.
      Egor turned to me and said:
      -- What they said also was a quotation.
      He read me the text from some website: School kids broke into the physics lab with the aim of looting the medicine cabinets. They learned about the effects of the substance during the Basic Life Safety class. Having tried the tablets on themselves, the teens landed in hospital with the diagnosis poisoning. As per safety regulations, the medicine cabinet should not contain real tablets, but the empty capsules. But in that district school the tablets turned out to be real, for some reason. Now the agents of state narco-control services are leading an investigation in other regional schools. Medicine cabinets containing capsules with Toren, are being confiscated.
      Elina and Olya laughed again.
      -- Yah, and? I asked.
      Elina went to the toilet. Together with Olya. They were giggling and holding on to each other. I really didnt like this too much.
      -- So, whatd you think? I asked Egor. Meaning his condition.
      -- I dont know, he replied.
      He turned to the monitorswitched one song for another on the computer. I said: -- And what dya make of Elina?
      He jumped up and went to the toilet. After a few seconds he returned and said:
      -- Fuck, theyve locked themselves up and are friggin neighing it up in there. I got mother at home.
      And he left again. And again returned. Actually, I didnt care. Let him walk up and down all he wants. I was touching my cotton feet. They had big warm goose bumps running up and down them. I told Egor:
      -- School kids broke into the physics lab with the aim of looting the medicine cabinets.
      He left again, and I lit up. Egor was also 17, but one could smoke at his place. If people took turns doing so. Not even mentioning the fact that it was already almost night, and we were here, doing hell knows what.
      Egor finally brought Elina and Olya. Elina said:
      -- We just couldnt get away from the tap.
      Youre too beautiful, I replied, -- to be drinking water from the tap.
      I looked at Olya. She had a fiery tear rolling down her cheek. Like a drop of hot polyethylene, and it was leaving a grey burn on the skin. I decided not to tell anyone anything, let her sort it out for herself. To me this Olya, even though she was a good friend of my beloved, I repeat, was not someone I liked. She was just a leech. To my mind, she didnt have a single virtue.
      Egor switched on the television. Only he couldnt decide on a channel: he just kept clicking from one to another, like a halfwit. I watched, not managing to understand anything from any single show, then slowed down a little, and as a result, dozed off in the armchair. I came to, when I felt hands on my face. It was Elina. At first I couldnt understand, what she wanted, or who she actually was. She said:
      -- Wake up.
      And kissed me.
      -- Why are you sleeping?
      I even came to. Because she never kissed me in front of strangers, as a rule. And when she did kiss me, I immediately got a hard-on.
      I looked around and understood where I was. Egor and Olya slept on the bed. With their backs to each other and I dont blame them for this: neither one, nor the other, had anything attractive about them.
      -- What time is it?
      Elina looked at her cell and said:
      -- Already one thirty.
      -- Lets go to my place? I asked.
      -- Lets go.
      I got up and shook Egor.
      -- Egor. Egor. Were going.
      He got up and walked us to the door. I said:
      -- Olga will stay with you. Okay?
      Egor didnt say a thing. He had a very focused look. And a very sleepy one, at the same time.
We went down the staircase. In the driveway I allowed myself to take Elina by the hand. She wasnt against it, and that was nice. I brought her hand to my lips. If not for that dryness in my nose and mouth, everything wouldve been fine. I remembered that wed snorted that crap.
      -- Im not snorting that anymore. And you know, in general. I thought your friend was crying fiery tears.
      -- Fiery tears? Elina repeated.
      We walked out of the entryway. Not all that far to my place walk past the Housing and Maintenance office, beyond the garages the garage co-op, the co-op head sells moonshine and doesnt give credit and thats where the private sector begins. Thats where I live.
      My girl and I were leaving the zone of nuclear pollution.
      We walked at night under the street lights, and everything was somehow not right. But you couldnt tell whether it was good or bad. Just not right. Like looking at life through thick glass. I imagined how someone would eat a whole set of Toren, his heart slows down, senses start working differently, the mind shuts down, and that man, on cotton feet, attempts to scramble the hell out of the lethal level of radiation zone. The man hallucinates. He sees how bright acidic blotches of radiation fall on his clothes and body.
      We walked up to my house. I quietly opened the gate, let Elina in, closed it. If seen from above, we resembled a couple desperados on the run from pursuers theyre chasing after us in a helicopter and shouting into a megaphone: --Stop, stop, you got nowhere to run. The window to my room was the nearest to the porch. I walked up to the window, while Elina stood on the porch. She and I, we worked in such good harmony, and I felt that our bodies were but part of one difficult puzzle which needed to be assembled as quickly as possible. To connect all the necessary elements. Hot clots of energy circulated through the veins.
      I said:
      -- Ill have to climb in. Stay.
      Elina said nothing, shed already been witness to this situation twice. I barely climbed onto the ledge, then grabbed the ventilation window. Carefully, this had to be done carefully, because the pane from the ventilation window had already fallen off once. I stuck my hand through the ventilation window, grabbed the frame from inside my place. Thats it, the rest was easy. Before this point, a fall was possible. I tensed my hands, squeezing my torso inside. Now I stretched out my hands and leaned against the window sill. This was like traveling between two worlds. Now I found myself inside my room. I got down from the window sill, pulled off my shoes, opened and shut my eyes several times. Having adjusted to the dark, I quietly went into the corridor. Didnt switch on the light, obviously. It was dark in the corridor, but you could see everything if you focused.
      The door to my room was opposite the one to my parents room. My father and stepmothers room. My father wasnt here now, he, thank God, was away on business. But my stepmother was home. And unfortunately, the door to their room was open. I listened in. Stepmother was wheezing in the dark asleep. I stood for some five seconds. Wheezing, sleeping. I walked up to the door from the corridor to the anteroom and, while opening it ajar,  pulled it up and toward myself,  so that it wouldnt creak too loud. I listened again. Amongst the other sounds from the running fridge and ticking clock in the kitchen to the water pressure in the radiator I isolated stepmothers wheezing. All okay. Then I stepped out into the anteroom and opened the door to the outside.
      I had to do all this, because we only had one key, which opened the door from both sides. If everyone left the house, the key was left in the bath cabin. I dont know why we never made a duplicate for everybody. Such important things, like cutting an extra key, always get forgotten. Sometimes Im out at night, and my father and stepmother think that Im sleeping. So its been with us always, what can you do? Its much simpler in Egors case. With me, its more complicated. Once, I brought Elina home with me, wanting her to spend the night, but my father didnt allow it.
      Elina and I quietly tiptoed back. We found ourselves in my room. She took her shoes off in the dark and said quietly:
      -- I need to drink. And pee.
      -- Hold on, I replied, just as quietly.
      I also had to drink, urgently. I stepped out into the corridor, went into the kitchen. Now I didnt really try to act quite so undercover. Maybe I just went to the kitchen to get some water at night, so what of it? I switched on the kitchen light and drank water out of the three-liter jar. A silver coin jangled against the bottom. They say silver purifies water, so thats why it was put there. Only now did I think of closing the door to my parents room. It mustve opened up by itself, this sometimes happened. It was doubtful stepmother slept with the door open on purpose. I switched off the light, stepped out into the corridor, and closed my parents door. And brought the water to Elina. The whole jar. I too would need some, and more than once. The Sahara desert had spread in my mouth and nose. Elina drank some water, and I took her to the toilet. Everything had to be done with extreme caution. While she peed, I stood in the corridor, listening. Sound of the fridge, sounds in the pipes, the quiet murmuring of the stream. All okay. She comes out, we return to the room.
      Finally we were alone together. I quickly undressed her, we kissed, I took everything off myself, and here we are, completely naked. Just this dryness, though. Two thirsts. We have two thirsts a head, were in two worlds at once. One completely unlike the other like heaven and hell. First I kissed her breasts, I kissed her stomach, I kissed her between her legs, I hugged her tightly in my arms. Got down on her. Elina tried to guide me, but I had already found my own way in. This is the most important moment, there is nothing better, and there never will be. Its like I look at a drop and see the ocean, this eternity that cannot be contained. We came, drank some water, then started over. And then one more time. And then we had to leave, because it was already almost 7 oclock. Morning was already lightening up the room, and we had to leave, before stepmother woke up.
      All in the same sequence as before, only in reverse. We dressed quickly. I took Elina out first into the corridor, then into the anteroom. Let her out, closed the door with the key. All just as quietly and seriously. Like special-ops commandos. I returned to the room. Climbed out of the ventilation window into the street. It had snowed outside. This was impossible, because it was the month of May. But I wanted it this way, and the snow fell.
      -- Nuclear winter, I said.
      And kissed Elina.
      Spring, -- she corrected.
      We quietly walked out of the fenced area, I closed the gate. And we walked to the bus stop. The snow crunched under our feet, and our soles left small nuclear-explosion craters  in it. We need to ride downtown and walk a little there. At 8:30 Elinas parents leave for work. Well go to her place and sleep a little. Then wake up.
      Already at the bus stop, Elina suddenly remembered:
      -- We forgot Olga.
      I didnt like Olga. I was jealous of her. One time, Elina suggested we have a threesome. I didnt want to, but I agreed. And it didnt work for me. I couldnt. I was too embarrassed that there were three of us. With just two this was never the case. When it was the two of us, I was Elinas cyborg, model Fucker 2003.
      Now I said:
      -- Maybe, Olya will make it on her own?
      I thought Elina would disagree, but she replied:
      -- Okay.
      And a nuclear snowflake fell on her eyelash.