I had a nightmare that night.
I was at the museum, and I was waiting, lying down.
I didn't know what I was waiting for, but I was waiting. The dust was entering in my nose, and I wasn’t able to breathe, and I couldn’t sneeze; I knew that I would leave my life if I did. It was dark. My throat was scratching me. I had bits of gravel in my eyes and blood on my eyelids.
Suddenly, something hit my mind; I do not hear anything. It was as if I had been immersed in the water, and the panic caught my throat and squeezed my neck: I had become deaf. My legs began to shake, and I pushed hard with my heels to push away the inanimate and bloody bodies that were on me. When I finally opened my eyes, I saw my mother on the floor covered with blood. Her hair was scattered on her angelic face. She was calling me but I couldn’t hear anything, I was screaming, and even though I wasn’t able to hear anything, I knew she was screaming to death.
I knew something was wrong when I suddenly woke up.
My awakening was not because of a soft caress flying over my spine, awoken by the class manuals as heavy as sacks of flour. It was not because of a Radiohead song playing weakly in the bathroom, in harmony with a distant hissing sound. It was not because of a dog barking or a raspy tongue licking my cheek, begging me to serve him some pie or something lying in the empty, dirty and ugly drawers of my apartment.
It was the wind.
When Boris and I were walking in the streets of Vegas at night, our eyes on the lookout for every corner policeman, our stolen chocolate bars in our hands and cigarettes between our teeth, the wind was always with us. It flew over our hair, sometimes lifting Boris' curls curtly, and pressing our backs, as if it wanted us to return to my apartment as soon as possible, in other words — our house. It was like our heaven. A place where we could breathe freely, even though our lungs were fattened with black smoke because of the cheap tobacco that Boris bought between classes in school from a shady guy.
It was a violent wind. Not like the one I used to feel tickling my ears whilst munching on the nuts I stole from the grocery store around the corner.
This wind suddenly slammed the window of my room, which then smashed my wall with the repugnant wallpaper. The boom that the shock had produced woke me up from my dream. Or my nightmare.
I knew something was wrong when i felt a void next to me.
The bed was pressed, but there was no one on it. I rubbed my eyes, sighed for a long time, trying to calm my heart that was still pounding.
"Boris...", I called, rubbing my temple.
I got up mechanically towards the bathroom. My limbs were hurting, my head was hurting even more, and I could not turn on the light without letting it attack my sleepy eyes. When I finally turned on the lamp, my eyes scanned my body and suddenly caught sight of the purple marks that littered my neck. Cautiously, I touched one with my wounded thumb, which made me utter a slight silent cry, due to a pain that ran through my ears to my head.
New brands appear every week, and I knew why. We knew very well why.
We never talked about it, though, always trying to find the simplest side, the least restrictive. The rough but liberating nights have always been buried in me, and secretly I knew it was keeping me alive.
The nights that Boris and I shared were always something surreal. An arm against a hip, a hand on a chest, or a breath on the neck ... It was always the thing that pushed us to get up the next day, or that allowed us to stop suffering for a while. It was the first shoot of a flower in spring. It was the finger that blurred the drawing that had just been drawn with savage blows. It was honey for the dry throat. It was feet in the hot sand. It was white mixing with colors, and for me, it was my soul mixing with Boris’. His fingers on my sick body, his breath on my lips and his laugh against my heart.
I did not know what it was. But it was sort of my escape. I couldn’t think too much about these sensations, because otherwise my heart was replacing my head, and an indefinite pain replaced a soft inner peace that I struggled to understand.
"Boris!" I called a second time, instead with more tone in my voice. The fan was idling in the stuffy room, the only thing that kept me from going crazy because of the silence, but it made me dizzy. I put my elbows on the ceramic sink to press my head into my arms. My head was pierced by thousands of knives, my ears were hearing unbearable cracklings, and my stomach made me feel bad about that bottle I drunk with Boris last night. My hands were shaking with cold and fear, still feeling the dust of the museum on my cheek.
I then rushed to the toilet and vomited all my guts out. My hand grabbed the edge of the flush to prevent me from fainting in what I had just rejected.
I looked up, and it was at that moment that I saw for the first time the time on my dented watch because of a high-speed chase of the day before. It was 2 o'clock in the morning.
I took a deep breath, and pushed on my hands to get up from the tiling that was stinging my knees. I stepped out of the bathroom into the my room, and began digging into Boris's coat, which he left lying on the shabby floor of my room, looking for something to make me forget my disturbing dream... I groaned, finding just a lighter that didn’t even work anymore. I went out of the room a second time, and went into the living room, making as little noise as possible so as not to wake up my father and Xandra.
"Boris," I whispered, "Where did you fucking put the w..."
I stopped talking. The room was empty. I blinked again.
The dimly lit, silent living room gave me chills in the back.
And then it was like evidence.
I ran to my room and grabbed my derelict boots near my desk. I put them on without even tying the laces, when suddenly I heard Popchyk at the end of the bed barking with enthusiasm, which made me roll my eyes.
"We're not going on a ride, Popchyk." The dog squeaked and went to lie in Boris' (empty) place.
I grabbed Boris' coat, which was much warmer than mine, from the place next to my bedside lamp. Suddenly, something hit my mind. Boris is outside, and he does not have his coat.
"Shit," I said for the second time, stumbling over my loose laces as I came out of my room, because of my confused and still sleeping thoughts. I got up slowly and I left the apartment in a hurry, which would cause a new headache.
The way I met Boris was more or less strange; a boy with a suspicious look, his tangled hair in his eyes, and a knee-length sweatshirt. It was this pale boy who was groaning in the back of the classroom when he didn’t agree with the classes in which he wasn’t sleeping. A joke about Harry Potter, and a gothic t-shirt later, we were standing together next to the bus, and a few weeks later we were laughing, fleeing a policeman who had caught us stealing caramels.
I understood how being lonely was something terrible when I was with Boris. I was eating with Boris, I was living with Boris and I was sleeping with Boris. The problem was that we had to leave sometimes, or do something else on our side; it hurt me the most, like a hole in my heart. Boris was my landmark in this large, lush and luminous city, and in that big apartment that my father and his girlfriend were keeping (and who cared only about the school bills).
But it was Boris who most haunted by loneliness. The most touched, the most scared. When I had to leave, he was always trying to make me stay, be proposing to stay drinking, or other ploys, "come on Potter, one last beer," or "we did not see the end of this movie," or "I have to tell you my afternoon with Kotku, Potter! "
Every time, I was smiling sadly, and then nodding, just to see his soft smile and his bright eyes.
I touched the lighter in Boris's coat pocket to relax myself. My eyes behind my glasses, covered in grease and fingerprints, scanned every corner of the streets, watching every strange behavior, unusual habits or even the most common ones in the city of Vegas; a young lady giving a slap to refuse the advances of a man dressed in rags, teenagers throwing drug packs in the middle of taxis buzzing and in a hurry, the loudspeakers whining Christmas songs — barely audible because of the horns of motorists, angry and stressed.
I went into a narrow street that led to a place that I and Boris knew and were familiar with; a park for children with a swing and some bricks whose paint had disappeared with time.
After stealing some snacks or whatever, it was always here that I met up with Boris. We were laying down on the ground, our heads in the grass or the snow, and we were passing at each other a cigarette whose end lit lit up the black night.
Our laughter and our tears were mixed with the sounds of the city below, and those of the glass bottles that we were drinking. We were stoned, drunk; our lucid and tearful eyes, because of the violent sweetness of our spirits, pierced our souls, and our grave words pierced our hearts.
When I entered the park, I saw a black mass lying near a trampoline whose fabric had cracked for years. I knew immediately that it was Boris; he had a kind of magnetic aura that was making my body shake when I was close to him. My heart was pounding in my chest, but in a way… I knew I was safe.
"Boris?" I said, approaching softly, my steps cracking the snow at the rhythm of my irregular breathing. I was cold; my hands trembled, I felt like my nose had ice cubes hanging from the nostrils, and I wasn’t able to feel my feet. I could see flakes in Boris's hair from where I was. He turned his back to me, and I felt my throat tighten when I saw and heard that he was whispering inaudible things and rubbing his arm.
"Boris," I said again, kneeling this time. He still did not answer. I raised my hand gently to touch his shoulder, but it was as if I had burned him; he uttered a heartrending cry, a painful " no " that pierced my heart. He then pushed me with a force that made me fall; my back hit the snow-covered ground, and I groaned in pain, and then I heard tears from Boris. When I straightened, I saw him pushing with his legs in the snow to lean against the fence of the playground. His feet slipped in the snow, and his hands, reddened by the cold, scratched the ground. When his back finally reached the barrier, he screamed, and then he was shaking his body, and with each clash between his spine and the iron fence, a new sob came out of his throat, and in me a shudder that shook my entire body.
Boris was the quietest about his problems; I rarely knew what he was thinking or feeling at certain moments. When he was telling me his feelings, it was just when he whispered "You're handsome, Potter" in my ear when he kissed my neck and stomach, on the foggy dark nights of our minds, and that was it. When he was drunk, he pronounced words in Russian that I did not understand, while stroking my cheek. That was all. I only heard him cry a few times when he thought I was not awake yet. It hurt me. Too much. His voices of distress, when he was having nightmares, crushed my heart and all too often — I promised myself that I would stay with him until he could spend a full night; until my death if it should.
We stayed a few minutes like that. I was on my knees, and a few inches in front of me, there was Boris, who was chattering and whispering something in Russian. My pants were soaked, and I could not feel my body anymore: I was paralyzed. When he suddenly stopped moving, he raised his head and I could finally see his face covered by his sweet freckles with snow on them. And then I saw his red and frightened eyes, his wet hair with flakes and I could see his tangled curls, his cheeks were covered with tears, and his mouth, slightly open, was throwing a trembling breath.
I walked slowly towards him, still looking him in the eyes. Boris' breaths and suffocations were the only things that were breaking the silence, in addition to the sound of my oversized boots scraping the ground.
"Hey, Boris," I say, muttering and sitting next to him.
He followed me with his eyes and finally broke the contact by stealthily lowering his eyes on his arm. He pulled up the sleeve of his sweater, and I shuddered: marks. Blue, yellow, like a palette of paint.
"They burn me."
He looked at me again.
"They make me burn and I beg for it to stop but then it starts again and I just ask him to stop, I bump, I stumble, he catches me, and he continues over and over again and the pain does not stop it follows me, it prevents me from sleeping, from eating and it's like a proklyatiye , and then... "
He stopped abruptly. It was not because he did not know what to say, no. Boris always knew what to say, a phrase that could cheer me up, make me smile, laugh, and even cry, he always had this split, the one we admire, the one we feel, the one we need. No, he just did not have air anymore; he looked at me, his eyes full of tears, his lips tight because if he opened them he knew he won’t be able to stop.
The sirens of a fire truck sounded far away in the city, and Boris breathed a long sigh of sobs that broke my heart once again.
The first time Boris came to high school with a dark purple shiner, he told me that it was his father. The way how he said it was too simplistic, too unreal, too blatant. It was ridiculous. But I recognized myself, because when I think back to appointments with my psychiatrist, I was not at my best either. "Are you fine Theodore? Do you overcome the shock?","Yes, yes Sir, I'm fine," while every other night I was waking up Boris in tears and panic after a bad dream to beg him to give me back my mother.
"The burns woke me up," Boris murmured, after a short period of comfortable silence. "I could not calm them so I went outside to put snow on it."
He let out a small laugh. He knew very well that the marks never burnt; it was all in his head, and the fact that his father was beating him was something he simply could not bear. As direct as it could be, it was the simplest truth. Boris always tried to find a paternal figure in every adult who could cross his path. He needed one. He tried to find one in my father, by the way. I did not blame him, and it was obvious, and then it would have been absurd to do it. Boris just needed a marker or someone to hang on to, someone who showed him the way, who would tell him to do this or not to do that.
In the air, there was a halo of pale yellow light, because of street lamps that never went out. The shadow of Boris was projected on the white snow and mine beside him. We formed a whole. A whole mess of sadness and despair, certainly, but a whole. Our souls were mixing together, our hearts were suffering together, but we were together. We were alive. We, Boris and I, lived the moment. Whether it was moments when my body was on his, or when my laugh broke my melancholy through his stupid stories, or when he stroked my back while singing Russian nursery rhymes at twilight, these were moments that allowed us to hang on, and continue to live. And they’re probably the best moments I've lived in all my life.
Boris rested his head on my trembling shoulder.
" Izvinite , sorry for what happened, Potter, I was just… In the living room, and he... again."
I leaned my head against his and laughed softly. I took off my coat and draped it over us both.
"I was in the museum that night," I said, shrugging. "Again."
Boris pressed my frozen hand and stroked it gently.
"Thank you. Dlya vsego , Potter. "
He began to sing a song and I closed my eyes.
Carry on, outlast the ignorance
Moving on, survive the innocence
Will not be long, will not be long, will not be long
You know it's gonna get better.
In a way, he saved my life and I saved his.
You know it's gonna get better.