ABORTION

Dmitrii Emets

Translated from Russian

by

Jane H. Buckingham

©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

1 Andrei Gavrilov, a young entrepreneur (double-glazed windows, stained-glass windows) returned from Cheliabinsk, where he has been on a business trip. Coming from the airport, with some suspicion characteristic of all returning Muscovites, he sniffed the air, in which the smells of wet asphalt, cars, freshly washed leaves, and the nearest kebab house were intricately mixed together. Gavrilov was in a fine easy mood, like a man having concluded annoying business and anticipating something pleasant. He did not want to go home, especially as they did not yet know about his arrival, and decided to go to his mistress Katya. (As a matter of fact, he had decided this while still on the plane.) The entrepreneur caught a taxi, confidently dropped his suitcase in the back seat, and collapsed beside the driver. The driver, a small Armenian with a shiny bald head and bluish-grey cheeks, looked sideways questioningly at the passenger. “Green Avenue. And step on it, Pop, to a woman and food,” said Gavrilov. The driver understandingly raised up his index finger. All the way Gavrilov joked and told tall tales, and in the end he dropped two hundred on the seat without asking for change. The Armenian wished him something predictable in reciprocal courtesy, something that always sounds bad in the mouth of a Russian but pretty nice from the southern folks, not putting into this any meaning except something primordially fertile. Katya opened the door immediately as if waiting on the threshold. She was barefoot, in a blue robe. Her dark hair was gathered in a bun at the back. She stood in the hallway, arms lowered by her side, and looked at Gavrilov. “Hello! Don’t recognize me, Mumkin? Or do you have a lover under the bed?” he was surprised, handing her the roses and a bottle of red wine. Gavrilov always called Katya Mumkin, finding it extremely funny. Katya took the roses and held them up to her face, not sniffing them but as if screening herself off with them. “When did you arrive?” she asked through the bouquet of flowers. “Just now,” Gavrilov nodded at the suitcase. “I wasn’t waiting for you today... Was already going to bed,” said Katya. “Supper?” “You bet! I’m so hungry that I could eat a horse,” Gavrilov joked. While he was at the table, Katya sat sideways to him and watched as he inhaled supper. In her whole pose – the hands mechanically smoothing out the folds of the tablecloth, the stooped back, that she was not quite looking at her own reflection in the mirrored kitchen door – there was something listless, weary... Gavrilov was dimly aware that his mistress was behaving differently today but as usual did not try to understand female moods, knowing that he would understand nothing anyway. “You’d have to be a woman to understand how they think!” he thought. After supper, Gavrilov pushed his plate away and wiped his lips with a towel. “Come to me! We haven’t seen each other for ten days,” he said with his usual pertness and,

©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

2 having drawn near, started to kiss Katya on the chin, neck, lips, slowly at first, and then, to the extent of his passion, faster all the time. He was already looking forward to prolonged pleasure, which he had been deprived of during all the days of travel. Usually when he kissed her like this, Katya started to laugh at first, then bent her head as if trying to dodge, and after stopping in her tracks for a second, impulsively hugged him. Today, however, something went wrong. After a few kisses, as if waking up, she abruptly moved away and stood up. “What’s with you, Mumkin?” said Gavrilov. “Not today,” said Katya. “Ah-h,” he drawled disappointedly. “Red flag?” “No... I had an abortion the day before yesterday.” Gavrilov did not immediately understand what she had said. “What do you mean, Mumkin? What abortion?” he asked. “You don’t know what an abortion is? Read the medical encyclopaedia. It’s one of the first words.” Katya was speaking indifferently in a dead voice, and, on hearing this voice, Gavrilov suddenly realized that everything she had said was true. “I know what an abortion is. But the child, whose?” he asked. Katya looked at him with hatred. “As if you don’t know it was yours! Don’t worry, it was even like you, with the same face, same hands, feet, the same arrogant and selfish...b... the same snake!” she said, articulating every word. Gavrilov abruptly stood up, knocked over a chair and did not even notice. “Listen, how old was he? I mean the child...” he asked for some reason. “Eight.” “Eight? Months?” “What are you, a kid? Who would get an abortion at eight months? Eight weeks.” Gavrilov suddenly realized that all the time while he was on the business trip and even almost seven weeks before, he had had a baby. And only the day before yesterday, a total of some thirty or forty hours ago, maybe, at the very time when he had already left the hotel to go to the airport, the child ceased to exist and was now like a piece of raw meat in some surgical bucket. Gavrilov had never thought particularly about kids before and did not rush to have them – one from his wife was enough, but now, when he heard that it was so simple and easy, hidden from him, to kill his child, he was suddenly overwhelmed by a profound sense of irritation, almost hatred towards the woman standing beside him. “I don’t understand why you did this. Could have consulted me, indeed this also concerns me.” “And what would you have advised?” Katya asked, emphasizing the last word with irony. “Now’s already not the time to talk about this. But, in my opinion, you could very well have kept it,” Gavrilov said, after a little hesitation.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

3 “Kept it?” Katya yelled. “Have you watched TV lately? Why bring a child into the world now?! Everywhere is violence, filth, infection, crisis. And if there’s a war, do you understand this?” Gavrilov listened to her, mouth twisted. In Katya’s words, obviously heard and adopted from someone else, he did not see the logic but only a feeble attempt to justify herself. “Aren’t you tired of this? You’re deceiving yourself!” he said. Katya swayed, as if he had pushed her in the chest. Her face somehow shrank, suddenly became small and ugly. “So, I’m at fault, I’m a killer but you’re squeaky clean?” she screamed. “Now just say that you wanted him! But you didn’t, you didn’t! Remember, I once asked why you and your wife only have one kid and you said, ‘So what! Why breed fools?’” Katya shouted, absurdly, heedlessly throwing up her hands. Her voice sounded pitiful and shrill. The skin on her forehead gathered into four folds; the first at the eyebrows was the thickest. At this moment Katya – always looking after herself carefully – was very unattractive, but she did not notice this and neither did Gavrilov. “Don’t pick on the words!” Gavrilov got mad. “Does it matter what I said? The main thing is what I would do. You didn’t even pro... inform me! When I left for Cheliabinsk, you already knew about the baby, didn’t you?” “I knew. But I still had doubt whether to keep it or not.” “So, you still had doubts?” “Of course. The first week I even wanted to keep it. Even almost decided to tell you.” “Why didn’t you?” “Didn’t manage to that night. Then you dragged along this idiot...” “Zamiatnikov? He’s not an idiot. ” Katya did not hear him. She was listening to herself. “Idiot! He ran his eyes under my skirt and wiped my hand with his fat lips – a knight, you see! The next day you called and said you were leaving. I was sure that you’d abandoned me. First brought this puffy creep as your own replacement, and...” Gavrilov understood that this was another lie, not a lie to him but a lie to herself, a lie so tightly fused with the truth that it was not possible to distinguish the lie from the truth. If all Katya’s arguments were blasted now, all her bastions of the convincing lie were taken down, then only the bare fact would remain – namely, that she had had an abortion, had killed his, Gavrilov’s, baby in her own womb. He again became hurt and annoyed. “It’s all nonsense, emotions,” he shrugged. “I hadn’t abandoned you and you knew this very well.” “But you didn’t even call me from there!” “Not true, I did.” “Yes, you did! But only once in all the ten days! And you should have heard your own voice: cold, indifferent. Said that you didn’t know when you were coming. And
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

4 female laughter coming from somewhere. You must have been with some whore there, a filthy, stinking, syphilitic whore!” “I wasn’t with anyone there! I called from a cafe,” said Gavrilov. “And you could always have called. No phone?” “Couldn’t. Didn’t want to.” “Not true that you didn’t want to. You needed a reason to kill my child and shift the blame.” “Your child!” Katya bitterly mimicked him. “Exactly, yours! You don’t care a straw for it, the main thing is that he’s ‘yours’! ‘My’ car, ‘my’ apartment, ‘my’ dacha, ‘my’ child! Here it’s already not about it, but you! Tut-tut! Should have come earlier! Tell me, if I had kept the child, would you have divorced your wife?” “It’s a pointless conversation!” Gavrilov said dryly so as not to take on extra promises. “Already no kid, no reason for discussion.” “You don’t want to say? Then I’ll tell you! You wouldn’t dump her for anything, no matter who you two-time with! Do you think your wife loves you? It also suits her quite well! You’re a coward, a loser, a selfish pig, a wayward bed-hopper!” Katya moved almost to a scream near the end and stood in front of Gavrilov, leaning forward and looking at him with bitterness. She shouted terrible insults, all that she had stored up for a long time, and every word of hers was right and wrong at the same time. She noticed neither her thrown-open robe, nor that her face had suddenly become unattractive, almost old, and all the folds and wrinkles unnoticed till now had appeared on it. There were many things that Gavrilov never suspected before. For example, the far bottom tooth looked bad, and next to it were a few dots on a tooth. Like a cavity. How did he not see this before? Observing all this almost anatomically, Gavrilov was pondering at the same time on how there could be so much hate inside the woman whom he loved and had lived with for two years. He tried to control himself but he too was suddenly seized by anger towards this woman unexpectedly becoming a stranger. He struggled unsuccessfully with this feeling for a few seconds, then grabbed Katya by the shoulders and began to shake her such that the woman’s head first swung forward and then backward. “Let go of me, I’ll have bruises on my arms!” she said. “Shut up! I say, shut up! Or I’ll break your neck!” he cried. The woman looked at him and suddenly went limp in his arms like an offering. “Go ahead! Break it!” she whispered eagerly. She leaned back and threw her head back. Seeing her neck, the same one he had just kissed, Gavrilov came to his senses. He swore long and nastily, and, after pushing the woman away, started to walk around the room. He walked over to the bar, took out an opened bottle of cognac and took a few large burning gulps. “Trash! Fake!” he muttered, and it was not clear what these words referred to – the woman or the brandy.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

5 Katya sat on the floor, tucked her legs in, and rocked back and forth. In her movements, ridiculous and unconscious, was a childish attempt to lull herself to sleep. “Do you understand my position?” she suddenly started to speak quickly, continuing to sway back and forth. “Nothing stable, permanent, everything changeable. Your wife waits at home, but who am I? If tomorrow I were big, pregnant, you would become squeamish about me. You would even rub your ears raw with cologne, I know... You clean freak, afraid of microbes... Would find yourself somebody younger, rush to her, and I’d be alone and with wet diapers... Who would want me then? I would even have nothing to buy kasha with.” “Don’t I give you money?” Gavrilov got mad. “You have nothing for buying kasha? You? Who are you saying this to? Me? And I cram your whole apartment with all sorts of things! One of these bloody roses is enough for you to guzzle down kasha for a year! You think, because there’s no money that you killed it? You just didn’t want to get involved – so say it.” He grabbed the vase with roses from the windowsill, flung it to the floor, and began to trample the flowers. However, there was already almost no anger, real anger, only a false one. He soon stopped, and, breathing heavily, dropped into the armchair. Gavrilov did not remember how long he sat like that, and then he lifted his eyes and saw Katya looking at him. She looked at him timidly, humbly as she once did when their romance, not yet at the cohabitation stage, had only just begun. Gavrilov felt that if he wanted, he could now stay with this frightened, confused woman who had killed her own baby only because it was even weaker than herself and there was no one to stop her. Gavrilov even felt that if he had not been in Cheliabinsk but remained in Moscow, the baby would have won the battle, and the weak restless woman would have resigned herself and gone along the path that thousands of others had gone before her. Now, however, nothing could be changed. The game had already been played before it started. Did the baby, this happy lucky devil, go into a bucket or where do they go? Why a lucky devil? The very appearance of a baby was almost a miracle, taking into account Katya’s usual caution. “Listen, today... why did you tell me about the abortion now? What’s done is done. No, you wanted to humiliate me, wanted to hurt me?” he asked. “Leave me alone! Go away! I thought you’d be sorry for me, but you torment me...” Gavrilov stood up. Katya flinched, took a step towards him to hold on, but instead she yelled, “Go away and don’t come back! You hear! Never!” Gavrilov put on his shoes, took his coat off the hanger, picked up his suitcase, and, feeling like a theatrical victim, went out to the landing. He did not wait for the elevator but went down the stairs. She ran down the stairs after him and half shouted, half muttered, “Wait, wait, I say! Don’t come anymore, get lost! Get out, go away! I tell you! Wait a minute!”

©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

6

1999

©Jane H. Buckingham 2012 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

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