Story "The Square"

Published: Read in the original languageCreated:

This text was translated by DeepL from a my non-native language.

That square

After school, I had to sit down somewhere and smoke thoroughly. One after the other to make up for every class I sat through and every break in between. Smoking in the toilets was just looking for an adventure on your ass. Running out into the courtyards during recess is a mauvais ton. And you can't get rid of the smell of tobacco smoke that easily. The first geography class was enough to get a dose of moralizing after a dose of nicotine on the way to school. However, the lectures were not targeted, although everyone understood and knew to whom they were addressed, but if you're not caught, you're not a smoker.

There were not many suitable places on the way home. The place had to be without the eyes of familiar faces, like teachers, parents, classmates, and so on. Outside the influence zone of marginalized people, this was the "neighborhood," after all, and here in the vicinity of the dormitory one could cross paths with people one didn't want to cross paths with at all. They weren't supposed to chase me out of the smoking place for no reason. I also wanted to smoke sitting down, or at least put aside my heavy backpack with my textbooks. Atmosphere also played a role, but it was not so necessary. Under these criteria fully or partially fit three locations, based on which it seems that the atmosphere is not such a secondary attribute: the stadium of two schools, kindergarten "Alyonushka" and the square near the monument to the soldiers of the MIA RK.

The stadium is a relatively passable place, but there was enough space to pass everyone, who you didn't want to meet. It was used for going home and going to school, lessons were held there, but all of this didn't take place in the whole area at the same time. In the stadium there was a guaranteed unused spot where there were no unused place in the stadium: the basketball court. I never saw a single living soul there the whole time I was there. Around it was overgrown with tall grass and bushes. The fence has been rusted out since before I was born, and they haven't even tried painted. The ring on the basketball hoop had already fallen off and seemed to have been scrapped by high school students. The unpleasant thing was that there was nowhere to sit and in the rainy season the whole court could be flooded. However, smoking in the rain was an abomination, the smell of tobacco was so strong and penetrating that you couldn't get rid of it - you're a smoker. Another problem was that this same smoking place was taken over by the high school students from our school after ninth grade. Amazing people, no balance on their cell phone, and it's dead, so they always need a cell phone to make an urgent call, but they bought cigarettes wholesale. It's okay, anyway. My friend told me that it's forbidden to smoke near animals.

The other option was kindergarten. It would seem that what the hell kindergarten is, there are children there. Yes, children are certainly a nuisance, but there is a nuance, if you study in the morning, the children have already had a nap-hour by the time you smoke, which, if you were them, you hated, and now you'd kill for it. The most noteworthy place is the warehouse, nestled on an earthen mound that served as a cellar. In fact, the slope of the mound served as a kind of smokehouse. Opposite, stood a garage and concealed those passing from the street, the trees hiding from view from the playground. All approaches are viewed and, if anything, you can jump over the fence, which, by the way, not far away. And that would be okay, but every closet has a skeleton. Skeleton "Alyonushka" was a janitor heroin addict. I don't know how he hasn't been busted yet. even on the job. I don't expect you to believe this, but I saw him walking to the dumpster with a tourniquet and a syringe with a blood cube in broad daylight. That's enough to make you not really want to be at least on the garden grounds, especially since the dumpster was one of the approaches to the warehouse.

That's why I used to smoke in the square. It's a quiet place, especially at lunchtime. Rarely does anyone take a shortcut through it, usually bypassing the surrounding sidewalks. There are trees everywhere, the driveway is not particularly noisy, benches. At school clean-up days we used to clean up leaves and trash from there, well except for those who would slack off, of course, so the park was clean. The police only came here on holidays to lay flowers, and the soldiers from the military unit did not go further than the store on the corner of the house near the square. Across from the square was an old house where my classmate lived and my uncle worked in the same building. But I had never crossed paths with them in those neighborhoods. I should have gone there, of course, not by the dormitory, but along Zhabaeva Street, by the partly functioning Ironworks. It is safer and more atmospheric. And the atmosphere is just wonderful: an industrial landscape, ending at the intersection of his monument in the form of a building from the time of Stalin.

Of course, when you smoke you don't replay in your head all the conclusions that led you here, but to clarify for yourself how you got here and why you are here, the best way to do that is with a cigarette. Smoking kills me, but before it leads me to my grave, it takes me to the square.

Cigarettes are a unit of measurement, it's strange that they aren't already in the House of Weights and Measures. To go to school two cigarettes, read a chapter of a physics textbook cigarette box. It took about half a pack of cigarettes for "A Cloud in Trousers". A peculiar pun: half a pack is hardly a cloud of smoke, but it fits quite well in my pants pocket. Smoking and reading in the square is a separate kind of pleasure. I mostly read poetry, especially in the fall. It's hard to concentrate at home, and a cigarette doesn't enhance the already strong effect of what I've read. During the fall, I think eight collections of poetry were published. Mostly Mayakovsky and Yesenin. I always came to the same place, reading the same authors, sipping Marlboro Reds, one after the other, without fail, and considering myself a completely unsentimental as a completely unsentimental person. I was so reluctant to change anything in this self-styled idyll that at some point I found myself rereading the third round of "The Bully's Confession". Someone would definitely point out that I didn't want to leave my comfort zone, but there are some nuances here that make me disagree with that diagnosis. This zone, far from depriving me of the freedom to choose a different path, I myself, deliberately, choose to walk the same path, over and over again. The only reason this was all necessary was to seal the whole atmosphere that reigning around in the associative memory. If I smoke a red Marlboro now and open a "Bully's Confession" in any other square, I find myself exactly where I was years ago. It's not as reliable as Rick's portal gun, but it's good enough to trigger a sense of déjà vu and then flashback to the past. Although sometimes that same habit plays a cruel trick.

I couldn't sit in the square forever, especially since I was hungry after school and needed to do my homework, or at least the semblance of it. But afterwards, I could go for a walk. Curiously enough, I still went for a walk in the square. A different one, but still in the square. There were two monuments in it. A monument to the victims of nuclear tests and a mass grave of soldiers-internationalists. I always went there in different ways, even without the goal of going there. I just wandered there somehow. In that park, I read one single book - "Farewell Summer". It was way out of age for me but this was where I wanted to read it.

She and I had long since split up, and I think I was starting to date the place. I hardly hoped to see her passing by here, she didn't walk here, rather the opposite, it was a place she only went to with me. We met by sheer coincidence during a field trip to another city. I did not really want to go there, but in the end I did not regret it. I probably spent a year messing with her head because I was naive and young enough not to know how to go from walking together to "let's date". It seems ridiculous now, like every action and and word around her. On one of my "dates," I saw a kitten climb a tree and decided it had to be heroic rescue immediately. As soon as I got him out of the tree, almost tipping over, the dogs ran out and chased him into the roadway. The kitten managed to get away from them without getting hit by a car. The good thing is that the totally chaotic and not always understandable without explanation, usually made her smile. She was more than a year older than me and at one point she literally dictated to me what spell I needed to recite in order to start dating after all.

She was in tenth grade and had started studying for exams ahead of time, so all the summer was booked. There was only time to get together on weekends. One meeting, one week of waiting, one meeting. It seemed like the weeks in between were endless. I had to keep myself busy. Usually, for the summer, I would grab the next year's textbooks and take my time reading them. The most unexpected place to read was the physics textbook. I read it sitting in the garages near the bathing and laundry plant. It was also quite an entourage. All around greenery and the smell of old brick. Beauty, in a word. Sometimes, for fun, I would walk to the square where we used to meet. Once I was sure everything was still there, I could think of something else to talk to her about. The mock rehearsals of indecisive characters in the movies were something distant to me, mostly just idle pondering of possible dialogue developments down to the smallest detail. It was worthless, because it almost always didn't go the way it was imagined, but it gave at least a vague sense of planning and calm.

I understand perfectly why we broke up, and it was mature enough to agree that it was not certain that we would make it, but that we would try. Of course, it did not get rid of the subsequent feeling of loneliness, but at least it felt like I cared about my feelings. The next few years I digested "what I did wrong" and I think it was only by the time I settled down with a cigarette in the square that I finally figured it all out. It was hard on her part all the time to expect some kind of step from me, and it was hard on my part to figure out what steps were even needed. Being slow romantically is not the best characteristic for a guy. Especially when there are guys around who figured it out a long time ago.

didn't say much when she told me we had to break up. So terse that she was surprised and cried out: "Well, just do something about it!" All I had to say was, "It's okay," and then I was into my own thoughts, which I didn't get out of for the next two years. I walked her home for the last time and and went back to the place where it all ended to think alone. Somewhere at that point, I began... smoking.

Perhaps her words about forgetting when it was my first kiss in life were taken as a challenge, perhaps because of my poeticism, perhaps because of the traumatic nature of my first romantic experience, but I remembered clearly the wording "last Thursday in July". I had roughly these thoughts every time I came back to the square where we had parted. I don't know why, but I always sat not on the bench where we had sat when we met, but on the one where it was over. I was genuinely glad when someone cuddled on the bench where time had not yet stopped. And to be honest, I really wanted to discourage those who sat on the bench where I, the person who had so "well" miscalculated all the dialogues, was unlucky. I even came here with flowers. I never gave flowers to her, but I gave flowers to this square more than once. I don't even know how to describe the reasons why I did it. It was something between grief and gratitude.

Late at night I was "accidentally" walking past this square again and saw a guy breaking up with a girl. On the same bench where the same fate had befallen me. Time closed in, and I could see what it looked like from the outside. It went on without any screaming or scenes. When the girl left, the guy was left sitting there. He sat for about ten minutes and slowly looked around the pattern on the paving stones. For the date he had brought flowers. They were hardly the reason for the breakup, but at some point he broke them and threw them in the trash. Perhaps to keep the buds from sticking out of the urn and illuminate the bad luck for the rest of us. Waking up from his stupor, he noticed me and came closer, "Can I have a cigarette?" I mechanically pulled out a a pack and shot a cigarette straight into his palm. "And a lighter, too, if you don't mind", he added. In a soft whisper, the Cricket sparkled and returned to its place, back in his pocket. The boy wrinkled his head a little and shook his hand prepared to part. As he started to walk away, I called out to him, he turned around and after a brief pause I finished "nothing". He'll be back here, and I won't be anymore.