Pigeons in the sky
Two tall, strong middle-aged men pushed their way through the rubble. They were clad in plastic armor and wearing goggles and face masks.
Ekaterina was following them with a candle. Her mum's bedroom was undamaged. Broken glass made the flowery curtains sway. Her serene face, laying on the pillow, seemed to draw a smile, motionless, covered by the white dust falling from the roof.
Who was that man lying next to her? Why were they naked? Did her mother have a lover of hers at the age of eighty-five? Since when? Had she been unfaithful to her dad?
"Should we take them out together, ma'am?" One of the porters repeated.
“Of course!”, she replied, still in shock.
“He isn't my father. Should you bury them together?".
“There is no longer a choice, ma'am. I'm sorry, but they’ll both go to a mass grave. No room in the graveyard anymore."
The two corpses were placed in resistant biodegradable black plastic bags. Then both were deposited in the back of the truck where the other rescued bodies were laying. Ekaterina saddened, clearly distressed, saw their departure.
“What things would I never learned from her?”, she wondered.
Aleksandra sat sunbathing on that bench in her town square as she did every morning at noon. She took a handful of wheat from a flowery cloth bag she had sewn herself. She was scattering the grains. The pigeons began to swirl around her little by little. There were few left. The noise of the shelling had driven them away.
She felt at peace. Dissipated the anguish the news had caused her during the first days of the invasion. The 2014 genocide in Crimea and Donbas was repeated. What could she do?
She looked up because something overshadowed her.
“Ah, it is you, Mr. Bondarenko!”
"Who else? Now only the old folks who got in the way stay, even more during a war. When are you going to call me by my name? Isn't it high time?"
"You’re right. From today I’ll call you Damyan since you insist!”
"How many years have we known each other, Aleksandra?"
“A long time, my friend. I was born in 1937, and you?
“I’m much younger. I was born in 1942. I'm only eighty years old."
"Oh yeah? You're a kid, then, but look, at eighty-five I still take care of myself. While you are so lazy that you went to the Residencial Home for them to be taking care of you.”
“Yes, you’re right and a healthy and strong woman.”
“And how do you know that? You moved near the bluestocking.”
"Well, since starting work as a journalist, I moved closer to my work. I saved a lot on transportation.”
“Then you must be swimming in plenty. While I struggle to make ends meet with my pension.”
"Well, to live in scarcity, you look fresh and leafy."
"Do you believe?"
“You’re always pretty. One of the most beautiful women on the planet.”
"Don’t tell me? How gallant!”
"No. It is not gallantry. I wouldn't tell you if I didn't think so. I am an unbiased observer. Characteristics of liberal journalism I inherited from my father. And still a desirable woman.”
“My goodness, Damyan! I never imagined you thinking that of me! Do you know I liked you long before I fell in love with my late husband? But you were younger and never said anything to me. Always staring at me.”
"I was crazy about you. I could not stop following you with my eyes. My heart broke when I found out you were getting married. I was at your wedding."
“My goodness, Damyan! No idea! In the church? Not so many guests as not to see you.”
Giggling, she continued throwing little handfuls of wheat. She raised her green eyes, getting embarrassed when meeting his light blue ones.
“I entered when you were inside, and I left the first. You came out like a queen, going down the stairs. I still see you in that light blue dress, with a little flare and tight at your waist. Your crossed hands, with the bouquet of white flowers. I could not see anyone but you. Your majestic air looked like Creta Garbo. Although rounder and more feminine than her.”
“My goodness Damyan! No idea. What a pity that you never told me anything!”
"Well, Aleksandra", he said, putting on his cap so that her visor would cover the sun's rays. “I’ve always loved you. When I saw you in the park, with your children, I felt envious they were not mine. I've been coming here for two years to enjoy your delicious company.
“My goodness Damyan! I thought you were so bored that you went out to chat. I’m so happy to meet you. Glad you tell me all this. Even so late. Late! My goodness! It's lunchtime! Guess what I'm going to eat today! A jar of baby food. No gas to heat it. I must eat it cold, and it tastes horrible! And you?”
"We still have a good menu, but I’d like to join you for your meal today. Do you mind?"
"Seem right. If you don’t mind food that tastes like a lightning cold.”
"It's wonderful! Let's celebrate like kings!"
“Go sit over there. In front of me. I’ll set the table."
“Don't walk in luxury with me. Since I was a war correspondent, I eat everything and in any way.”
"No. No. Cause for celebration! I want my “luxury” crockery and cutlery. I'm old-fashioned."
“I love that you are! You remind me of my mother. She always kept the traditions of her family”
"Like? It’s disgusting to me. I don't know how babies can eat this."
"Okay. Which is sure to be very nutritious and healthy, don't you think?"
"Yes, indeed. But I would rather have a nice warm bowl of borsh.”
“Um! Don't even mention it, I love beets! This food reminds me of a few kholodets.”
“No point of comparison. You lost your taste for food with so much coming and going from one country to another and eating God knows what.”
"You're right about that. I liked this food.”
“Well, not me, but I can stand it. Is it true that tomorrow they’ll start bringing us hot food and distribute it in trucks?”
"Yes. I heard of it on the television.”
"Well, I don't have a TV anymore. I've been without electricity for two days. I must use candles when it gets dark. I don't know where we're going to get with this war. If I were younger, I’d leave.”
“Well, I don't want to go anywhere else. I've seen so many war scenes halfway around the world...and this one doesn't know where it’ll end."
"Yes. Ukraine will need a long time to recover, have you seen how they’re leaving everything in tatters?”
“And not only the buildings. Relations have become strained, too. In the Home, many Ukrainians don’t speak to Russians. They used to be friends. Now enemies. But let's stop talking about this madness. Can we sit on the sofa in your living room for a little while?"
"OK. I'm done scrubbing this up and we're going there."
“How strange it’s for me to be sitting here, in front of my television, and not being able to watch it.”
"Yes, it's weird. It is a device that has become essential in our lives, … can I hold your hand, my dear Aleksandra?”
"Oh, what a fool you are! I love so much the touch of your skin. At our age, we no longer feel the contact we used to have with our partner or our children. The touch of other skin is something that I always miss a lot, and you?
“Me too. I’ve only had sporadic relationships with women I’ve met in passing. Don’t think so many. Yes, I must confess, the touch of feminine skin is something I always long for. What nice and plump hands! I love them!”
“Yours are loving. These long fingers. They look like the hands of a pianist. So warm! I love nestling mine inside yours!”
"Phew! If you keep saying these nice things to me, I'm going to have to kiss you!"
“Really?”, she said with a defiant look.
Stroking her by the chin, lifted it and ordered her hair with his other hand. First, they were soft and short kisses. Then they became passionate and prolonged.
“Um, I love you, Aleksandra! My darling, Aleksandra! I adore your name!”
“How well you kiss! More, I want more! Do you do everything so well, Damyan?”
“Take me to your bedroom, my love!”, he whispered in her ear. “There, I can show you how well I do everything for you, my muse.”
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