Moscow. Boris Fyodorovich in his kitchen.
My neighbor in my apartment building on Ulitsa Schepkina, Boris Fyodorovich, is this ancient guy who keeps stopping by to have me put eye drops in his murky blue eyes. It's been a ritual ever since I moved in. I'm not even sure he has really realized that I am actually a new neighbor. The ritual is always the same; the doorbell rings, and there he is, proferring his eye drops like a slightly stoned job applicant with his urine sample. So I invite him in and he walks into the kitchen and parks himself on a stool and leans back, almost falling over until I brace his back with one hand while shooting some of these drops onto his eyeballs. They are fogged and rheumy, and I wonder what kind of life he's seen. He's about the right age to have fought in World War II.
So how are you, I ask? Awful, he replies. I'm about to die. Oh I say. How's your son, I ask, figuring that he can't be about to die as well. He hasn't visited in weeks and never calls, he answers. I have no idea what to say after that. Well, ok, I say, take care till soon come again, bye now! He toddles off, all short white hair and red suspenders.
A few weeks later I was in his apartment to put eye drops in his eyes and he was so excited about his son. Did I want to meet him? He walked ahead of me into his little kitchen, talking as though to himself. He walked over to the window, gesturing, and just when I thought his son was just a figment of his imagination, he closed the refrigerator door and there, between the fridge and the wall, the son sat on a chair. Slumped, actually. All I saw was his dirty hair, since he was passed out and slumped forward. "My son!" the old man said proudly.
A while later, the old man was standing outside his apartment with several big sausages in his hand was was unconsolable. My son, he said. Dead. He was crossing the street outside the apartment when he was hit by a car. I had no doubt what condition the son must have been in at the time. What are the sausages for? I asked. Oh these, they're for the memorial service.
Two months later, renovation started in his apartment. I asked what had happened to the old guy who used to live there. The workmen just shrugged. Someone new was moving in, and he wanted the place renovated. That was all they knew.