Q: Brighton Beach (Brooklyn)
Igor pours Stoli over a knife to separate it from the tomato juice. I toast “zavas,” and cannot down this quickly enough to allow the juice to meet the vodka, preferring to sip at noon. He looks unimpressed, emptying another can of V-8 into my glass so I may mix at my leisure.He yells for translations from passers-by; the Russian and Israeli players at the next table offer them. They ask about his pirouettes, I explain he defected from the Moscow ballet. My tongue numb, I inquire about the gigolo’s trade.“It works on ladies at the clubs, a little older than yourself and more insecure,” says the Israeli. “Everyone wants what they don’t have.” Then adds with a wink they are perhaps looking for something not readily visible.
Igor’s shoes are off. He has ordered a beer and is flirting with waitresses, disheveled in their ironed uniforms. This is the staunch alternative. He had attempted to show me the local dance school where he taught for a time, but the new security guard had eyed him less as a dance enthusiast than a pornographer.
He brings an artificial butter-yellow carnation, which keeps blowing to the ground so I must reach for it often, while he tries to read my palms for progeny and longevity. A fork in a line on his own left hand he interprets as possession of two lives, or three years of justified exile in Brighton Beach.
“Igor, for some reason, I feel I am abroad, instead of you.” Everyone is now speaking Russian to me, since I’ve been seen with the town drunk. I’ve been duped into paying for his precious meal, as this song lyric reminds me, “I’m not the one having fun.” Igor continues sketching a liquor-induced map of the world, where the arrow pointing up reads south.
For a respectable time, call Igor Kolesnikow, 917.250.2381. Tell him to treat you to a first-rate meal in the city, as the hostess, giggling, translated his words. And he’d like to smoke with you someday in his room, read your palms as a ploy to kiss your fingers, predict how many children you’ll birth while thinking of his own son in Moscow.
My upper lip against my teeth tingles, and I sense how Stoli works in harsh winters.
A: Far Rockaway (Queens)
“Ray is a Crip killer” and a skull scratched onto train windows. The landscape is filtered through this.
V: Second Avenue (Manhattan)
a man on the corner is smoking the man smoking on the corner at the newsstand the man at the corner newsstand is smoking in night in night smoking at the newsstand is the man on the corner with a fedora on a corner smoking in New York is the man on the corner in the cold see his breath in the cold fedora on a newsstand corner fedora breath on a night in New York corner newsstand with breath of the newsstand breath cigarette fedora warming the night with the newsstand smoke of breath and cigarette illuminated in lamplight of newsstand and the moon fedora in lamplight smoking cigarette and breath warmingby Bruna Mori