Prose writer and journalist. He is the author of the books Horizontality, (Gorizontalnoe polozhenie, 2010), Black and Green, (Chyorniy i Zelyoniy, 2010 ) and House Ten, (Dom desyat'). Danilov is also author to numerous publications in literary magazines and online communities.
More elderly person
You’ve got your passport.
And your discharge.
And your certificate.
The simultaneous appearance in the entry hall of a more elderly person and a younger person.
The unbearable yellow morning winter light of the lamp on the ceiling.
Dirty light blue wallpaper.
A bag (the string kind Russians used to call an avoska) set by the more elderly person by the wall. The bag’s loss of form and firmness, the bag’s sliding down the wall, the rolling out of the bag of a formless object, carelessly wrapped, god knows in what. The restoration by the more elderly person of the bag’s form and firmness, the cramming back into the bag of the carelessly packed formless object.
The shifting from one foot to the other of the younger person. The bloating of the face, the general fuzzy, unfocused appearance of the younger person.
What, let’s go already.
The simultaneous attempts to put on shoes and coats in the narrow entry hall, the sluggish pushing, the attempts to tie shoelaces, to shrug arms into sleeves. The old woolen winter coat of some indeterminate dark color with innumerable hairs and pieces of lint and fuzz stuck to it. The greasy jacket of an indeterminate dark color with feathers working their way to the surface here and there. They call jackets like this “parkas,” probably; they’re filled with down or some such. The sullen hat with ear flaps, saturated with heavy years and thoughts. The woolen cap, black, so impossible to tell how dirty it is, but still visibly dirty, yes, very dirty.
The avoska in hand, the bag on shoulder.
You’ve got everything.
Let’s go then.
The sleepiness, the dryness of mouth, the trembling of hands while working the keys.
The cold, the blackness, the blueness, the snow, the streetlights. Perovo.
These buildings were built in the sixties for the workers at the Hammer and Sickle factory. It was an easy commute, take the 24 tram to Third Vladimirsky Street, then turn left and go down the Enthusiasts Road to the factory. And back: down the Enthusiasts Road, take a right on Vladimirsky, and keep going till you get to the buildings that were built in the sixties specially for the workers at the Hammer and Sickle factory.
Workers at the Hammer and Sickle factory live here to this day, but nowadays they mostly ride the metro, from the Perovo station to the Ilich Square station, and then back.
Many of the workers at the Hammer and Sickle factory became alcoholics and died of alcoholism or other circumstances. Others did not become alcoholics and did not die. Still others died, but did not become alcoholics. And there are those who became alcoholics but have not yet died. They still live in these buildings that were built in the sixties for the workers at the Hammer and Sickle factory, those who drank heavily, those who died, and those who kept on living.
It may be that they are uncle and nephew. It may also be that they are not.
The clackety-clack of the 24 tram, turning off Third Vladimirsky onto Green Prospect.
It is not entirely clear why the prospect was called Green. Most likely the creators of the prospect thought that it might someday become a boulevard, lush with plantings. And that the residents of the buildings built in the sixties for the workers at the Hammer and Sickle factory would walk down it of an evening or on weekends through green trees and bushes, and would fall in love with this place, and it would become, as the travel guides might put it, a garden spot, a favorite of the local residents. But somehow nothing ever came of this idea. There are trees, yes, but not the kind that create an atmosphere, nothing like what you’d expect on a street called Green Prospect. They’re weak, puny, embittered, these trees and bushes, and as a result the prospect is more gray than green, but you can’t call it Gray, it would be impossible even to imagine the maps or the street signs on the buildings saying Gray Prospect—but, on the other hand, whyever not, if there’s a Red Square, a Green Prospect, and a Lilac Boulevard, there should also be a Black Street, a Brown Boulevard, or a Gray Prospect, but for some reason it isn’t done to name streets and prospects like that.
But maybe they should have.
The progress down Green Prospect to the Perovo metro station through the crystal-clear cold air and the snow and the light of the orange streetlamps. The not entirely successful attempts not to fall while navigating down the iced-over steps.
How far to ride. On the metro with a transfer, then a long way on the commuter train.
The unsuccessful attempt to squeeze into the train car and find a seat. The thickness of the passenger mass, the howl and thunder of the train. The rising nausea, the steadfast hopeless stoicism.
The crowd on the escalator up to the Marxistsky metro station, the crowd on the escalator down to the Tagansky-Radial.
The younger made exactly this trip yesterday, in the throngs, feeling nauseous. Only going in the other direction and with other purposes, or actually with no particular purpose at all.
The more elderly person didn’t make this trip but sat in the kitchen staring fixedly out the window at the Perovo trees, buildings, and darkening sky.
The travel along the purple line, Begovaya-Polezhaevskaya-October Field. After October Field the thinning of the crowds.
The route could have been different, first to Tretyakovskaya, transfer to the orange line, then to the Riga station, there board a practically empty commuter train. That way would have been far better, less on the metro, more on the commuter train, better to travel on the commuter train than on the metro, but for some reason everyone does it this way, or almost everyone, travel to a distant station that is linked to a railway platform, to Tushinskaya or Vyzhno or the Warsaw station, strange, somehow.
The Tushinskaya metro station, the Tushino railway station. The darkness, the dawn, the wind, the steel and the asphalt of the Tushino station.
On one of the tracks stands a freight train with fourteen cars.
The commuter trains from Volokolamsk, New Jerusalem, Dedovsk, Nakhabino, bringing to the Tushino station a huge collection of passengers.
Practically empty commuter trains to Nakhabino, Dedovsk, New Jerusalem, Volokolamsk.
The commuter train to Shakhovskaya, practically empty.
Step free of the closing doors, next stop, Pavshino.
The train will pass the platform at the Trikotazhnaya station without stopping. Please be attentive.
Be attentive. Be attentive. Be attentive.
The need to sleep, but no desire to sleep. On the metro the desire to sleep was strong, now no longer.
Sitting facing each other, riding.
The more elderly person hardly ever wants to sleep, he usually stares fixedly at something, not out the window and not at the younger person sitting across from him, just somewhere off to one side, his gaze rounds up the edge of the seat, the window frame, a piece of the train car’s wall, his peripheral vision picks up, outside the window, the lightening of the sky and fleeting glimpses of things rushing by.
Conversation between them does nevertheless take place, consisting of seventy percent vocalizations, sighs, and silence. A careful analysis of their remarks might suggest that the more elderly person lodges more claims and complaints against the younger person, and that the younger person rejects these claims and complaints and lodges his own claims and complaints against the more elderly person, basically the same ones, but the more elderly person emits emotionally tinged grunts like “eh” or “ah” and waves his hand, and the younger person stretches and yawns, and the more elderly person looks away again, over at the window frame and the wall, and the younger person does fall asleep after all, though at first he didn’t want to sleep, and he dreams that he is riding the commuter train from Tushino to Shakhovskaya, and that sitting across from him and looking somewhere away is the more elderly person.
The reaching into the bag for the thermos, the screwing off of its cap, which simultaneously fulfills the function of a cup, the movements methodical, measured, precise, what’s the hurry, the pulling out of the cork, the pouring into the cap/cup of the liquid contained in the thermos, to all appearances hot or at least warm, the recorking of the thermos, the slow sipping of the hot liquid, which has the smell and aftertaste of plastic and cork, the drinking of the liquid, the screwing of the cap back onto the thermos, the stowing of the thermos back in the bag.
And again the glance somewhere away, to the place where the window frame is visible, the edge of the seat opposite, and a piece of the train car’s wall.
The dreaming that the commuter train drove, drove, and abruptly stopped.
The commuter train abruptly stopped. He awoke. The commuter train started moving again.
Obliquely across the aisle sits a young woman. People like the younger person are inclined to characterize young women like this with the word ”attractive,” although, to be honest, it would be difficult to say anything good about the outward appearance of this young woman.
The stops less frequent, the travel between them longer. The names denser. Lesodolgorukovo. Dubosekovo.
The yawning, the vague expression, the inability to decide what to look at.
The immobility, the looking at the window frame and the piece of the wall.
To travel from Tushino to Shakhovskaya takes just under three hours, it’s a long way, a distant corner of Moscow Province. In Shakhovskaya it seems that Moscow is somewhere far away, thousands of kilometers from here, or as if it didn’t even exist at all, the only reminders of the city green Moscow commuter trains and license plates from the Moscow suburbs.
At the far end of the train car sits a stooped person who from a distance seems old, but may in fact not be old, may be middle-aged, in his prime, as they say, mature, so to speak, a husband, or possibly a young person with his whole life in front of him, a hundred roads open before him, living an interesting and affluent life, or uninteresting and unaffluent, quiet, monotonous and wretched, things go differently for different people, don’t they, so why can’t a young man at a certain point in his biography be sitting stooped and even bent over in a cold light-filled empty commuter train, thundering into Shakhovskaya station?
At Volokolamsk the young woman and the stooped person got off the train, the stooped person walked past their window and turned out to be a woman of middle years, quite elegant, and in the younger person’s head there flitted the single abrupt word “attractive.”
The opening of the thermos. Drink. No. Go ahead, drink, it’s hot. No, don’t want to. As you wish. The sipping of the dark hot liquid, smelling of cork and plastic.
The platform of the 133 Kilometer station. The closing of the thermos, the stuffing of the thermos in the avoska. The platform of the 149 Kilometer station.
The avoska in hand, the bag on his shoulder. The dreaminess, the yawn, the light return intoxication into the frosty fresh air. The stoic not-quite-there silence, the squeezing in hand of the avoska handles.
In the square in front of the station two gigantic K-701 tractors are plowing snow. They are called Kirovets tractors. These tractors are made in St. Petersburg in the Kirovsky factory. This is why they are called Kirovets tractors.
The tractors with their own enormous size completely dominate the surrounding landscape, houses, little trees, sheds. They look taller than any object, any building in this area. Although of course this is not true, nothing more than an optical illusion.
Nothing need to be bought? No, later. Maybe. Shall we go in? I tell you we don’t need to, we have everything. We’ll go in later.
The square, the marketplace, the road, the road between houses, the courtyard, the five-story building, the entrance, the stairs to the fifth floor, the door, the apartment.
The smell of long hard monotonous agonizing lonely life. The shortness of breath and the absence of that shortness. The sorrowful sobbing furniture. The tea kettle on the stove. The refrigerator, sign of humility and submission.
The simultaneous shedding of coats and boots in the crowded corridor, the attempt to hang the coat and jacket on the hanger, the falling of the jacket off the hanger, the renewed attempt to hang the jacket on the hanger.
The avoska, set by the wall, loses form and firmness, slides down the wall. Out of the avoska rolls a formless, carelessly wrapped, shapeless object. The more elderly person takes the object, carries it into the kitchen, and lays it on the table.
If these people had belonged to another social class, if they had had another level of education, different conceptions of the good and the required, the younger person would have begun bustling about brightly, would have said something along the lines of I’ll put the tea on, you rest, don’t worry, I’ll do everything, and the more elderly person would have stretched out on the sofa, thrown his hands behind his head, sighed heavily and said something on the order of man I’m tired or man what an exhausting trip or man that wore me out, but in this case everything went differently. The younger person stretched out on the sofa, turned away, and instantly fell asleep, and the more elderly person filled the tea kettle with water, lit the gas range, put the kettle on the fire and sat in a chair by the window.The younger person sleeps, the tea kettle gradually heats up, and the more elderly person sits in the kitchen, staring fixedly out the window at the trees, the houses, and the still light sky.
Translated by Doug Robinson