It's still evening. An ordinary slum yard, empty, dirty, the mere sight of which makes you want to puke or cry from poverty. Unless children play in the sandbox under the supervision of their mother.

She, a rather fashionable and well-preserved woman of about 40, enters the empty dark room of her old apartment, leans on the sofa with her knees, leans on the back of the sofa with her hand. She smoothly turns on the old corded telephone on the pedestal and dials a phone number. The voice of the answering machine invites her to leave a message.

“It's me again, - she begins embarrassedly, “Am I really so disgusting to you that you don't answer me ... But it's okay ... Someday you and I will become legends, and time will judge us. Then it will be too late to change anything. And now times are not easy. 'Exit the thought from the cloud' ... Who said so? I think that's what our mutual friend said? Still so with his lips, almost in a whisper, he repeated every time. Probably, he always repeated this cloud to himself. And this phrase was always incomprehensible to us: he was simply older than us, although from the outside he seemed like a boy. It's strange that things have changed now. And how are you doing? Wife, kids? Well, yes, you're gay... You see, it's so unusual... These voices of ours are not trembling...”

She steps aside, her legs give way, she has to remove her heels and throw them against the wall. She continues:

"I have lived in this castle of mine all my life. All my life…"

She thinks, looks at the numerous photos and albums with her and other people's portraits, standing on the closet.

“I'm still young,” she corrects herself, “my life... Such an unintelligible life. It's all terrible. How do you think? Have I grown old? What year is it now? Tell me, what year is it? And in my hole, well, here, where I live, the Internet has not yet been installed, can you imagine? Only those awful payphones, morning newspapers, vomit at the entrances. No, this was not the case in the Soviet Union ... Then we studied with you at the institute. In an institution that no longer exists. In a country that no longer exists ... Many years have passed, dozens, of course, I understand this, but ...”

She takes out her mobile phone and reads spam messages. She then goes on to say:

"You know, no one calls me. He doesn't write. You generally, apparently, hate me. I was very scared, then 5 years ago, at the anniversary of our department. I was even afraid to approach you. But you yourself spoke to me, gave me his landline number. Why did you do that if you're not answering my calls now? I used to even go outside, but now it’s impossible: you can easily get sick. I don’t like protective masks, I’m ugly in them. I really want to meet you, in general.”

She wipes her face with a tissue:

"In general, this is the last time I say this, I have to go, business, bye. Farewell."

She turns off her phone and runs out of the room. Heard: included shower, splashing. And now she is naked, singing in the shower under jets of water, but suddenly she thinks and falls silent. Sadness is visible on her face.

In the room, a large portrait photo of her, taken during a meeting at the faculty, falls from a cabinet shelf. She returns to the room because of the noise. She confidently walks to the closet and throws all her photos and albums on the floor. She stands, breathing heavily, angry. She will never call him again ... She knows that no one needs her. She knows that no one will answer her.

Unexpectedly, we have a dark room in front of us, but already different. On the shelves among books and albums there is a photo from that very meeting at the department. Near the bedside table, from which the telephone receiver hangs, lies a 40-year-old man. Нe is no longer a tenant. He is no longer alive.



Mykyta Ryzhykh, from Ukraine, is the winner of the international competition "Art Against Drugs," bronze medalist of the festival Chestnut House, and laureate of the literary competition named after Tyutyunnik. They've been published in the journals Dzvin, Tipton Poetry Journal (2022), Stone Poetry Journal (2022), Divot journal, dyst journal (01.07.2022), Superpresent Magazine, Allegro Poetry Magazine (2022), Alternate Route (07.2022), Better Than Starbucks Poetry & Fiction Journal (07.2022), and Littoral Press (2022).


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Wednesday, December 13, 2023 - 20:39