Angry is probably a mild term, sometimes I feel I hate him.
I understand full well that my hatred is ungrounded, but still hate.
I heard much about him from Dryusha, my second cousin and best friend at that teen-age period. Malyshev was his classmate: Dryusha told of his funny crankeries, grotesque humor, and amusing, a little sluggish manners.
The three of us of the same age were finishing school and preparing for college. I was in a flutter of expectation to see Dryusha in Moscow, his idea was a law faculty and he even bought himself a foppish raspberry-red blazer.
I was very fond of Dryusha, he was more than a friend and cousin, and in general a smart guy: cultivated, strong and of wide reading, which ran a bit counter to his somewhat stodgy appearance and curly hair. I was expecting to live in the same city with him at last.
However, it did not work out. Dryusha remained in Sarov for some reason, whereas Malyshev moved to Moscow. And made it into Moscow University, physics department with 20 applicants competing for each place that year. He always possessed an exceptional stroke of genius, which he made little account of.
He moved to Moscow, matriculated in the University, lodged in the dorm and found me, because he also had heard a lot of me from Dryusha. He had not acquired any friends in a new place at the time.
Probably that was when I had taken umbrage at him: at our first meeting. Had it in for him. Because he was not Dryusha. Because it was not him I expected.
Surely, it was not his fault, but I cannot command my jealous heart, can I?
I felt myself sold down the river: this bender of a guy with cranks, a drawl and croaking laughter could by no means serve as substitution and solace for the absence of the person I loved dearly like a brother and who in my opinion understood me as nobody in the whole world did.
I used to call him Lem O’Lecfos. This funny abbreviation came to life also due to Dryusha. When citing my colorful expressions he used a courtly phrase “as my legendary cousin from Moscow says”. Later “legendary cousin from Moscow” turned into Lecfom – “as Lecfom says”.
Malyshev then became Lem O’Lecfos – “legendary classmate of the legendary cousin from Sarov”.
Lem O’Lecfos set affections upon me.
I was just bored. Nevertheless, continued to keep company with him: after all, there was no special motive to reject that harmless tadpole. The reason might also be the fact I was just then immerging into alcoholic Maelstrom and was not too scrupulous in the choice of people to live and die with.
And on top of that, our meetings with Dryusha became less frequent. Previously we saw each other every summer at the village of our grandmas-sisters, and he also visited me in Moscow. It was impossible for me to come to Sarov, alias Arzamas-16, where he lived: it was a restricted-access city because of the nuclear center, with special permit, barbed wire and all that jazz.
Then totally new life started, and when I saw him next after a long interval, my heart broke: he was a different person.
Dryusha was ensnared by a woman, and if that happens to a susceptible young man of wide reading, he would hardly remember his hapless friend.
Something scary and devilish grew up in him – too much laughter, braggadocio, effrontery, alcohol (to this he was indifferent before).
And also, all of a sudden, eerily untidiness, both physical and mental. He could wear the same shirt for days. Or borrow money without giving it back. Being asked to repay answered with cheap jokes.
Dryusha lost his boyish mildness. Moreover, acquired fanaticism and merciless attitude to delicate matter.
When he got into Tolkienism I looked aghast at his hands covered with scarlet cicatrices from improvised bladed weapons. He fought fiercely as if not feeling any pain, neither his own nor that of his opponents. He could strike straight from the shoulder without looking as though having revenge upon whole world.
I backed off from Dryusha. Just did not lend him money next time he asked. And lied I would not be in Moscow, when he planned a drive-by visit.
And I did not see him since that.
Later I came to know he boosted his father’s car. Stole money from a friendly family. The matter was kept quiet, but it left a nasty taste.
And on top of that he tried to cut his mother’s throat, but the hand faltered at the crucial moment.
An axe was then found in the ceiling cabinet, which was not there before. He prepared it to deal with the sleeping father who was a big rig.
The most grievous thing is that I understand his motives. Not all was right with him and his parents. Parents is a sacred thing, but they should not treat one son as a nasty defaulter and the other as a blue-eyed boy always declared innocent (Dryusha has a brother), particularly as they only have two years of difference in age and both sturdy guys, so that at a wild guess you could not tell one from the other.
However, understanding does not mean apology. To meet Dryusha again was terrifying. And unnecessary.
My much loved cousin and friend was dead. Someone else remained in his body: frightening and dangerous. And not much interesting.
Only Lem O’Lecfos was left. As a permanent reminder of a lost friend, which could not be replaced.
I still have a hole in my heart. The wind often pipes through it. And my heart aches, like a decayed tooth from cold stuff.
And often participating in more and more frequent booze parties together with Lem O’Lecfos I felt my soul dumbly ding-donging and screaming: I am wrongly placed; I am out of my time; I am not staying with people I really love.
This resulted in my increased hatred towards Lem O’Lecfos and his new student friends from the dorm, though it was not certainly their fault.
In the dorm, Lem O’Lecfos became Burzum, because he wore a T-shirt with that logo. When he mixed with me, who was immersed in metal music with its fatality so concordant with my mindset, Lem O’Lecfos also became engrossed in it, but it irritated me.
Metal was in harmony with all my nature, whereas he copycatted the interest. Just followed the pursuit because it stemmed from me and I was the object of his friendly attachment, which was stronger and stronger in years.
On the other hand, what right do I have to judge was that serious or not? Why do I think myself one-of-a-kind? Why did I fantasize myself into Peter the Apostle, the Tutelar of Keys?
Therefore, Lem O’Lecfos became Burzumy for everyone, remaining Lem O’Lecfos only for several insiders and me.
And this change of essence brought about certain personal deformation, not as drastic as Dryusha’s but still conspicuous – Malyshev morphed into a clown.
Initially it was funny – he was developing a reputation of attention whore and it went smoothly for some time taking into account his reasonably good, truth be told, abstract-absurdist sense of humor.
But in the course of time, the masque of attention whore glued to him and hid the identity of the person I had time to know. And I liked the previous person better, though this new personage was definitely more popular.
A court jester is very important person in a country. He has the king’s ear. He is allowed to say things for which others lose their heads.
A court jester is slight, droll and weak, but he has a magic power to change the world in a crucial moment.
Malyshev could become a court jester but remained a clown, a low comedian.
He could jest to be heard, but he preferred clowning, buffoonery and senseless trivial merrymaking in a dazed state.
Oh, cringe! He could be a lot а things, and what kind of specimen he became in the end!
He wasted his brilliant background on jokes.
The guy had become the hostage of his role and ceased to manifest himself in the way other than his image.
Thus, he tried the character “a man of good morals”, but got into it so deeply that in a while rejected any female attention, which did not lack by the way. Every pie has its eater, so to say.
He acquired the fame of the hero of booze parties, ardent hitchhiker, and tireless gagger and continued even when they nudged him to stop it all. No more hero of booze parties. No more ardent hitchhiker. No more tireless gagger. Remain a regular person. There is too much theater in your life. But he could not. Theater took possession of him.
Yes, I know. All our deeds have the objective to be loved. To be paid attention at. Whatever explanation we offer. Whatever we fancy.
So easy and so plain – but where did we get the idea that “man sounds proud”? Gorky said it? What all they don’t say…
Burzumy-Lem O’Lecfos-Malyshev-Alexander Alexandrovich – Pilot of Equestrian Aviation, Letter to a Horse, Merry Punch, the Reverend Onanius Copulaty – he had many creative aliases. The man wanted love and understanding. Just like you. And like me, God forgive me.
He wanted all this, but got into hot water due to excessive agitation. He exaggerated with his improvised roles, but if it proves anything, it is only the geniality of the actor. And he was an unmatched actor.
So unmatched that nobody noticed he had no sense of pitch when he was on stage (though it did not prevent him from doing the impossible on the mouth harmonica and Ozark harp). When he recited poetry he hammed it up with facial mobility and gesticulation, but it worked as his schtick, and folks were happy, especially when intoxicated.
Even his being no killer on looks – lengthy, hunchbacked, with tufted thin beard and towy slovenly hair – did not indispose anyone.
Surely, it would not be true to say he only irritated me, there were more good things.
I will remember forever with radiant gratitude dozens of funny episodes from the voyages on his old “Lada 2101” car not younger than we, accompanied by absurd funny concepts.
And I will be forever obliged to him because he involved me in his own sprightly student youth, which I did not have, but managed to share it with him in his dorm, where I spent weeks or even months using my false student ID to get access there. Terrorist threat was not yet on the agenda, so nobody cared.
There were moments ostensibly insignificant, but I still smile remembering them.
Just to name a few, once we went for a swim at the Banka River that ran in the forest. After a swim, it was uncomfortable to use wet underpants: I took them off, put on the trousers and shoved the trunks in my pocket. Quote Lem O’Lecfos: “Nobody can say you have no trunks now, because you have”.
On another occasion, his old car conked out somewhere near Zaraisk. It was already dark and Lem O’Lecfos said we would sleep in the car and try to repair it early in the morning.
By the way, do you know that Lada-2101 is the best car to spend the night in? That is because it has fully collapsible seats due to short squabs and together with the back seats they form a uniform, comfortable lying surface.
Burzumy was snoring, so I creeped out of the car, spread a piece of canvas directly underneath and fell asleep under the car, on the roadside, facing the exhaust box, with rare drivers riding by.
Lem O’Lecfos woke up and found I was missing. He called me and I mystically answered from somewhere under the ground, like the invisible helper kinsman Naum in the Russian fairy tale “Go there I know not where, find what I know not”.
Another fun was to invent words. It used to go in the following way. He says three letters: two consonants and one vowel, for example, I say another three. Then we mix everything and get an idiotic word, after that allot meaning to it.
We laughed like mad over our fabrications: buffshich, mokuch, heekgoon and their allotted meanings: “smiling Jack Lemmon, who makes a grand-ecart between two chairs performing a hara-kiri”, “very fat sailor”, “shitting strongman”…
It was an absurd funny period, which ended with his departure.
We had rare contacts in his last years. Because alcohol took its toll. As well as three packs of cigarettes per day.
First Burzumy morphed from genius into genius-alcoholic, then into alcoholic-genius and finally genius began quickly fade affected by alcoholic.
Creative sprees progressively turned into sprees without creation. And amicable meetings into strained bantering of drinking pals, who refused to accept the reality.
When I was an alcoholic, but there was a buddy at my elbow always ready with a series of crazy but animating ideas, I knew what to be fueled by, whereas when the animating source waned, our friendship almost made me hit the bottom, though I was sinking anyway.
Burzumy had a degree with honors in physics and added post-graduate courses to it at the Moscow University. Then he came back to his Sarov to work as a taxi-driver.
I was no stranger to adolescent opportunism, which meant to live contrary to the expectations of the wider public, and thus verbally supported him in this decision, but despised him behind his back. For the betrayal of his geniality.
His classmates went to the USA, Netherlands, Finland; he drove people in his Lada in a small town and went to Moscow to booze, when he saved a bit of cash.
First, I accepted him at home. By force of habit. Then I ceased it.
I found a good excuse: unimpaired health cannot last forever, the organism would not always function without any trouble, and his merciless way of life started to make itself felt.
He could be awake for three consecutive days and then zonk out unexpectedly in midsentence: just leaving the room during a noisy mess and putting an empty bottle under his head or not bothering even with that.
When he dropped off to sleep the first time sitting at the table with a burning cigarette in his hand, which then fell out of his fingers and burned through the linoleum on the floor almost causing a fire, I severely rebuked him.
Even when he did it again, I limited myself to severe reproof and a warning to close admittance forever.
After the third time I was mad as hornet, carried out my threat and kicked him away. Turned him into the street on a frosty winter night. Regardless of sacred sylvatic xenial customs.
Friends-witnesses appealed to my compassion, understanding though that I was right, but all the years of veiled frustration against Burzumy gained the upper hand.
I went berserk. The liver ached. The eyes turned yellow.
For all the years, when he hid his talents in a napkin. For all the years, he was not a person I longed for.
And also… and also because all those years he was reflexion of myself. By hiding his talents, he reminded me that I was doing the same thing.
He was not the person I could unequivocally like, but I did not like myself either.
Oh, Burzumy, merciless reflexion. A portrait in lake water.
You may like someone or not, but you may feel bitter or hate only those who at the very core and Divine Providence are similar to you.
During all those long years, I hated him because he was myself.
And he is not to blame for my hatred. But what can I do?
The breach did not mend.
We contacted with Burzumy occasionally at common gatherings. In spite of many losses, he maintained sincere devotion to me. And behaved as if nothing happened, probably he really did not bear any grudge against me.
Generally speaking, I never saw him angry, furious, in a temper, or disgruntled.
He was a genuine good-hearted, epic Russian alcoholic.
I received odd bits of information about him, mostly disappointing (yes, I still held out hope for something).
He moved to Moscow, worked as a programmer somewhere, lived at a buddy free of charge, and then he got bored and chucked it up.
Then he got enthusiastic over the crazy idea to make everything gas-driven, was elaborating a nonsensical concept, which included collaboration with Iran (don’t know why), yammered this would make the world topsy-turvy. Naturally, this ended in nothing.
Then the news became more alarming: it had emerged that he borrowed a lot of money but is in no haste to pay back, which was unusual for him. He used to repay in due time and now…
Things went from bad to worse, when he quarreled with his parents. Particularly had a major argument with his dad. At one of the meetings, he proudly declared he was going to change his patronymic and boasted of the forthcoming new passport with Alexander Moronovich instead of Alexander Alexandrovich.
That was frightening, because he always had very good relations with his dad before. And now, that was the only case when Lem O’Lecfos, a patented jellyfish, practically hissed as a snake out of wrath, and scolded his dad for political collaboration, stupidity and treachery, all in exaggerated form at that.
Generally, he was now antsy and poured forth pipe dreams about seizure of the world, now in the snap of a finger fell into depressed, torpid state and wept his mediocre existence.
That reminded me of something and I found reading matter on the subject to check up my guess and of course smart medical books of reference described in detail all that befell him as a maniacal-depressive psychosis.
– Well, guys, what shall we do? The old fellow must be doctored; you all understand it, don’t you? – we, his gloomy friends, seized an opportunity to stay tete-a-tete, and put heads together.
But what’s the way to do it? He had always been oddish but was never treated or in follow-up. How would we use leverage on him?
His parents do not enjoy authority with him. Friends also lack persuasive power.
His sister, a great love of his, could have influence upon him, but she was trying to extricate herself from a crisis caused by the divorce proceedings going in another city and a little daughter to take care about.
We had let matters drift. Many things could be said in defense, but I will not do it. We acted faint-heartedly. For my part, it was definitely the case.
I had a stroll with my mother on a sunny Moscow day, August was coming to an end, the weather was still warm, but not Saharic.
I remembered it well, because I do not have too many opportunities just to have a stroll with my mom, and that was one of them.
We were going along Palikha Street, past children’s playground, with a statue of something: either a bear or a cat, or a bee.
The telephone rang. It was Archangel, who called.
– Looks our old fellow has left the stage…
– Is it definite?
My head was hollow. Almost resonant.
– Malyshev died, – I said in response to mom’s interrogative look. She could not embrace the idea for a while. Neither could I.
– Is it definite?
– That’s right.
Nobody knows what exactly happened.
Most probably, with multi-day lack of sleep and emaciate condition, his arbitrary zone out mechanism triggered.
Or maybe someone pushed him accidentally and he did not response adequately feeling bonkers as usual. The fact is that he fell down between the cars at the metro station Shosse Entuziastov and hit his head against the intercar coupling gear.
The response was quick and the train was stopped. The Pilot of Equestrian Aviation was pulled out and put on the platform. Being in a state of shock, he reached inside his pocket without a word, produced his passport and handed it to the nearest person. After that, he lost consciousness and arrived in the hospital sunk into a coma, which he never left.
What was going on in the hospital is not clear.
He had a notebook on him with phone numbers of parents and friends. A mobile phone with no lock. A wallet full of recently borrowed money. And a passport.
He was travelling home to Sarov and had to be met at the station, but the bus arrived without him. Nobody in the hospital tried to contact his connections. The mobile phone did not answer, until it ran out of charge.
He was registered as John Doe in spite of the available documents.
It could be explained by dirty intentions, but nobody took the money.
It is not known what was going on in his comatose hell during those eight days until his body surrendered having realized that nobody was looking for it. Which premortal dreams he was dreaming? Was he suffering?
After his death, when the body was transported in the morgue and prepared to be buried in a mass grave, one of the employees phoned strictly on her own initiative to someone from his notebook and he was found.
I do not like burials and farewells, but I could not miss the event this time.
When I was with Burzumy I often felt out of place. This time it was the other way round: I was exactly where I had to be. And nowhere else.
Funeral orations were scarce, but not trivial. Full of humane attitude. Without formal pathos.
The parents insisted on the coffin to be closed, to make him present in the recollection of his friends the way he was, when alive.
They even employed biting irony, saying that now, with baldhead, he resembled Vladimir Lenin, and being a great Lenin’s fan, he would probably laugh a lot if he saw himself.
In accordance with the repeated desire of the deceased to be necessarily cremated (I presumptuously think this to be my influence), the end point of our ceremony was the crematorium in Novokosino. The mourners were about fifty and they would hardly have got together otherwise.
I was looking at the license plate of the funeral vehicle at the parking lot. It bore the number 666 MRU! You couldn’t make it up!
I was trying to catch sight of Burzumy – where the deuce is he? – to show him this shtick in his line and suddenly realized that Burzumy is definitely somewhere here, but I would not be able to show him anything.
Then there was the shop. The coffin was put on rails with flowers thrown on top.
Some were crying. Some were petrified. Some remained in dull annoyance, like me.
Not having seen him dead I could not tie-in with the feeling and understanding that he really met his death. Looking further forward I may say I still do not have this feeling.
I wanted to put a period, close the lid, turn the page – but the period would not put, the lid would not close and the page would not turn.
The orifice was opened, the coffin rolled downward and the shutters closed after him.
A bit of fume soon added to Moscow sky.
Loathsome, irksome as a mosquito and oppressive feeling of unaccomplished matter was poised since that day. As if I had to do something and did not. As if something had to be decided, but I failed to decide.
As if the fate taught me lesson at the cost of life of a man of genius, but I did not digest it.
The fate sent me this man for a reason, but which?
Or there is no fate whatsoever? Or just as cats are easily born, in the same way the epic Russian alcoholics are born, live and finish with a whiff from a stack? No purpose, no destination, no origin.
Lem O’Lecfos has become, just as his legendary classmate Dryusha, stuck between times.
Sometimes I contact them as virtual companions.
They are both alive in my mind. Or both dead, which is the same thing in this case.
Dead but not buried.
Oh, this Great Russian Necrophilia: groaning when it comes to graves, wake, ultimate send-off, mortuary enclosures, graveyards, catafalques and funeral marches. Floral tributes, vaults, eggs on the grave table.
Sometimes I also would not mind to participate in this movie-like, literary sentimentalism and plunge into aching, weeping and suffering, then leave the graveyard chillness, swing away my arms, stretch a squeezebox to dance and work, toil and marry.
As well as commemorate the passing of friends and do it with fanfare, orchestra and stabbing the air. Cry to the condescendingly smiling young generation:
Yea, were there men when I was young,
Whose songs your tribe is not to '’ve sung:
They’'d fight,– you’'re none as good!
But Burzumy died – miserably, unseemly, like fading embers. Without fanfare or orchestra. Without proper send-off. Without good parting words, which he definitely deserved. And not because he was one-of-a-kind, just because he was a man. A good man, sure enough, if you want to know. Better than me, and no mistake.
He left a lot of things behind: poetry, concepts, notes, ideas.
We wanted to organize a commemorative festival, to show his entire legacy, which is vast, if you care to search and ask around.
But we failed to do it after forty days from his death. Nor did we do it after a year, as we afterwards planned.
It all ended in futile talk: “We ought to do it…”, “Yes, we ought…”.
And everyone went his own way.
Once I dreamed of meeting Burzumy in the other realm – and found him exactly the same, when alive. But he was sad and felt cold.
But he rejoiced at seeing me. He was always happy to see me.
First, I cautiously asked if he knew where he was. He did.
– How are you doing here? – I asked.
He said that basically it was not bad. Then, was silent for a while and added bashfully, not in the usual clownish way, when he was alive: solely, it is cold here.
And I was stung by that remark.
I never saw him since that time: neither in my dreams, nor in my life. However, I admit the possibility of meeting him in the street someday.
After all, I did not see him dead and have no proof of his demise.
And I am still angry. For the botched final goodbyes. For unsaid important words, though I still do not know what was so important I wanted to say.
For having failed to see through you. For those several occasions, when I tried to speak my mind and felt lonely and cold, as you do now, you did not hear me. And laughed it off.
For everything that came out lacerated, as a wound, and preposterously, as your death.
For everything that went wrong between you and me.
However, it is certainly not your fault.
I remember that you are my reflexion.
Maybe you have come in this world just for that. How would I know?