An overcast day. On a train platform, Nura and Brusha sit on a bench. It is snowing.
The voice of a tour guide is heard—
The building in front of you is the stationmaster’s house, where, here at Astapovo, Leo Nikolayevich died. The room in which Leo Nikolayevich spent his last seven days has been preserved perfectly as it was at that time. In the adjoining rooms there are various displays and an exhibit of his literary works.
The building was constructed between 1889 and 1890 in a fashion typical of such structures for that period.
Unfortunately, the museum is currently closed to visitors, as it is undergoing renovation to house a brand new exhibition.
Please return to the bus.
Brusha—Damn. It’s cold.
Nura is silent.
Brusha—Well, what are we sitting here for, Nura? Should we go?
Nura is silent.
Brusha—Why are you so quiet, Nura? We’re gonna get covered in snow here pretty soon—we’ll become permanent residents of “Astapovo”. The snowmen of station “Leo Tolstoy”. Is that what you want?
Nura doesn’t respond—She stares into the distance.
Brusha—Actually it’s really not too bad here. Pretty even, clean air—just so damn cold!
Nura is silent.
Brusha—Leo Nikolayevich probably caught a cold from this awful wind. So the stationmaster’s house is being renovated—closed to visitors, did you hear?
Brusha—So, the prospects don’t look to promising.
Brusha—Well, there it is. We had a look around, had a little rest on the bench, time to go, eh?
Brusha—I’m feeling hungry. You?
Brusha—There in that row of shops they had some pies with meat or veggies—they looked pretty ancient though, kinda shriveled even. And it’s possible they were fried in auto-oil instead of vegetable oil. Tasty. You want some?
Brusha—I’ll go get ‘em. Just don’t go anywhere—and don’t go near the edge of the platform. I’ll just be a sec, ok?
Brusha runs off. Nura shivers on the bench. The wild whistle and rumble of a passing freight train is heard. The trembling and churning from the wheels slowly fades away. Brusha returns with the pies.
Brusha—I got four. Two with potatoes and mushrooms, two with rice. (Hands her the bag) The ones with potatoes have angles that make it look like a parallelogram.
Nura takes out a pie and eats.
Brush—Well, how is it?
Brusha—It’s not baked yesterday fresh, of course! (he takes a bottle of beer from his pocket) Want some?
Brusha use the bench to open the bottle, offers it to Nura.
Brush—No glasses in sight, can you drink from the bottle?
Brusha—I love being outside in the fresh air, in good company.
Nura—Who are you fooling?
Brusha—What do you mean?
Nura—Sitting here freezing next to some old bag!
Brusha gets up and bends down to look under the bench.
Nura—What are you looking for?
Brusha—An old bag, but I can’t seem to see any.
Nura (she takes another pie from the bag) It’s been ages since I’ve had pies like these—store bought, not homemade. In 1943, during the evacuation, I traveled to Tashkent. Oh my was it cold! So cold and I had to ride on the steps of the train it was so full. My hands froze holding the railing. Aleksander Borisovich and his sister Olga Borisovna lived there during the evacuation—They were so happy to see me, Nura honey! Aleksander Borisovich sent his sister down to the cafeteria, they were staying in the Academic Dormitory. She brought back two pies with rice. My they were good.
Brusha—Are you going to write about that?
Brusha—But why, Nura honey? You do it so well! Oh, is it all right that I called you honey just now? It just kind of happened.
Nura—It’s more than okay, sweetie!
Brusha—When I saw you here on the bench. Covered in snow, the first thought in my head was “There she is! Nura honey!”
Nura—How did you know I was here?
Brusha—What? You trying to offend me? I’m no fool!
Nura—What are you talking about?
Brusha—I’ve already typed out a good part of your writing. It’s very good.
Nura waves her hand.
Brusha—Don’t you have your hand like that at me.
Nura—Nobody needs it.
Brusha—How do you know that nobody needs it?
Brusha—There behind the little shops, by the way, there’s a “Sports World”.
Nura—Why do you say that?
Brusha—They were going crazy, Vika was weeping, and Luara was all over the place.
Nura—And what about “Sports World”
Brusha—Well, I there in the window they have some hula-hoops.
Nura—Did they send you after me?
Nura—I just bother them.
Brusha—Not true. It’s totally different.
Brusha—Listen, I bothered my mother my whole life.
Brusha—We just never got along. Actually, there never was a “we” at all. There was “her” and there was “me”.
Brusha—When I was little, god, I just wanted to live at home.
Nura—Where did you live?
Brusha—At a boarding school. I so looked forward to weekends. For some reason, I always thought, this time, it’ll be different—but I’d go home, and it was always the same.
Brusha—There was nothing there. I mean, she fed me, she dressed me, gave me whatever I wanted, but…I used to draw her these pictures, for her birthday, for New Years.
Nura—What did she do?
Brusha—She threw them away. My teacher at school, she always loved the them, my pictures, but at home…Later on I got really upset about it, felt really sorry for myself, I couldn’t understand, why me? I figured there was something wrong with me. I looked for father.
Nura—Did you find him?
Brusha—Never. It seems I was really brought by the stork. It’s the only possible explanation. Well, he brought me to the wrong address at the wrong time. At school, in my class, there was this girl named Sasha. My first love. She was the one who dressed like a Goth, she’d sew these black gowns—genius, really. Black crinolines and gloves. Everyone hated her.
Brusha—At first I didn’t get her either. Later we became friends and she sewed me my first black cloak—very exotic. But, that also turned out to be a joke.
Brusha—Usually when parents see that kind of stuff they react to it—are you crazy? Are you doing drugs? Are you gay??
Nura—And your mom?
Brusha—She didn’t even blink! You know, there’s that joke where the wife puts on a gas mask and her husband doesn’t notice, so she dances around in front of him and says “you notice anything new about me” and he says “Did you pluck your eye-brows?” But your family—they really love you.
Nura—How do you know?
Brusha—I can feel it. It happens a lot. You love some one very much, but you hide it.
Nura—Really? Is it written in some book somewhere?
Brusha—In your book.
Brusha—A quote from Tolstoy “ I feel sorry for those who must hide from pain.”
Nura—And what about Sasha?
Brusha—Do you think loving parents get all worked up like that without any good reasons? They’re right. Sasha’s no longer with us. The most important person in my life.
Brusha—And after all of that happened, I promised myself that I’d never do drugs again and I wear black in memory of her. So she doesn’t think that I’ve forgotten or betrayed her. Damn, its cold here! Come on, Nura, its time to go back!
Nura—Are you sure?
Nura and Brusha get up from the bench, stamp their frozen feet, and walk off.
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