-        Here, - he says, - these are for you.


Old photos… Old photos, she probably kept them in a box… Broken edges, all black and white, and I know – this is The Gift I was asking for all these years.


I am trying not to touch a black envelope; it looks pretty heavy… Instead, my fingers are going through the rest… Some familiar pictures, taken by my Bro or myself… and only two of them are new for me – him as a baby, can’t see his face clearly… and his first day in first grade, these ears of his, oh my, a small elephant with sad black eyes. And flowers, of course.


Now, THAT.


I take them all from the envelope and immediately – I hear a hearty laugh… Music, accordion maybe?.. Yeah, here it is, a young soldier with a heavy instrument, he plays an intro while parents fill the hall. And the Mother, she is smiling at him, her hair done the way it was always done for An Occasion, she’s sooo proud – she’s gonna see her son taking The Oath. All of them are smiling, some in pairs, she’s on her own – her head lifted up her usual way.


Everything is perfect again in her perfect world, and even her son will be re-christened, confessed, and pure of Sin.


On the next picture I can hardly find her… Chairs, rows of chairs, lots of people, everybody laughing (I see, so the laugh was from this pic), concert has started and the joker is doing stand-up. It was a very good concert, she used to say. Kids are so talented.


Next… It’s a close-up, and she looks exactly the way I remember her. Middle-aged Cinderella. Giving The Look to the photographer. Who the hell was he?.. She went there – with whom? Not his father, that’s for sure, they were not seeing each other ever since the divorce procedure.


Another picture, applauds. And I tell him,


-        She looks a bit like our Mom…

-        Bullshit, she’s blond… Oh well, I know what you mean.


Can it be? Not one pic of him in this whole pile? I am going through all of them carefully – no, there are parents sitting, parents standing (probably for the Hymn), her and a fellow soldier’s Mom – break time, apparently, they are standing by the window and holding hands, a big fat smile for the photo.


And here it is.


My chance.


Now, slow down.


I know he is close… I can feel him in this picture… Though this one, it’s dark. Taken from the back, it captured the group of soldiers apart from the crowd; they form two short rows right next to the stage. I can see only their backs though.


I am getting closer…. Hush there, sit down... but I don’t care…


Tip-toeing to the group, and my eyes already gotten used to the dark, since the light only shines on the portrait of the leader of our country – he’s waiting for the next Moloch ceremony.


And I see him now… he is the second from the left, with his back to me, everybody is in uniform, he’s with his old brown shirt… and I want to call him, but it is hard to call his name since he’s gone… No need, he feels my presence, and – he’s turning around.


At last. At long, long last.


I can see him.


The eyes. The lips. The corners slightly down, no smile, he knows he’s dead already.  He leaves the row, there’s no sound to this picture anymore… And I – hug – him. No. I am clinging to him as hard as I can, I feel his warm slender body close to mine. We are entwined.


I am trying to become inseparable from him, somehow. I want to stay here. In this moment. He is taller, he keeps me carefully inside his long gentle arms, his chin on my head – the way it used to be – the rare times we hugged. I inhale deeply his scent I remember so well and lift my head to look into his eyes.


The moment I was striving for…


We stay here for a moment…


No talking, just feeling.


-        Shit, - he says, - she kept it, too.


The next picture, his newly arranged grave.




What’s really torturing me is that it’s somewhere around a city named Mozdok, where this new war with Chechnia goes on. Is it still there I wonder.