I don't know what the latest science is on the subject, but I believe in the possibility of being in two places at the same time. I would even dare say I'm an expert at it. I've been doing it my whole life—looking out bedroom windows, classroom windows, stained glass windows. My whole life, I've spent imagining being anywhere else but where I was. Imagining being anyone else but Ru Konstantin; son of Stefan Konstantin, sole heir to Ljerumlup.
I look back and I marvel at the things my childhood mind used to conjure up. When I was six, I got a phone call from my mother telling me I now had a younger brother. A healthy little baby, but she wasn't sure he was a baby just yet, because, you see, he looked more like a raisin. A raisin with my eyes and nose, she explained. Closer to Viktor's size than my own, but I wasn't to worry because he would grow up in no time and we would play together, right there, in my grandmother's living room in Rujga. I had yet to visit Rujga, but the way my mother described it made me believe it was paradise on earth.
- In Ljerumlup? I asked. Clammy hands gripping the receiver.
- Yes, of course, in Ljerumlup, too. All day, every day. The both of you chasing each other, biking and running, and causing all types of ruckus.
I latched on to her words, and for the first two years of Boris's existence they fuelled such naive notions as Boris and I being mistaken for each other, consequently switching places. Me living with my mother in Rujga and Boris stuck under my father's claw.
By the time I first saw Boris, lapped in layers of cotton, lying in his golden cot, those childhood fantasies of mine had dulled. Corroded by the realisation that there was no point in fantasizing about a life that was an urbanised version of my own. Indeed, my father would've been too thrilled with Boris Abramov, the grandson of an important diplomat, as his son, and I couldn't have it. Instead, I began dreaming of mud, of foul-mouthed Brommian boys tackling the Arash on the pitch as if their pride depended on it; of wilderness and freedom, and of all things my father detested.
I was fifteen and scarcely anything had changed. I was running; feet trampling blades of grass until the crunch of the underbrush—the rustle of my movements—blended with the roar of the wind. I could taste it, the pine and the dirt and the decaying leaves. My lungs hummed freedom chants. I craved no oxygen for I had become the wind itself—travelling at the speed of one tree crown bowing before the next. I'd become so good at existing in two places at the same time, were it not for my disgruntled reflection staring back at me from inside two layers of window panes, I would've forgone one for the other.
Anger tasted a lot like melancholy when intermingled with cigar smoke. I would've preferred just the anger, and judging from the way the smoke was making me dizzy, just normal cigarettes. But I couldn't cross the room. Not because of the shards of glass strewn across the carpet—no, to rummage for the packet in my jacket, I would have to look at his shirt. It was inevitable, seeing as they both lay beside one another on the floor next to the dresser. I didn't want to be reminded of crystal-blue eyes and his voice, telling me I kissed like I was devouring shashlik. Something would shatter—something other than the vase—I was sure of it.
I settled for cutting my father's cigars to smithereens with his cigar cutter. Channelling every mafioso I'd seen depicted on the big screen, I pictured the cognac coloured tobacco rolls as my father's fingers. The anger that had made me steal his treasured Latin American cigars from the glass display cabinet in his office; the same anger that had torn through my room, trashing the place, abated when I discovered the case's hidden compartment, holding the matches.
I opened the window, lit one up like Mr Benofs had taught me, and watched the flames greedily devour the stick. I dreamt myself away as I stared, hypnotised, at the forming and disappearing tendrils of smoke. In there, somewhere, was a life just a stone's throw away. Wilderness and freedom, calling from the evergreen-clad hills of Elhem beyond the window. And if I just dared, if I took a chance and dived, head first, without a neurotic bone in my body second-guessing and nitpicking, I could have it. Happiness was mine to claim beyond the twenty-meter tall barbwire fence of fear that separated me and that other reality.
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If We ExistGeneral Fiction
🏆A 2018 Wattys Winner🏆 Two boys, one ethnically segregated town. Two sides, one war. Yuri Karamov's existence is like Schrödinger's cat, simultaneously both dead and alive. In Ru Konstantin's mind, Yuri is still the same vibrant young man he was w...