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Image by Pascal Meier


A low ebb here in the lobby of Hotel Odessa; tide is out, white marble bleached dry cracked…but y’know the song, Soooometimes…I get a feeling.’ Oh yeah, I get a feeling all right: ‘Sir, your guide is here.’

I look up. A veritable tigress of inevitability overtakes me. Whoomph. It is She. Descending a staircase (already it’s too much), her narrow hips swivel w/ each kitten heeled stretch. A blonded Russian head of the old school; ice blue eyes regard me w/ an ironic glance. She. Methinks many staircases. All the better to follow you up, my dear.

She proceeds w/ a practiced, if not slightly, ever so slightly, wearied air. Another day. Another wildebeest. We are going to the usual places where we confirm something.

But now look, the piano is smashed. I understand Cubism. Her face is covered by huge Russian dark glasses. Green plastic. French ‘Fully Imported’ plastic. Her French is fluent. And that accent. Don’t start me up. Not yet anyway. Many Gauloises to be smoked. Smouldering is best.

She sits at table tossing down vodkas & holding yet another Gauloise aloft as she arches her eyebrows & laughs silently. Or she may deign to tell a story from her Russian life; She had Paris. Or it had her. Another concert pianist. Another day. ‘Oh let’s run away & smaggle precious stones together, Babu.’

India, Israel, Germany, France; what a merry dance. But now. Now. Here in this Honkers hotel room. Still spinning. I look out the high window at a sea of towers. No escape. Now.

Done ring-around-the-rosie.  And art & food & smoking & language & vodka & snow. Art, all that art, it’s a dead give-away; who was I kidding?  But here, I am now.

She, Gauloise burning between frosted lips, pours me another vodka. And another. I am lagging, behind the…er, programme. It seems. She will not be denied.

‘Come! Babu!’ Her accent is angular. My face, reflected everywhere, is an Expressionist masterpiece. As my eyes meet Hers I become The Scream.

But enough of artifice already; Her. Her body lies sunken, on a narrow cot, skeletal, her eyes glitter w/ a diamond brilliance. A small attic window admits a high pale light punctuated by the wings of pigeons. It is cold. Very cold. Ice covers the canals in the far distance. Hear it cracking?

Her eyes flicker; the window. It is above her head. Her skull strains against taut white skin. ‘Babu…Come.’

I rise from the spindle chair, her ice blue eyes, fixed upon the high pale light…fixed…ice blue…hear it cracking?

Nyet. She is my own. My own Russian bride. We flew across the sky (you know the one) in a donkey cart (you know the one). Some people called it art, but we, we never pulled it apart.

And now. She lays her white hand against the plate glass. Her dress is a wisp of cloud. I cannot. Her body cracks in the pale high light. I cannot. Stop it.

Lee Ray Khan divides her time between Australia and hostel rooftops in India and Nepal, where she writes stories on any piece of paper she can find, and from time to time sends out fragments of them to friends.


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