This will be a sad column. If you are looking for a fun read, please skip this and turn to some other section of the newspaper.
I was ready to go out clubbing Friday for the eXile readers, but shocking news of the death of my close friend sent my soul into a bottomless depression. So this week I will tell you a different kind of story.
Like many Putin-era Muscovites, I moved out of my childhood neighborhood, Rayon, after getting my first good paycheck. Rayon is more than just another "spalnii rayon" with cheap residential block buildings far from the city center; it is a world of connections, people and rules you have to know in order to survive, succeed, and get around. Those of you who grew up in the rougher parts of cities like New York or Liverpool understand what I am talking about.
Almost everyone leaves Rayon as soon as they make enough money to move out. But my friend Leha was in love with our neighborhood, and never considered leaving it. And now he never will. A drunken truck driver rammed my friend's Mazda in front of his house, and he was buried two blocks away at the local cemetery.
Leha was one of my closest friends, and all of the adventures we went through together would be enough to entertain you for a year if I collected them into a book. There is not much I can do now apart from this small dedication to his good memory. He was a great fan of English and this paper. If the eXile is delivered to heaven, Leha is enjoying the new issue as we speak.
His untimely death was the reason why I went back to Rayon. To keep it real, I traveled back that day the way I always used to: I walked from the marshrutka (mini-bus) stop to my house--freezing as I always did when all the marshrutkas were full and blew passed me. This was one of the reasons pushing me to work hard: To earn enough not to freeze my ass off every day and travel in anything but my own warm car.
I met all the friends I haven't seen for years and spent the evening the way we did many years ago. We hung out just like old times--never going to the center, but sticking to our neighborhood. We smoked and rapped in front of the podyezd, our favorite old spot, and went to the local bar and played billiards. Everything looked just as it did five years ago, apart from a few new supermarkets and the new kids who didn't recognize us.
Anyway, there is always a sunnier side of life. When we gathered for a commemoration dinner after the funeral, I met a few girls whom Leha and I used to hang out with. Of course it was not the kind of situation where I was thinking of seducing them in the toilet, but still I got their numbers for later use. I'll always have a chance to meet them again and relive our old adventures.
After I returned home, I was silent. My girlfriend couldn't understand my sorrow and I never show my feelings when I'm hurt. I am not the kind of guy who is proud of his sadness and shows it off. I don't need anyone's pity. Instead, I choose the best Russian way to sink my sorrow--head to the kitchen for a drink or three.
Despite everything, I really wanted to check out the new ZOLOTO club for you, especially the Police party (November 10 is "Militsia Day" in Russia) but I could not make it.
The next evening, I was driving my VW Passat pointlessly around the Garden Ring all night long, together with my thoughts and memories. The idea of going to a noisy new club for pointless conversation with bleached-toothed silicone dyevs filled me with revulsion.
It's strange how we begin to appreciate people fully only when we lose them. Until then, we take them for granted. These days, there is little time to meet with the people who matter because we are all so busy making our way up in the world. I feel this now particularly sharply, and will make an effort to see my buddies more often from now on. A proper visit to Zoloto next week would be a good excuse for us to meet.