He is real

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Chapter 8. Day four

Opening my eyes, I saw snow-white pillows and a blanket crumpled under my arms. Misha was no longer around. The bedroom was lit by daylight from the open window. There was a smell of food in the air, and my empty stomach immediately responded to it with its rumbling. A picture of a pile of crispy pancakes and strawberry jam flashed in my eyes. This cherished image beckoned me to get out of bed, and I automatically got up, left the bedroom, entered the kitchen area. On the way, I noticed that I had no clothes on, at all. I sat at the bar table, on its marble surface there were those very attractive pancakes and jam. And also orange juice in a transparent jar and an empty glass. Food cravings turned out to be stronger than anything else, and it was only after I was full that I noticed a thick white envelope lying next to the jar, from which I pulled out a folded sheet of paper with hand-written letters first. Unfolded it and read.

“Anna, I had to leave (by the way, you sleep so funny, on your stomach, arms spread out to your sides, resting on the pillow with your little nose that frowns under the weight of your head), feel at home. I left the money for you in the envelope, as I said, take it and don’t go to work this week. Whatever your decision is, it is yours, even if you leave and you don’t want to meet with me.”

I put the sheet down and opened the envelope where the dollars, recently dropped by Misha on the table had moved. Holding the envelope, I returned to the bedroom. My clothes was lying neatly on the bedside table. I got dressed, put the envelope with the money in my shorts pocket and left the apartment. Yes, I still took the money with me. So what? He, one might say, insisted on it.

Having already gone down to the lobby, I stopped in the center of its luxurious space, took the phone from my back pocket and for a long time hesitated to write a message to Misha. The events of the last night seemed strange to me, to say the least. I did not fully understand how the guy wearing the red T-shirt had suddenly turned into a rather well-to-do, generous and caring Misha, who even bothered that when I woke up, I would not be hungry. Where did he come from, all so good? And where did my “invisible friend” go again? And where the hell am I running again?

“Misha, thanks for breakfast, I woke up being terribly hungry,” — I began to type a message on the phone, but this process was interrupted by a call. The number consisted of unknown numbers and without the name written in the address book, I decided that one of the clients was calling me. One of those to whom “Anna the cheater” had given her number once in exchange for tips, promising to meet in an informal setting and in private. I did not answer and then the notification came — the caller left a voice message, I decided to listen to it. A familiar voice uttered the words in Hebrew.

— Hello Anna, this is Dr. Sammi, you have missed the appointment and haven’t answered the calls for several days. We need to meet, contact me urgently.

Oh yeah, the doctor. I’ve completely forgotten about him in the light of recent events. He is, actually, a good psychiatrist, interested in my health and giving me prescriptions for pills. As I’ve said before, I stopped taking them long ago, but I still came to see Dr. Sammi, took prescriptions, and told him how wonderful I feel thanks to his professional treatment. “Anna the cheater” has always expressed appreciation, taking an interest how things are going with the doctor. I decided to call him back, but before that I finished and sent the message to Misha.

“I wanted to have a little walk, where did you go?”

Opening the large glass lobby doors, I went out into the courtyard, the sun blinded my eyes. It was difficult to see anything without sunglasses except paving slabs under my feet. I tried to return to the lobby, but the door had slammed, and Misha opened it with his phone. Covering the screen of the phone from the sun with my palm, I found “Sammy the whoremonger” in the contacts and called the doctor.

— Anna, we haven’t talked for a couple of weeks yet, — alarm sounded in his voice. — I have free time, somewhere in an hour. I’m waiting for you in my office. Deal?

— All right, — I agreed, thinking that I’d have time to buy new expensive sunglasses right in that hour.

***

Walking along the hospital corridor, painted perfectly white and decorated with posters advertising new miracle pills, safeguarding you against any mental illnesses, I was thinking about Misha, about last night, about his words. He never answered my message, the phone was silent.

Coming to Dr. Sammy’s office door, I put the phone into my shorts pocket and knocked.

— Yes, come in, — came his familiar hard voice from behind the closed door.

I opened it. The doctor was sitting at a large, brown-painted table, looking at me through transparent glasses, raising his eyebrows.

— You look good, Anna, — he stated, having examined me in a few seconds with his intent and observant gaze.

“Anna the liar”, smiling, with a fluttering gait, entered the office and sat down on a chair at the table opposite the doctor.

— Why don’t you take off your glasses? — He tactfully asked, starting to type text on the computer keyboard.

— I feel more comfortable this way.

Dr. Sammi (I don’t know what he wrote, in my turn, I will provide a short dossier on him), the full name sounds like Samuel, a man with a bald spot entering old age, a lover of the Israeli national food, such as falafel and hummus. This addiction to fatty foods affects its weight. He stretches his hands on the table, as he can’t sit close to it because of the interfering belly. Accordingly, he has to stretch to reach the keyboard. A famous psychiatrist in Israel. Behind him hang diplomas and a shelf, where the books written by him stand. The doctor put a bar cabinet in the corner, an oblong oak cabinet with transparent glass doors. On the shelves, he placed the quaint figurines of awards and collectible bottles of brandy. (End of the dossier.)

I really wanted to ask him what his trip to Ukraine was like. It would be fun to watch the change in his facial expression.

In an instant, such perceived seriousness could be replaced with guilty fright. Respect for people (even knowing who they really are) yes, I have this trait in me.

— You are no longer outdoors, I will close the blinds, you can take off your glasses. — He slowly got up and walked to the window.

I took off my glasses and put them on the table, as well as the phone that did not give a signal.

The doctor returned, sat down in a chair, which occasionally squeaked under his impressive weight, and straightened his tie.

— The last time we met, I prescribed you Assival, how do you feel? Didn’t your “invisible friend” visit you, didn’t he give you advice?

— No, — I said, and again looked at the dark oblong screen of the phone that was lying on the table.

— I see. Why didn’t you keep the appointment?

— I’ve completely forgotten. I’ve had a lot to do recently. Yes, and I feel great. I wake up, have breakfast, do household chores, go to work, talk to friends at weekends, and everything is fine, there is no more voice. — Over the past day he really did not visit me. I thought about it when I was speaking. Perhaps that is why my words sounded absolutely believable.

— That’s right, life consists of the usual activities that fill every day for us. — He rested his elbows on the table, slightly leaning forward, the chair under him creaked heavily once again. — It’s good that you understand it.

— Of course I do, doctor, — I said, a little absently.

— Are you waiting for a call? — It seems that the doctor noticed that I was more interested in the telephone than in our conversation with him. — Anna? Are you waiting for a call? — He repeated.

— Just … — I looked up at him sharply and didn’t know what to say.

— Well. — He pulled the keyboard towards him and pressed the “Enter” key with his short finger. The printer standing on the table squeaked shortly, then there was the rustle of paper going through it.

Taking the sheet from the surface of the printing device, the doctor handed it to me and asked:

— Can you give it to the nurse?

— Which nurse? — I answered his question with mine, being at a loss.

He looked at me squarely, fluttered eyelashes behind the glass of his glasses, puzzled, and laid the sheet on the table. In perplexity, I shrugged my shoulders, because I didn’t know which nurse was being talked about.

Dr. Sammy continued with ease.

— Do you want to go back to your room?

What on Earth room? — I heard a similar question not so long ago. I even had an idea of how it looked, but had no idea what it meant.

He started tapping his fingers on the computer keyboard, without answering. Don’t I understand something or is he making a fool of me? Declaring me a crazy is one thing, but insane is over the top, the part of my mind that is responsible for logical thinking, performed its functions quite well.

— Be sure to come to my appointment in a week. Do you know what day it is today? — His eyes remained riveted to the monitor screen.

— Shabbat, it was Friday yesterday. — Sudden awareness of the circumstances that did not fit into the usual rhythm of life plunged me into a momentary shock. I involuntarily opened my mouth and froze with this stupid expression on my face for a few seconds, then asked hesitantly: — Wait, why are you working on a Sabbath?

— It is Sunday today, Anna, — the doctor said absolutely calmly. Out of the corner of his eye, he glanced at me and again continued his usual business — hitting square keys.

These brain experts have some strange peculiarity. I have already begun to believe that the part of my mind that is responsible for logical thinking still does not perform its functions as well as I thought. My “invisible friend” didn’t come to rescue me either.

I got up, took the glasses and the phone off the table and added calmly as I was leaving:

— See you in a week.

I hurriedly headed for the exit from the hospital building, passing by the familiar snow-white corridors and letting flies mentally toward my “invisible friend.” I clearly remembered: the night I spent with Misha was the night from Friday to Saturday. The only reasonable explanation for what had happened was that I had slept through the last 24 hours. However I could find no rational explanation of how this could have happened, on top of that, without a sleeping pill.

***

As soon as I opened the glass doors and stepped onto the porch, glaring sunlight hit my eyes, I heard a thread of sound penetrating my head, filling in all its contents; it pinged every cell of my brain causing unbearable pain. I fell to my knees, clutching my ears with my palms, everything around me disappeared into the dark, and then suddenly returned to the usual places.

I was standing on the same hospital porch under the rays of the setting sun. Just as if nothing had happened, I put on my sunglasses, went down the granite steps, I felt the phone vibrate in my back pocket. It was a call from Misha.

— Anna, where are you? — He asked in a worried voice.

— I… well, I’m here, not far from your house,” I said perplexedly. It seems like everything was OK, and at the same time it seems like something has happened.

— I’ll pick you up and we’ll have dinner at the restaurant, won’t we?”

— Of course, let’s have dinner, drive up to my house in an hour, I’ve got to change clothes. — If I said so, then I knew exactly what was happening, and everything was really OK.

— Fine, it’s a deal!

***

— What restaurant are we going to? — I asked Misha, sitting next to him in the front seat. The car, driven by him, was racing along the narrow roads of Bat Yam, past the single-type four-story beige residential buildings on stilts.

— It’s in the northern part of Tel Aviv. My friends, my companions and I, completed a good transaction and decided to celebrate. — He took my hand, put it on his knee, felt under rough cotton fabric of black trousers, and covered it with his palm.

— You told me about dinner, I thought, there would be only two of us. To be honest, I’m tired of noisy companies.

— Don’t you want to meet people who surround me? — He turned onto the highway that connected Bat-Yam and Tel Aviv, joining the heavy traffic.

— Yes, but let’s not stay there for long?

— No problem, he gave a grin of approval, I wish I knew what he was thinking about.

Overtaking cars on the highway, maneuvering in four lines of traffic, he managed to give glances at me, over and over again looking at my half-open shoulders, let his eye dwell on its curves. Especially for the dinner, I decided to put on a clingy black dress, just below the knees length, with a large rounded neckline, falling down on my shoulders, adding to it strict style sandals of the same color on stilettos and a handbag. I put my sleeping pills hoping that I would spend that night with Misha, but this time I would not see those “crazy dreams”.

There was a several months long period when I was tormented by nightmares. Strange, creepy, incomprehensible. I saw people, they begged me for help. I saw unborn children, they were stretching their hands to “failed mothers”. I saw boys and girls who had not seen the life yet, those who died an absurd death, they wanted to go home so much.

My dog, who will walk her in the morning, my son, God forgive me, my mother, why doesn’t she need me…

It doesn’t matter, it’s just a nightmare. As my “invisible friend” said — never mind. Having fallen asleep with Misha, I saw a strange dream, albeit not so frightening, but specific. I did not want to see something like that anymore. Sleeping pills switched off the brain, and most often I didn’t see anything, only in an intermediate state, before waking up, on the verge of sleep and reality, I met with my friend who still didn’t get out of his obscurity. But the recent terrible dream, which made me stay out of bed because of fear, I had just in a half-sleeping, half-awake state. It would be worth thinking about this, but at that time I was thinking about something completely different.

I often looked at Misha myself; that day he looked more than smart. His style has become more conservative. Black trousers, slightly narrowed to the bottom, tastefully matched his figure. Black slim-fit shirt unbuttoned on the top and upturned collar. It emphasized his athletic torso and broad shoulders. The sports hairstyle acquired a new shape due to the elongated strands fixed by the gel. The bristles on the cheeks became shorter — he looked a little unshaven, which made him even more brutal.

— Misha? Did I sleep in your bed all day? — I decided to ask.

Because of the motorcyclist who unexpectedly got ahead, brazenly overtaking us and almost drove into the bumper of our car, Misha frowned, threw up his palm, showing outrage, but did not shout out anything after him.

— You slept a little less than a day, — he answered in a completely justified tone, glanced at me with a quick glance, and the rude expression on his face immediately softened. — And anyway, I wouldn’t let you go to another bed.

— Why didn’t you wake me up?

— What for? He shrugged his shoulders vaguely and continued looking ahead fixedly.

— Well, because it is not normal.

— These things happen when human body is severely depleted. With your rhythm of life, when you hardly eat anyting, you do not sleep, but you only drink whiskey, this is quite normal. Fatigue adds up. Do you understand?

— Yes, I do, — I muttered to myself. I can’t say that his answer satisfied me completely.

We were approaching the northern part of Tel Aviv, passing by the skyscrapers with a large number of office buildings floors with neon signs of world-famous financial and insurance companies ascending to the sky. The shining windows of high houses reflected the glare of lights from the huge billboards, attracting attention due to their bright colors and perfectly shaped girls of model appearance.

— Where did you go for a walk today? –Misha asked me the question when he slowed down at the traffic light.

— Well here and there, to the mall. And I also went to see a doctor. I sometimes go to the psychotherapist.

— What for? Do you have mental problems?

— Well… for lack of a better word, I just like communicating with him, discussing certain topics that you can rarely discuss with others. I came to see him for the first time about three years ago and I told him that I heard a voice and called it my “invisible friend.”

— Really? — Stepping onto the gas pedal sharply, he thoughtfully knitted his eyebrows, still not turning to me.

— Yes, and I didn’t make him up, — I replied in the affirmative tone, intently observing Misha’s reaction. — Do you understand?

— I understand, he kept his calm manner, but I still managed to notice his confusion. — And what does he tell you? Your friend.

— He can read people’s thoughts and tell them to me. Thanks to him, I got to know that the doctor is cheating on his wife with his neighbor and that he likes having fun in Ukraine in the company of young prostitutes.

Why did I tell Misha about my “invisible friend”? I have no rational explanation. Misha was the second man after the doctor who I told about my “friend”. And I told him with ease, without thinking.

Misha’s next question discouraged me:

— What, are you a psychic medium?

He could well have taken me for a schizophrenic, off my head, but no. Psychic. Indeed, if you think so, then these eccentric mediums who are able to communicate with the representatives of the other world, are commonly trusted and are not considered to be people who have bats in the belfry.

— Something like that, — I said, — but I don’t know what you think about. It’s for the first time.

— Great, otherwise I’ve already got scared, — he grinned and looked at me encouragingly.

— Do you believe me? — I asked in surprise.

— Yes, and, unlike your doctor, I don’t think you are crazy. Do not forget, my work was related to the security service and I was supposed to monitor people, therefore recognizing them as psychos is not difficult for me. You are quite adequate, of course, you have your bees in bonnet, but it is even interesting.

And this answer with his explanation completely satisfied me.

Tel Aviv busy area was left behind. I had already been to this recently rebuilt district of the northern part of the city. It is inhabited by politicians, stars of show business and criminal personalities. Yes, namely the latter for the most part, who are an integral part of our small country, where, despite its devout religiosity, drugs sold per day cost an amount with a greater set of zeros than the number of all the country’s inhabitants.

At the sight of insanely expensive prefabricated flat blocks, hotels and villas that were hidden behind high fences, which we were passing by, the memories just could not declare themselves. I and the girls working with me had been ordered to these places a lot of times. Choice clients — all men, born for easy money making and easy spending of large sums of money. They threw crazy parties, took everything and let themselves do everything that came to mind. It was difficult to stay in a world of your own, not to abandon your principles, not to give in to temptation, not to get into a whirlpool carrying you away into a new reality, and not to drown in fun, losing your head because of a wide range of drugs to choose from, receiving, among other things, so much adored pieces of paper.

***

Holding hands, Misha and I entered a restaurant filled with the smell of freshly cooked food and loud voices of its numerous visitors. Sitting at the round wooden tables, they were chattering lively, shouting over music. The waiters wearing the same black uniform with long aprons tied at the waist hurried up running by next to them. One of them ran past us with a large tray, holding it high on his hand.

The three guys sitting at a table near the slide glass doors, which opened the view to watch the night surf, noticed our appearance, stood up immediately and hurriedly headed towards us, leaving the girls who were their company behind.

— Hey, why have you been driving so long? — Said one of the guys who approached to us; hugging Misha, he patted his back happily. — We’ve done it, huh? Everything worked out.

— Yes, and it worked out so well, — Misha replied with the least enthusiasm, tensely hugging him in response.

The guy who spoke to Misha switched his interest to me. His brown eyes, which looked with glitter, caused not only by his joy, ran through my body assessing. He put his hands in the pockets of his cigarette cut shortened pants and, leaning relaxedly on one leg, smiled. He had an unrivaled sense of style, and the model appearance adhered to him produced an impressive effect. A sugary blond, a girls’ favorite, who wanted to get them in the greatest number possible and give each of them a piece of his attention, was standing in front of me.

— Are you just that same Anna? Michael told us about you, he said in a slightly haughty tone.

— Yes, and lots of times,” Misha’s second friend, who was standing opposite us, got in a word.In terms of height and build, he was surpassed Misha by far and dredged up images of a person, who “lives” in a gym who is constantly lifting weights, pausing only to drink a protein shake, enhanced with muscle growth aids. He emphasized them with the appropriate brand sportswear. A diamond glittered in his ear, a few small stones glittered on the pendant of a thin chain and watch face (on a massive wrist), where they closed the circle, lining up in a row.

— I’ve asked you not to say anything. — Misha pushed his fist into his shoulder with a free gesture.

— My name is Denis, — the third introduced himself and stretched out his hand to me. He looked like forty, his dark hair framed a tired face, with lots of wrinkles, and his dim eyes radiated peace. He seemed to be the only one who did not bother with the choice of expensive clothes and did not show off the relevant accessories. He was wearing a black tailored suit and a white shirt with a maroon tie neatly tied at its collar.

— I am a lawyer, attorney and accountant. Rolled into one. I work for these guys, — Denis continued; I gave him my name, and he kissed my hand on the back side.

Misha pulled me closer, hugging my waist.

— These are Dima and Max. — Denis first pointed to the blond and then to the dumpy athlete.

— That will do, that will do, we’ve made the acquaintance of each other, let’s go. — Throwing a few short words to his friends, Misha pushed me forward.

Grasping my hand tightly, he walked quickly towards the big festive table. Dima caught up with him and having joined him addressed him, smiling lustfully:

— Do you remember the girls from the “Dolls”, I called them to us. — Having raised one eyebrow, he looked at the girls at the table.

I stopped for a second. Misha was persistently pulling me ahead, dragging me along.

What does it mean, “remember?” This is the first thing that flashed in my thoughts. I happened to work in the above-mentioned club, and quite often, and I was familiar with each of those “girls” (some of them were already in their late thirties, and that’s how they were referred to — as “girls”).

The “Dolls” was considered to be the best strip club in our country, the companions of this house had already managed to open a couple of similar places in Europe.

In Israel law, there were no clear rules for such institutions because these institutions made considerable contribution to the treasury and, accordingly, fed those who wrote the rules. Pro forma, to appease the angry public, the representatives of the law often made raids with checks, filmed everything on camera for the news broadcast in order to show that the “girls” behind the doors of private rooms did not do anything unchaste, to put it mildly (of course, lots of them were doing much there). The dancers were interviewed in order to show that their work included only dancing and no one inclines them to provide intimate services. Which was true in all: the “girls” were not inclined to do anything — nobody had to, they did it voluntarily, everyone wants to have a lot of paper with indelible paint, and everyone earns it as she or he can.

Soon there would be demonstrations of feminists on the streets of Tel Aviv, soon most of the strip clubs would be closed and the walls of private rooms broken down, and a law equating the dance on the client to prostitution would be issued (I don’t know it, probably those who were being fed could not get enough). Of course, the partners the “Dolls” knew that such things would happen, there were good reasons why they moved to Europe.

Let’s go back to the days when the club still existed. Exquisite club “Dolls” — with an expensive modern interior of two floors — its large, wide stage with gleaming poles to the high ceiling and a full-size plasma screen could be seen both from the first and from the second floor. The club owners had invested well in their house, having worked out the bar, giving the visitors the choice of only the best alcoholic drinks. They created VIP-zones with individual plans for each of them. They hired only those girls who could dance on a pole, beautiful, athletic, such girls that can rarely be met in everyday life. They spent considerable amount of money on plastic surgery, constantly enlarging or reducing something. To tell the truth, looking at them, I myself finally decided to use the services of a plastic surgeon, but I limited only to the mentioned above breast surgery.

Naturally, either tourists or those who earn good money in Israel could afford such a relaxation. And if Misha’s friends invited the strippers from the club to the restaurant, it was easy to guess how it all worked out before. On one of the nights spent in the amusement facility, we are talking about, they lashed out on drinks and gave a lot of tips to those present at the table. After closing time, they were invited to the hotel, offered an impressive amount of money, to which they agreed, without hesitation, and continued all the fun together until lunch, if not until the evening (and I also thought why Misha should know what was happening at such parties). In my imagination, I distinctly saw how Misha and his friends shoved bills into the “girls’” bras, seated them on their lap, sniffed powder from their bodies, and how they closed in the rooms from time to time.

— Anna, are you still with me? — said Misha, his gruff voice managed to wake me up from being absorbed in thoughts. — What’s happened?

I was sitting at the table. I do not remember how I got there. I got too deep in thoughts. Misha was sitting on my right, and Max, who was drinking vodka instead of a protein shake, sat next to him.

— As if you don’t understand it, — I addressed Misha, and grinned bitterly.

— Honestly, I did not know that they would be here.

— And I didn’t know that you like spending time in the company of, let’s say, expensive women, — I said quickly, and reached for a glass of wine, which the contented waiter condescendingly filled for me.

— As for “these”, I don’t care a red cent for their company, — Misha whispered in my ear.

Looking up, I decided to take a longer view of the girls sitting with me at the big round table. I expected to see familiar faces, so I was not surprised at all. They did not take the slightest note of me, only showed their interest in Misha’s friends (of course, the real bonanza for hunters for papers soaked in indelible paint). Coquetting, these “girls”, avid for everything connected with wealth, touched their long hair and smiled playfully with “Botox” inflated smiles. One of them touched the edge of Denis’s glass with her finger, looking into his eyes, the other laughed, playfully pressing against Dima’s shoulder with her big breasts.

But the third one managed to surprise me — she ran to Misha and hugged his neck from behind.

— Hello, — she cried, happily hanging on him, kissed his cheek, leaving a print of bright lipstick. — I missed you. — Then she raised her head, stared at me with her big amazed, brown eyes and added: — Karina, are you here too? — A few curls of her hair slid under Misha’s shirt collar.

I didn’t answer her, didn’t say anything sarcastic and caustic. But I wanted very much, not only to say, but in addition to break a glass on her red-haired head. I held in my anger, everything was in order with the state of my mind.

— Listen… Mary, — Misha said confusedly (for all clients she is Mary, and between us, girls, just Ira) and tried to remove her long arms politely, but she, unwilling to let him out of her arms, leaned on him even harder and whispered something in his ear.

I urgently needed to go out. Rather, to leave, or to be even more accurate, run far away.

Finishing off the remaining wine in the glass, I stood up at lightning speed. Misha, suddenly forgetting about politeness, rudely tore Mary-Ira’s hands from him, pushed her away and shouted hatefully in the direction of his blond friend, having jumped from the chair:

— You mother fucker, you are behaving like a jerk for life, I told you that I would here come not alone!

And now it was Dima’s turn to jump sharply from his chair.

— Well, she’s just the same as they are. — He spread his hands, forcing everyone pay attention to the obvious fact. He looked around the girls who were sitting in their places being completely indifferent and calm, separating themselves from the situation. — Fancy making all that fuss over.

Misha rushed to him, around the table, but did not have time to pounce on him. The sturdy Max grabbed Misha and wrung his hands behind his back with a powerful jerk.

— Last thing for you two to have a fight. Calm down, what’s wrong with you? — He tried to calm Misha down, still holding him tight.

Having grabbed my bag from the table, I walked hastily to the exit, away from their dispute and from the world of rich and licentious people. The feeling of insult and anger drove me stronger than a glass of wine drank in one draught.

When the restaurant door slammed shut behind me, I took off my sandals, took them in my right hand and ran towards the sea. Turned around the corner of the building of the restaurant, jumped off the concrete curb to the cold sand. My legs began to sink into it, slowing my pace, but I tried to go as quickly as possible witout turning around. I was put out of temper not only by the fact of this unpleasant discovery connected with Misha’s personality, but also by the fact that this discovery should have happened at the very beginning of our acquaintance with Misha, when I wasn’t into him, but not in this ridiculous situation.

— I asked you to tell me about him. Why couldn’t you do this? Talk to me at last! Damn you! Where are you? I was addressing my “invisible friend,” stopped and looked up towards the starry sky, looking for him in the distant emptiness of uncertainty, stood, frozen, and waited for an answer in complete confusion, overflowed with anger.

He didn’t answer. Didn’t come. Was not available at the moment. How much I wanted to throw my sandals at least at somebody.

— I was wondering where you would run. I see you didn’t like my friends. — It was Misha, his voice was heard from behind. I did not have time to turn around, he hugged me from behind and pressed to himself so hard that I lost my breath.

— Neither your girlfriends, — I said in a hurt voice and, loosening his arms, turned around. — I’m the same as they are.

— I don’t think so.

— I wish I could believe it…

He ran his fingers over my chin, some regret flashed in his apologizing look. I suddenly forgot what else I wanted to say. Misha’s hands once again powerfully wrapped around my waist, he began kissing my lips, running over them with his tongue, which retained the taste of the red wine. He knew how he could cut claws.

— Let’s get out of here, — he said, nibbling my earlobe gently, shall we talk at home? I will order dinner. Did you eat anything other than pancakes for breakfast?

— No, I tried to collect my thoughts so as not to succumb to his manipulations with my slack feelings. — And generally speaking…

He grabbed me, hoisted me on his shoulder — I hung on him, bent over in half — and carried me like a primitive hunter, who was taking the won prey to his cave. He was walking quickly, straddling despite the loose sand.

— Had I refused to go with you, you would have tied me up and threw me into the trunk, right? I’m just asking, out of typical female curiosity. Don’t get it wrong, bad thoughts about you never even entered my head.

Misha put me on a concrete curb and climbed up too.

— Why should it be the trunk? There are other methods. — He smiled warmly, clearly realizing that what I was saying was filled with comic sarcasm, and began to shake the sand off his shoes.

Dima was waiting for us in the parking lot. He was hanging around Misha’s car, carelessly kicked it on the wheel with his shoe toe, then he lit a cigarette and continued walking with short steps from side to side. As I approached him, I noticed seriousness on his cheesy face (it seemed that either the line was too short and he had come down or hadn’t done it yet, but it was Misha who had cut him down to size).

— Before you leave, I’d like to apologize to you, — Dima started to speak confidently. — You and I are really strangers, it was stupid to talk like that about you.

Well, yes, of course, he lumps all the girls under a general umbrella of the stereotype set in his brain.

— Did he ask you to do this? — I glanced at Misha standing nearby.

— No, I misunderstood the whole thing, — Dima continued; he leaned on the wing of the car, crossed his legs, took a couple of short puffs and threw his cigarette out. — I just didn’t think that it was serious between you.

— OK, friend, have good rest. It was a hard day today. — Misha decided to quit the conversation, without giving me the opportunity to answer. He opened the front door of his car, on the passenger side, and briefly slurred to me: — Get in.

I raised my hand, showing Dima that I was saying goodbye, I smiled amiably (after all he apologized) and got into the car. Misha slammed the door, thoughtfully looked at me through the glass, hesitated for a few seconds and nodded, agreeing, and by his appearance one could easily understand that this agreement was not easy for him, then he turned to Dima, who was leaving, called him and hurried after him.

I couldn’t hear what they were talking about; I only saw how, having finished the conversation, they joyfully shook hands, embraced each other and parted.

***

When we stopped at Bat Yam, Misha turned down the volume of music playing in the car and asked:

— Are you still angry with me?

— Have you just asked it or do you really want to know my opinion? — I thought he would never ask.

— I’m bored, so I asked you. — He paused; responding his words, I said sarcastically, with the complete lack of emotion. — Of course, because I want to know your opinion.

Well done.

— Look, I can understand the biased attitude of the people with the regard to me because of my job — I tried to give my voice a calm intonation. — A stripper, an instant association — a licentious girl who completely forgot about the rules of decency. The rules that, by the way, do not bother me, as well as the opinion of those who follow them. But that’s not the point. I just did not think that you, you … — Icouldn’t, — you are one of those who have fun with strippers and prostitutes!

— Actually, I…

— Actually, I immediately had a vision of the two. Of you and Mary, and the vision of someone — we aren’t going to point a finger — slapping her on the butt with a zonked joyful expression on his face. — Not only did I point my finger, but on top of that I poked Misha under his ribs. The tone of my voice was a far cry from the calmness as at the beginning of our dialogue.

I imitated Misha with the imaginary girl on his lap. Spread my knees, as wide as the bottom of the tight dress allowed — a man’s position, so to say. And grabbing the air with my outstretched palms, as if there were Mary’s big round buttocks, I said ironically:

— Oooh, yes, baby, yes, my beauty, you are perfect, keep wriggling on me, go on, go on, you are the best, I am yours, I am only yours… — I threw my head back, rolling up my eyes, and then suddenly felt a sharp tingling pain in side, where Misha managed to pinch me. — Hey! — I exclaimed.

— You got too deep into the role, slow down. Does it hurt you, are you jealous? — Smiling, with an air of importance, he raised his chin, turned the steering wheel to the right and deftly followed the bend, after which the road running along Ba-Yam promenade began.

— Just it looks weird, — I replied in a hurt tone and, taking a restrained pose, crossed my arms over my chest.

Frankly speaking, the last question he asked recalled an unpleasant memory associated with the very biting feeling of jealousy that had pierced me in the restaurant and made me squeeze a glass of wine in my hand.

— And you were for someone just the one that was slapped on the butt, so we are in equal position.

— You got some nerve! — I said rudely, and pushed him in his shoulder.

By and large, I had nothing more to object. Here he was right.

— Well, stop it, you know. Everyone wants to have fun and relax, some people spend a lot of money, while others make money on it. — Stopping at the traffic lights, he stared at me with his bewitching blue eyes.

No, I won’t melt under his gaze. At least not now.

— And there are those who have never seen it, because they relax and make money in the other way, — I said. The anger overwhelming me could be felt not only in my voice, but also in my fast movements. Having pulled out the sealed pack of cigarettes from the bag, I started to tear cellophane from it convulsively, which in no way wanted to peel off the paper box.

— But we don’t belong to this group, — Misha said in a wise philosopher voice with the smile hidden in the corners of his lips.

— So you’ve decided to be smart? Well, yes, you are ten years older than me, you are more experienced.

He leaned so close to me that I could feel the warmth of his lips.

— Actually, four. — He touched my cheek with the tip of his nose. He wanted to kiss me, but did not have time — the signal was heard from the car behind us, reminding Misha that he had not noticed that the color of the traffic light had changed and we could go further.

— Have I told you how old I am? But no, don’t answer, I, apparently, told you, when I got a good kick from alcohol, so I forgot.

He had already managed to step on the gas heavily, with lightning speed the car raced off, causing me to press the back of the chair.

— Exactly, — Misha confirmed. Playfully, he was maneuvering between the cars, overtaking them. — And do I really look thirty-four?

I pressed the button on the door panel, and when the glass lowered smoothly, I threw out the cellophane. I lit a cigarette, looking at the palm trees flashing along the promenade. I wanted to quibble, but quickly changed my mind.

— I was joking. Not only do you look the best of those who I have ever met, but you also make me feel what I have never felt to anyone. — That’s right, what’s the point in shirking. Let him dodge, portraying his maneuvers, twisting the steering wheel, and I’m already tired of such nonsense. — And yes, I was jealous, but, apparently, I didn’t have enough prudence not to show it.

He seemed to steady down, released the gas pedal, slowing down, and took a relaxed pose. A bear who sat on his hind legs obediently.

Jumping ahead a little bit: he knew all the words without words. Actually he knew much more than I could imagine, and much more than he was saying. He used to provoke me deliberately, just for fun. He used to be sad deep in his heart, looking into my eyes, knowing that everything would be over soon, but he was smiling. The words, I said that time, caused mixed feelings in him, because he had reconciled himself not so long ago with the fact that it would take him long to hear those words live

I was looking at his masculine profile, where the light of road lanterns slid changeably. At the collar of his shirt. I was tempted to unbutton it, to open it and nestle against the warm neck. And I couldn’t really grasp what kept me close to him. How he managed to get so firmly in my thoughts, which being disobedient to logic, were drawing plans for the future, rejected the principles invented by me and grew into obsession.

He put his hand on my knee and sighed. I threw the unfinished cigarette out of the window and heard it from him: — I adore you. — And what deep feeling could be heard in his words.

***

Going up in the mirrored cabin of the elevator, we were staring at each other silently, having silently grasped a similar desire to do the same. But I decided to take the first step and, grabbing the shirt cloth on his chest, pulled him to me. He flung himself on me like a dog that had been unleashed after long waits. He pressed me with his body close to the mirror wall, pressing his hips to my stomach, and began kissing my lips, fragile neck, shoulders with unquenchable passion. His rudeness and confidence aroused a strong desire, which echoed by warmth and pulsation between my clenched legs. I stroked his tight hard back, feeling the elastic relief of the muscles under a thin shirt, touching his stiff short hair at the back of his head with my fingers.

The elevator reached the last floor, its doors slid open, we walked out, never opening embraces. We continued kissing when Misha took the key out of his pocket and tried to insert it into the keyhole.

When we were in the apartment, he lifted me by my butt, and I jumped on him, clasping his waist with my legs. Holding me with one hand, he reached the kitchen area, sat me on the tabletop with my back to the kitchen drawers and opened one of them.

— There’s only Chivas left, — he said, towering over me and trying to look into the depth of the box.

— Quite a good whiskey, — I noticed, continuing watching him, without taking my eyes off.

He took out a bottle and placed it next to me, then dropped to one knee, took off my sandals and shook off from my feet the sand that remained there after a walk on the beach.

— Shall we order a pizza? I haven’t eaten pizza for a long time. Or sushi? Or both? — He decided to consult with me, however I had no thoughts about food.

— We can have both. — I jumped to the floor, picked up the bottle from the tabletop and, going into the hall, added: — Bring some glasses and ice.

***

Having eaten (both of them), Misha and I went out onto a spacious balcony, framed by glass partitions of the railing. We sat down on one of the small sofas, holding the glasses of whiskey in our hands. The view from the fortieth floor (that is, from the forty-first) was mesmerizing. From the height, the city seemed like a toy, a randomly moving mechanism consisting of countless house lights, flashing traffic lights, road lights, and cars hurrying up to unknown destinations. On the night surface of the sea could be seen slowly moving flickering reflections of yachts and ships lights.

The cool wind was dragging my hair, now and then it touched Misha’s face, which he paid absolutely no attention to. My eyes were looking forward, to the lone where beyond the horizon the sea touched the dark sky.

— Wow, that might be great to sit here having woken up. Drinking coffee and watching the sun rise? — “Anna the dreamer” asked and turned her head, switching her attention to Misha.

— It is what I see now, next to me, that I like much more. He took the strand of my hair that fell on my forehead and tucked it behind my ear. It seems that he still felt tired of feeling my hair, swaying from a strong wind, every now and then tickling his cheek or touching his chin with it tips. — Will you go to Eilat with me tomorrow?

— Maybe. — I almost said that I was ready to go with him to the ends of the earth. — Unless you wake me up early in the morning, because I’m not going to sleep for a long time.

He took the glass of whiskey from my hand, put it on the table next to his, then moved up, shortening the centimeters separating our faces from touching, in a kiss he began to lean on me, pushing me with his whole body, lowered me onto the sofa and lay down on top.

Leaning on his elbows, he clasped my face with his hands, gazing into my eyes, saw the pleasure that filled me, and, slightly touching me with his lips, kissed me on the cheek, neck, bare shoulder over the neck of the dress, then rose again to my lips. He was kissing me and smiling. He was smiling, experiencing the unspeakable joy, as if the world around him became something right for him, as if everything had happened exactly as it should be, as if he managed at last to get to the place where he had wanted to be for so long. I could not believe it, that’s why I added “like”, but in fact it was really so.

I hurriedly began to unbutton the buttons of his shirt. He stood up and, hanging over me, said:

— Come with me? Let’s get down to what a guy usually meets a girl for.

***

As soon as I and Misha got to the room where I wanted to return to just a few hours ago, he pressed the button of the switch on the wall, and the dim light of the lamps above the head of the bed spread around, hiding the distinct shapes of the surrounding space.

He pushed me against the wall, then, as if teasing, started kissing me, taking off his shirt. I reached for his trouser belt and deftly undid it. Misha’s palms slid along my thighs, lifting the border of my dress, I threw up my arms so that he could take it off. Having thrown the dress away, he made one step back and took his trousers off. I imagined how very soon I would feel good and pleasant with him, under him, sitting on him… our thoughts once again crossed in a sole desire, and we synchronously slyly smiled at each other.

He picked me up and carried me to the bed. He bent down slowly, putting me on a soft blanket, lay down on me and, squeezed my breasts and sucked into my erected nipple with a kiss. My heart pounded with terrible force, my fingers pressed into his skin on the back.

— Please don’t stop, — I whispered. — Do not stop any more. — “Off we go, all hell broke loose”.

— And I even won’t be able to, — he replied, taking the last piece of clothing off me.

He cast a blurred excited look over my naked body, a little bit wild and so deep, frozen in anticipation. It was the moment when Misha had to say something mind blowing, he obviously wanted to. But he did not say anything, just sighed with ecstasy and silently, clasping the sides of my waist, bowed his head, kissing my belly and spreading my legs. His short kisses were going lower and lower. Having felt his warm breath, which touched that place — the very place where I wanted to have his tongue for so long, well, and not only it — I groaned, having arched my back, and clutched the wooden headboard of the bed with my hands.

Feeling his warm lips, my body shuddered, as if by the impact of an electronic pulse, another loud moan escaped from my chest more powerfully.

Misha raised himself, continuing to pet me between my legs with his fingers, lay on me with his ear against my lips listening to my moans. Then, with one hand, he squeezed my wrists, pressing them harder to the headboard, leaned on his second hand, and finally, I felt him inside. Looking at him, I saw his eyes full of passion and experienced carnal pleasure feeling him fully and completely in me.

I wrapped my legs around his butt, arching under him even more and moved forward to his movements. He put his hand on my neck. Squeezed it a little and whispered in my ear:

— I wish you would remember this. — His movements became tougher, I clung to him tighter, embracing and felt how tense the muscles of his body were.

And I remembered.

I was looking for him in the others. His fingers pressed into my neck when I was with Efie. He was there when I thought he was far away. He had to sit next to me on the seashore — I did not see him, but I could imagine. The past, separated by the abyss of years. What was happening now had already happened, and had happened to him more than once. It had and should have happened a long time ago, but it did not take place.

I could feel and remember everything, but I could not recognize this.

— Anna, you’re driving me mad, — Misha said in a stifled voice.

— And why not to go mad. — He’s like a drug, that’s for sure. I was affected by the drug, I tried it and experienced new stupefying sensations. And then, when this obsession would be over, I would think that it was only the effect of the release of hormones that clouded the mind and opened the boundaries for violent fantasy. Hidden desires that, came true (yet Dr. Sammy had influenced me, such a description of what happened is keeping with his spirit, and I could easily recognize such a more rational “given”).

— But now it was still going on. Seconds, minutes, hours — ceased to be subject to the account in my understanding, hiding behind the feeling of pleasure. The pleasure, which was new for me, the real one.

We reached orgasm at the same time. It was not just good and pleasant for me to be under him, my soul really seemed to be in a new place, where it returned from, having reached the highest point of bliss. I felt the cramps running over Misha’s back, and I heard his deep groan. He buried his head in the pillow next to my neck, leaning over it. His body went limp and relaxed.

— That’s not all, — he said, lifting his head up from the pillow, rested his forehead on my cheek and added: — Don’t get up, I’ll bring it. — Then he rose heavily, staggering a little, went to the shower room, brought a towel, silently threw it to me and left the room. He returned so quickly that I did not even have time to think about anything, I was trying to recover myself. This was the very moment when evanescent obsession has finally ended, but still…

I got up and, using the towel, wrapped it around me, and Misha sitting on the edge of the bed, handed me the glass with the whiskey.

— Misha, I hesitated for a second, before taking the glass from his hands. — I also don’t want you to leave.

He was sitting with his shoulders slouched, his head bowed with his hair tousled — the dimmed lamp-light was reflecting from his tanned skin, and was looking into my eyes from under his brows with the drunk look, still breathing heavily.

— I’m not going anywhere yet, — he reassured me and lit a cigarette.

— Unnecessary habits, Misha, which sooner or later, you will have to get rid of. — I took the cigarette from him, quickly made a couple of puffs and threw it into my whiskey glass.

— I want you even more, — he told me, — as long as I have enough strength (he had plenty of strength, it was even a little scary, but not for long).

Leaving the glass on the bedside table, I playfully threw the towel off on the floor, sat on Misha’s lap, facing him, pushed him into the chest with my palm, and he lay back on the bed, his hands behind his head. Hanging over him, I looked down at his face, noticing a blissful smile.

— You can do with me whatever you want, I don’t mind, — he said.

I leaned to him and gently kissed his warm lips, clinging to his body. Not only me, both of us did everything we wanted together. For the first time for me, sex became something more than that, something endless in terms of feelings and desires, which became even stronger after satisfaction.

We went into the shower room, soaping each other and pouring all the contents from the bottles of shampoos. We were laughing and having fun without noticing how the day was dawning. We ran around the apartment, sliding on our wet feet on the floor, playing our favorite songs full blast, throwing pillows that had been so neatly laid out on the sofa. Having scattered them, we fooled around with teenage carelessness and fought jokingly. During all this time, Misha’s face didn’t even have the shadow of the sadness that was hiding deep inside his soul, his eyes were shining with unabashed joy, and I felt so easy and freely next to him as I had never felt before with any other person.

Having risen above the horizon the sun reached the upper floor, sending its direct rays into the large windows of the living room, and only then Misha and I returned to the bedroom and fell onto the bed. We lay, embracing, and looked into the tired eyes of each other.

— I’m going to stop loving summer nights soon, — his voice was heard feeble.

— Why? — My equally weak fingers were stroking his hands, shoulders, hair, and were actually sliding on his body chaotically.

— Because they are too short. — He sighed, leaving his moist warm breath on my lips. — Too short.

***

After making sure that Misha had fallen asleep, I slowly released myself from his embrace, got out of bed and covered him with a blanket, which I had to pick up from the floor. I don’t even remember how it got there. He immediately pulled it off, crumpling it in his arms. He flinched a couple of times and frowned. What is this guy dreaming about? Although who will answer me.

Misha’s shirt was lying under my feet, I put it on and sat on the edge of the bed. I reached for the button that closed the blinds, they sank down, and the room became completely dark, without a single flash of light. Moving along the wall by touch, I left the bedroom and went to the hall, to my bag on the table. I needed my sleeping pills.

In the hall there were small sofa cushions on the floor. Empty glasses, the unfinished bottle of whiskey, sushi boxes and the ashtray were on the table. But the bag was not there. I clearly remembered that I had left it on the table. Looking around at the mess we had made, I tried to find the bag and noticed it in the corner by the window. Once again, I don’t remember how it had got there. I took out a package with the pills and sat on the sofa. I felt giddy because of fatigue, I needed to take a pill. It can switch off my brain, so as not to see “crazy dreams.”

What can be said, in ten minutes the tablet switched it off perfectly well and took me God knows where.

Having chased down one pill with whiskey remaining in the bottle, I went to the toilet. There were two of them in Misha’s apartment (Michael’s, to be precise). One in the bedroom, the second in the other bedroom, for guests. I decided to go to the latter, as I didn’t want to wake Misha up, who slept, as if he heard strange sounds.

Having opened the door, I immediately felt the smell of freshly washed bed linen. In front of me I saw a large floor-to-ceiling wardrobe. It reflected the silhouette of my body in Misha’s loose shirt. Noticing on the right a slightly open door leading to the toilet, I moved toward it. I found a button that turns on the light and went inside, slamming the door behind me.

The lamp light spread in the closed space, reflected from white glossy tiles.

I was standing with my hands on the wash basin, and looking at me in the mirror hanging above it. The effect of the tablet could already be felt, so I was teetering a little. For a moment I fixed my attention at my reflection. My hair was disheveled, lips are red and swollen due to long kisses, eyes misty and half-open. I lowered my head and, sniffing the air, breathed heavily and was already about to go back to bed to Misha, even imagined how I would lay down with my back to him and throw his big heavy hand on me, but lifting my head to look at me, I shuddered with fear.

The background in the reflection of the mirror has changed, the color of the walls got a different shade, they have become blue. I turned sharply around, the cramped room surrounded me with the familiar minimalism of objects, everything was exactly like from my recent dream. I turned back to the mirror, closed my eyes hoping that everything that was happening was only my imagination and was just a phantasm of the addled mind, and the situation would be the same again, but alas. Something completely different appeared before me. Not a mirror, but a mirror film that coated a high cabinet door. Did I fall asleep? So quickly turned off, in the toilet? Or could I have got to the bed, lay down next to Misha and fell asleep there? The only thing was that this dream was filled with clarity of realism — a clear understanding of the fact that everything was happening in reality.

It’s strange, I thought. Strange — this is an understatement, my “invisible friend” should have added, but he did not add anything. And basically, he should have done that. After all, this is a dream. The fact is that he was having a dream of his own (which I wasn’t one hundred percent sure, but still somewhere in dark alleys of my subconscious mind, such an assumption was born).

I did not budge, standing in front of my reflection. I was no longer wearing Misha’s black shirt, which reminded of him with its smell, only uniformed white pajamas, and it smelled as if it was washed with the cheapest powder, well, or with laundry soap. It was a strange dream nonetheless.

The door of the room opened, and, crossing the threshold, a top heavy Russian woman with cropped short blond hair and round face went inside in quick steps. She was wearing white pajamas, similar to mine. On her breast pocket you could read the word embroidered in Hebrew letters — “abarbanel”. The woman looked at me, her lips pursed up, as if saying: “How could it all be so awful?” But in fact she said something different:

— Aren’t you going for breakfast today either? — Her cold voice sounded loudly in the cramped surroundings of the room.

— Breakfast? — I said puzzled.

— The one where your favorite pancakes with jam are served. You’ll pine away to skin and bone soon, you did not come to dinner yesterday. You are just standing at this improvised mirror and looking at nobody knows what. Let’s go, — she insisted.

— OK, let’s go, — I agreed (I got interested in understanding what was happening) and followed her.

We walked along the lengthy corridor that resembled the hotel rooms, with the pile of carpet under our feet and rows of identical doors on both sides. But unlike the usual furnishing of hotels, where the visitors locked the doors behind them, putting “Don’t disturb” signs on their handles, they were open wide.

Walking along the corridor, I tried to look into the rooms, which were filled only with essential furniture: beds of the same type, somewhere one, in the other rooms two, beige panel cabinets without mirrors, a high chair and a white plastic table drawn to the window without curtains.

“Abarbanel” fatty and I (and how could I address her if she did not bother to introduce herself) stopped at the end of the corridor near the elevator, and while it was slowly crawling up in its dark tunnel, I continued peering into the rooms nearby. Suddenly, in one of them, I noticed a boy (a minute ago he was not there), a teenager, he was sitting on a narrow single bed and drumming his thin fingers on his knees, moving his fingers so fast and swiftly, like a pianist. He looked at me with a frozen, imploring glance of his huge round eyes, then jumped abruptly, smiled broadly, waved his hand, and inaudibly uttered the word “hello”, which could be read on the lips.

I knew neither him nor the place where I was, answered the guy with a frown and, turning to the opened silver elevator doors, came inside the cabin. The elevator went down and stopped with the words of a computerized Hebrew voice: “Lobby, coma efes”.

“Abarbanel” fatty took me to a small dining room filled with lots of people in white pajamas.

— I have to go. Take some food and have a meal, — she said, lowering her voice to a soft and trusting tone and throwing a glance at the empty food distribution line, with a couple of counter-girls on the other side who were standing there vigorously discussing something among themselves. — OK? — She called attention to herself, having said just one word very theatrically-benevolently.

— Yes, yes, of course, — I agreed grudgingly.

After these words of mine, she left, she looked at the level of “I’m sick and tired of it all, but I am proud of myself, because I did everything that I was required to.”

I found a vacant table, it was in the center of the dining room, took one of the four chairs and looked at the people around with probing look. Most of them, focusing on food, were picking it up with white plastic forks from plastic plates. But I also managed to spot a few individuals who stood out of the others.

A young dark-haired girl of short stature, with the face spiked with red dots of acne, bent over the table, knocking on the upturned plate with plastic utensils, was singing an unknown song in Hebrew, and was off key, shouted incoherently. She might have seen her as a singer on the stage, beating on the drums.

A lean old woman was sitting at the next table but one from her, hugging a greasy rag doll; she zealously pressed it to her once-existing breast. She lowered her fork into a plate, strung green peas on it (diligently, one by one, small peas) and poked her greasy doll in the head, right into the place where the improvised mouth, either embroidered or painted, was located. An unpleasant sight.

A quite young man, cut off all hair, clasping his head, stooping and moving in sync with the extravagant singer’s rhythm, was swaying back and forth, repeating the sequence of the same figures, quickly moving his lips.

That’s all, there was no one else who caused a desire to pinpoint my interest upon. I lowered my head and stared at the white tablecloth covering the table. Let’s sum it up.

— It feels like a madhouse, — I whispered very quietly. And then it came to me, then the light came on me, it suddenly dawned upon me. It wasn’t the name of the woman accompanying me not so long ago that was embroidered on her top pocket. Abarbanel — Yes, it was Abarbanel, the name of a looneybin, which was somehow lost in the dark alleys of my memory.

— Hey, pin-up blonde, — there came a squeaky youthful voice, pronouncing Russian words with a French accent.

I looked up, opposite me the guy from the room next to the elevator was standing. He stared at me with his dark round eyes, open so wide that his forehead got wrinkled. What is he staring at? That would be the thought of the one who saw him for the first time. Perplexity mixed up with madness — I made my own inference and tried to take his look for granted. A typical representative of such places.

He seemed to be about sixteen years old, and maybe even less than so. He was thin, of short stature, the dense fabric of his pajamas stood on his thin shoulders, and the bony fingers of the pianist stuck out of the long sleeves (I can’t say for sure that he is a pianist, but back in his room, sitting on the bed he was quick at moving his fingers on his knees like on keys). His dark hair was disheveled standing on end, as if he had been running to meet the wind, disheveled it, picked it up and left it in such a position with frozen on his head.

— How are you neighbor pin-up blonde? — He said giggling, and briskly jumped into the chair, squatting.

— Who are you? — I asked rudely, looking at him with an icy look.

— And why do you answer me like that? We are friends, don’t you remember how we stole cigarettes from thaaaat lard bucket? — As if unnoticed by others, he raised his long thin finger and pointed out to a girl of impressive size, who was sitting at the next table on my left. She didn’t seem to be interested in anything, but for a piece of cake, that was in her dish.

— You’re really insane, — I replied. Stealing in league with him? Cigarettes? But… it’s perfectly acceptable if there was absolutely nothing to do.

The expression on my interlocutor’s face got insulted and sad. He lowered his eyes and hid his hand behind his back, with his finger pointing at the fat girl. He hunched up, tightening his knees to his chest.

— I’m not insane, — he said, still not raising his head. The look of his wide-open eyes froze at one point on the table.

— Then what are you doing here?

— I’m having a rest, this is a sanatorium.

— For madmen if you didn’t know that.

— It isn’t so! It isn’t so! I’m having fun here! — the boy shouted fully convinced that he was right.

He clenched his second free hand into a fist and hit it on the table. Right at the point, which he was looking at so closely. I involuntarily jumped up because of a harsh sound and did not notice the appearance of the girl at all — she made me scared and startle again.

— Well, bitch, did you think that you would get away with it? — She said in a low voice bending down and cautiously looking around. She was wearing white pajamas, as all of us were, her black hair scraped back into a ponytail, and her face could be quite sweet and pretty if you removed the angry grimace and lilac yellow bruise from under her eye.

— I’ll wait for the right moment, you’ll be sorry about it, — her lips curved in a hostile smile, no doubt, she was assertive.

I looked at her, frowning. All these new characters began to confuse me completely.

— What moment? If you want to sort it out, go ahead — I turned my eyes to the kid, who was looking at us in surprise, or this is his usual look, that you have to get used to. — Do you know who this is? — I asked him.

— And who are you talking to this time? — Schizophrenic, — she laughed and stepped back.

— I wonder what problem brought you here? — I snapped off her nose.

Fuck you … — She straightened up and crossed her arms over her chest with an air of importance, adding: — Screw that!

— Weeell, — I began to lose my temper and answered her: — And now you turn around and run off so fast that I could only see your heels fleeing and disappearing in the distance. — By the intonation of my voice, I tried to express an aggressive contempt, but my words only made my cocky evil-wisher lower her hands and knuckle them. Desperate girl she is, I’m not just saying so, she wasn’t stopped by the opportunity to get a slap on her face. Moreover, she knew that she would get precisely on it if she gets into a fight with me. As I would recall later — the bruise under her eye was the work of my hands.

— What are we waiting for? — I looked at the tense face of the evil-minded black-haired girl, looking at me with anger that was about to break out.

— I’m here, I’m here. — The guy sitting opposite picked up a stack of paper napkins and threw them into the air, they scattered in different directions, some fell on the table, and some fell to the floor.

The girl was seriously scared, but still managed to say a farewell speech:

— I’ll take revenge on you, got it, mind it, — she turned around and ran off to the exit from the dining room, flashing the scuffed heels of her white trainers.

The boy shrugged his shoulders, smiling in delight.

— Oh, — he breathed plaintively, making a mouth, and giggled, he put his head on the table and began to laugh heartily. — Ufff, — he exhaled lingeringly and eventually calmed down. — We’re friends after all.

As soon as he raised his eyes, his look changed, he was fascinated looking over my shoulder, having suddenly ceased staring and wrinkling his forehead.

— There’s an angel standing behind you, — his youthful thin voice faltered, and his hand came back from behind, along with the raised index finger, as if he were holding it there up all the time.

A crazy kid, a crazy girl, another crazy thing that stands behind — I did not turn around.

— Why did you decide that he is an angel? Does he have wings? — I asked, for the sake of interest.

— No, he emanates light.

— Is he wearing white pajamas?

— No, he is so tall and big. This is your angel.

The look of the crazy kid froze, piercing me through, and the warm touch of a heavy hand dropped on my right shoulder.

— Now the light is coming from you too, — the crazy lad said happily, clapped his hands, jumped off his chair and jumped, — “light, light.” The angel, well, finally, the angel.

— Anna, and how did you manage to get here again? — I heard the familiar voice of my “invisible friend.” His words gave me a shiver that ran down my back.

— I’ve got to wake up, and as soon as possible, — I said in amazement, and began to turn around.

— That’s what I came for.

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