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the girl from baku by russell bittner


t h e   g i r l   f r o m   b a k u   :  4

:  r u s s e l l   b i t t n e r


Why doesn't it surprise me that Girl from Baku has neither called nor shown her vigorous self in several days? I think it may be time to face facts and spring clean.

There's little to dispose of. GfB (time, too, I think, to reduce the moniker to a monogram) left scant of herself behind. With hygiene impeccable, she left nothing to shake from the sheets before I prepare to hand them off to my Chinese launderette. Translucent green slippers are the first real memento to go. A later inspection of bathroom yields – how could it have escaped me up till now? – portable toothbrush in translucent green, economy-sized carrying case.

The efflorescence of green plastic jolts my memory back thirty-one years to another place and time. Vienna. The Goethe Institut. Second-level German. First real story. By either Günther Grass or Heinrich Böll, I can't remember which. Something titled, I believe, "Weihnachten das ganze Jahr" ("Christmas All Year 'Round"). In which, in order to stave off depression, the protagonist refuses – week after week, then month after month – to retire the family's Christmas decorations.

I'm still not certain I've got it right. What I do distinctly recall is the labor of pushing around nouns, verbs, adjectives, articles. Then of holding the whole tedious load aloft until I could finally get to the verb at the end of a sentence and know how to dispose of the lot. Before moving onto the next, that is. German – a manly-man's language – and so not for the weak of mind, the soft of heart. For that, there's Russian – a man's language, certainly, but the language of a man with two hearts, two souls, two tongues. In sum, a woman's language with its soft sibilance, curvaceous letters, rumors and whispers between consonants and sheets.

At this point, there remain only the sheets.

I drop the portable translucent green into a bag of slippers and remember, in the same instant, striking streaks of red in GfB's hair. Hair on head, that is. Pubic hair – to my despair – too assiduously shaped, suggesting former foreplay (else, why shave?) in which I'd clearly not participated. Red hair, green accoutrements for teeth and toes. Christmas all year 'round. Would've been; could've been – had GfB not simply up and bounded. To bond with me no more.


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