I wonder what Jenya is up to. Since he died, I mean. He was seeing my Aunt Adrienne for several years when I was a kid, always dressed nicely, always carrying his Russian accent. I wonder if he ever knew how cool I thought he was, or that a picture of him and me would still be on my fridge 25 years on.
Jenya was always bringing back records from a store called Peaches. He gave me a Thin Lizzy record for my birthday, but I remember him more for bands like Roxy Music. Jenya once worked at a shoe store.
My younger brother and I would always go on mini-adventures with him whenever we’d visit my aunt’s apartment on the Gold Coast. Once, the three of us were all in the sauna on the 14th floor and Jenya poured beer instead of water on the hot coals. I found this simultaneously inventive and hilarious. I remember another time he introduced us to a shady comrade of his who had porno magazines and a handgun. Jenya was like a diplomat from a crazy otherworld- a kind and generous man who paused and artistically answered “one line between two others” when I asked him what ‘sex’ was.
When I was in my late teens, after Jenya had died suddenly of a heart attack, I recently had a dream that he and I were standing in the basement of my dad’s house in Deerfield. Flush in the wall were three different elevators. Jenya told me that I could take these elevators anywhere in the world and do anything that I wanted.
Years later, my mother told me that in a bold (to say the least) passive-aggressive move, Jenya stabbed himself with a steak knife during an argument with my aunt, and as I get older I feel that the circumstances around his heart-attack were more than likely drug-related. But I’m almost afraid to say that these passages only make more sense of the whole story- rounding out a portrait previously three-quarters full.
And in an old brown case in my living room, I keep Jenya’s gleaming accordion, perhaps one of the few items he brought with him when he came to the new world.