That night, he decided to send her a text, something about how at such a late hour, when demons whiz by overhead through the sticky air and the smoke thickens in kitchens smelling of poppy seeds and cacao, he, like a grizzled old pirate, could spot the glow exuded by her apartment in the middle of the lilac night and sniff out the tender aroma of her skin with his acute, ratlike sense of smell, feel her fluttering down into a pool of dreams, as into fragile and weightless Christmas snow. Something about how he was keeping watch, protecting her tranquillity and warding off the demons with the smoke from his Cuban cigarettes while frosty crystals coalesced on her lips. Something about how the streets are especially resonant, so every impertinent step and sudden outburst startles the pigeons on the rooftops and the weary, sun-drained urchins who inhabit abandoned, bombed-out dwellings in the summer. You want to speak quietly so nobody can hear you — or understand you if they do.

© Serhiy Zhadan

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