Wormy Little Boy

by Nina Sadur

The man is strong. He’s handsome, tall, expansive. He has black eyes, a burning mouth. He takes your breath away, and you can no longer remember who you are. But he can’t give you happiness. That’s just the way he’s made. I’ve given it a lot of thought, and figured out why it is that things work this way. The man comes and blots out the world’s ugliness with his body, like a hero. Before him everything pales, fades, leaving only the liverish heat haze of passion. But he cannot, cannot give you happiness. That’s how he’s made. He’s not what he seems. Not at all. He’s unhandsome, untall, cramped and petty. He arrives and wolfs down everything. I putter away in the kitchen, denying myself everything, and he’ll come and wolf down everything. Or then won’t come at all, and I’ll have nothing to live for, no reason to clean this hallway, nobody to wolf down my salary. It’s not that much anyway, seventy roubles, plus twenty from the Ermolovsky Theater. And no days off. But there’s a trade-off: at the matinee performances kids throw copecks. I bet I make half a rouble a month that way. Plus of course candy, apples, badges, buns. Little handkerchiefs. With their names in them. “Lyuba Vakheta.” “Mitya Mishutin.” But no man was ever moved by a little handkerchief. He is himself a tempter. Because that’s how he’s made. He was bitten by an imp of deceit, and he put on masks. He’s sincere in those masks, he thinks they are his face. But those masks are for us. Only the beady little eyes are his. The rest: the mask. That’s why there’s never anything good with a man. That’s the way he’s made, that’s the way he turned out: he wears masks. And he hides his little eyes. In fact he’s Ham. He’s dumb as dirt. A bollard. A mercenary. He’s grasping. And that’s how you should treat him too: kick him in the cabbage, know your place, slave. But: he comes, wolfs down everything, guzzles down everything. Look what a glutton he is, everything into his great fiery maw: chunks of food, wine, the silverware, filling himself with dark juices. He’s a rebel. At first he talks the talk. He breathes into your soul. He gives you those words, those looks. His touch. His waters run deep. Full of mystery, this dirt. A tragedian. Calls you to wrack and ruin. But gives up the ghost in a feather bed, by his wife’s side. She’ll apply mustard plasters at parting. And he won’t call you before he dies. The old dog.

Men don’t grow old. There are only old people. All men are deceivers, lovers of freedom, tall in their masks, they walk on their two feet and wolf down everything. They wolf us down in all our virginity, our future, our bones. They putrefy us with death, infect us with death. They drink us dry and crumple us like a milk carton. They have no shame before us. We’re a different race from them. They feel shame only before God. This is what they say: “I’ve fallen in love with this woman. Let everything happen for the best.” It won’t. No. And they know it, and fuck with us anyway. And they aren’t afraid of God. And God knows that man was bitten by an imp of deceit. Of lust. Of flight. Of freedom. No shackles. Deceit. How on God’s green earth could that imp have bitten this shit? He should have bitten a woman. So she could have putrefied the man, robbed him of his virginity, his future, drunk him dry and left him to grow old alone. So men could become women, and women men.

Some men have birthmarks. But they too are masks. Never trust them. But having a man is good for your health! Dangerous too. A man is a beast. He’s swallowed a scorpion. He can sting you. He tramples women underfoot, baits them, teaches them things and then despises them for learning all his vile games so cleverly. Men lust after our ungrown daughters.

They’re monstrous. They’re senseless. Their heads should be chopped off. At birth. But they can play on your pity. Because a mask has to have strings, and does.

Because of the dangerous life a man leads, worms appear in his brain. And they gobble up his wrinkly old brains, suck dry his gray matter, and the man becomes even more brutish. And when he lies down, sleeps, the worms peek out of his ears. Out of his left, a worm! Out of his right, a worm!

Vanity and violence. And the man-bollard sleeps unmasked, and horrible is his face, and the suckling worms peek out and squeeeeeak with delight at how delicious he is.

Translated by Douglas Robinson and Svetlana Ilinskaya

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