We were a fast crowd. Russians. Drank a lot. In the evenings Lev would get out his guitar and sing maudlin songs from Vysotsky and Akudjava, songs of freedom that we were no longer denied but still craved. At night we slept in the trailer house or on Dima's two seater sofa, curled up together like puppies.
His name was Bender, but back then none of us knew that in English that would be a pun. Russian. Drank a lot. He had soft doe like eyes and black hair that flowed over a white, feminine neck. Small hands, a wry smile - a poet. I loved him in a messy, distracted sort of way, and he would trail after me when drunk, trying to steal kisses and quoting Anna Akhmatova.
Everyone said he should cut down on his drinking, washing down spliffs with vodka, basking in the wisdom of the soaked. He was going nowhere good fast. Neither were the rest of us, but I guess we didn't look like we enjoyed it. Still he charmed us, much as he stole the guys' girlfriends and then cheated on them. And when he was short for money Braginsky would usually bail him out, or talk Lena into letting him crash on their floor for a while. Lena mothered and fed him, as we all would if he'd let is.
I wasn't there when it happened. They told me later it was a long time coming - but then they would say that. Bender was drunk, more drunk even than usual, and belligerent. Nobody new what started the argument. What ended it was Bender slamming Braginsky's head into the stone floor until he was dead. Just like that. Bam, brains on tiles.
Lena went to live with her mother. I dumped Lev for little Boris, and he married a girl who despised him. Beata worked in a series of run down bars, and big Boris drank until his diabetes finally put him in hospital. Dima threw a few parties in his bedsit, but we only came out of bitter nostalgia and a sense of obligation. He soon stopped trying.
Bender is still in prison. Having provided us with a fountainhead from which our lives could flow, sqaundering themselves listlessly away, he is doing his time.