Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The Year of Vodka and Secrets

"So either this is another holiday," said the SMS I sent out from my deserted office yesterday, as tumbleweeds cartwheeled down the corridors, "or my entire office collectively called in sick. Why don't people tell me things?"

"You're an idiot," came the reply. "Come drink with us!"

I glanced at my watch. 3:30 pm. They'd be well into the vodka by now. This group doesn't mess around, and I'd have some catching up to do. Well, a holiday is a holiday, even if nobody could think of a proper translation for what this January 2 holiday is supposed to be. "It's like," they'd say with knitted brows, "what you do on this day is like what you'll be doing for the rest of the year." Sure, whatever.

Looks like 2006 is going to be the year of vodka and terrible secrets.

Cut to this morning: not, incidentally, a holiday anymore. Eight hours of sleep not nearly enough to counteract the eight hours of vodka, and I started to mull over the evening's events.

As I pieced together floating conversation fragments, shuffling memories and filing them into the appropriate categories of real or imagined, ("Okay, Nino's foot amputations. Dream."), one terrible conversation from the very hazy, sodden end of the evening crawled back into the weak light of my consciousness. But it wasn't real, was it? Please say it wasn't real. Unable to stand it, I called Giorgi: "I'm sorry, I was probably a little drunk last night and I'm not remembering things clearly. But did you tell me that your little brother was stabbed seven times on New Year's?"

File it under real. It was in front of their home, in a nice part of town. Some street toughs, nobody knows who, were causing a scene and Giorgi's brother intervened. They attacked him fiercely. His mother, who lost her husband earlier this year suddenly and unexpectedly to a swift cancer, is the one who heard the fight and found her son and called the ambulance. "I spent the night carrying my brother from one doctor to another," Giorgi said. Miraculously, none of the wounds were life-threatening, and he is recovering at home now. "I would kill them with my own hands," said Giorgi, and here, this is not a euphemism. But nobody knows who they are.

But something still bothered me. How did we not hear about this until the very end, last night? After all the chat about what happened over our holidays? Nobody in this tight group of friends mentioned this terrible thing. Nobody even alluded to it. "I hadn't told anybody yet," Giorgi said. "It's not a good thing to talk about on the second of January." So he sat on this news and he answered his mother's calls when she rang every hour to hear the living breath of her other son, and only after midnight, when this untranslatable holiday had ended, when he wouldn't fear that he was cursing the rest of our year with his news, did he tell us that his only brother had nearly bled the life out of him on the street the other night.


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