A/N: Many thanks to my sister Samantha, who told me her story of drinking forty thimbles of vodka in a bar in St. Petersburg called The Idiot, as well as for the other little details that help bring a story to life.
The man I loved for thirty years shot himself in a shitty little apartment in St. Petersburg, playing a game he never meant to win.
But that’s not where the story ends, or where it begins.
The story begins, more or less, at a bar in St. Petersburg called The Idiot, named for a Dostoevskii novel, and that evening we went there intending to get drunk. We drank and drank—drank ourselves stupid, then stumbled our way home, laughing hysterically at our dumb jokes, ourselves, the way other pedestrians looked at us like the obnoxious Americans we were.
Eventually we made it back to my apartment, and shared a sloppy kiss, then passed out drunk together on my too small bed.
And that was how we spent the first day we met, me and the man I would love for thirty years.
We fucked off and on over the years, one of the many facets of our relationship and in the end, perhaps the least important. We tried, once or twice, to be an ‘item’, a ‘couple’, a ‘thing’ but that did not work for us. Not with each other, not with anyone else. So we went back to off and on, and finally settled that way. We traveled the world on different paths, but often overlapped, shared a path for a time before a fork once more sent us separate ways, until the day we met again.
That was how life went for three decades, from that study abroad in Russia where we met, to visiting each other in our respective colleges, graduate schools, to crossing paths as we traveled the world simply for the sake of traveling the world. We were adventurers in days when adventurers were a dying, and then dead, breed.
But still we did it. We didn’t know how to stop. We didn’t know how to live any other way.
We argued a thousand times, in those years we knew each other. We only fought once. It was the first—and I thought last—time he played Russian Roulette. He always liked games of chance. He was depressed that night, the only time I’ve seen him in that black a mood. Something about a girl who killed herself. That was three years after we met. I never knew her name, never knew why. Only that he hated her that night, and hated himself.
One bullet. Spin the chamber. Pull the trigger. Nothing.
I yanked the revolver from his hand and threw it out the window, then beat the shit out of him. Then I patched him up, plied him with vodka, and fucked him senseless.
Never knew he had gone out in the snow while I slept and retrieved that revolver. I wonder now, how many times he played that game over the years.
Depression. Despair. They were always his way when he stood still too long. It was why we did not make great lovers. In the end, lovers settle down. Settling down was no good for us; we start to break down if we hold still.
They wanted something from him, something he would not give. Adventurers might be a dead breed now, we might be true zombies, clinging to our lives long gone, but we know things. Not everything is myth; some things are more true than we would like them to be.
St. Petersburg was always his favorite. They found him there, and tried to be sly—admirers, fawners, pouring him the best vodka Russia could offer, smiling and laughing and flirting, thinking to get him drunk, seduce him, learn his secrets and leave him for dead in the morning.
But he only drinks heavily with me.
He told them he wanted to play a game, and they agreed. Of course the gun was not loaded, and that old revolver could not still work anyway. Even if it did, it could not kill them, so let him play his game. They had plenty of time to get what they wanted.
The problem with becoming too immersed in what people like to call magic is thinking it is superior to everything and learning only contempt for something as simple as a loaded gun.
But he knew what they would do, what they could do, if they took his knowledge. And he was tired of running and hiding.
So he died in a shitty apartment, on the opposite side of St. Petersburg from where we drank the day we met.
I was in Australia when it happened, but I am an adventurer, and I know things.
There were six of them involved, though only two drank with him that night. In the spirit of the game, I’ll leave one chamber empty.
The man who gets the empty chamber will wish for the bullet that killed the man I loved.