I probably wouldn’t be writing this essay if I didn’t throw off my disgusting habit of imposing my well-accomplished call of duty on others.
In fact, there was a time I was frequently seeing Him. We were seeing each other so often that I didn’t figure out where I saw Him, in what circumstances He was catching my eye. Then He disappeared. Those kinds of uncertain and odd connections are always lost with melody, like it never happened. But the shitty thing was that I didn’t remember well whether I really saw Him after that first time or my eyes were unfaithful to me.
To cut short it was a war-filled January of 1994 in the totally trashed city of Karvachar. A Kamaz full of scared soldiers with frozen out limbs was climbing up to Zodi mine. I had no clue how much horsepower that old remnant of Soviet Union had under its capote, but every time the engine started it roared so loud everyone around could know where it was heading. There was no time for instructions – soldiers in over-stuffed Kamaz overheard what the commander in chief had said about acts of heroism during war – chopped up and well-salted ears of enemy shown at “Hermitage” of barricades; about midget corpses of the enemy; about shells of mortar hanging from hell knows where; about “Grad” that replaced thunderstorm and about not being afraid of all of these. And I had to stay hawk-eyed and draw this all and wait… Kamaz stopped suddenly… I was waiting for all the above mentioned with my eyes wide open I jumped from the back of the truck and then…
The first person I saw was Him… He was a weirdo, you know the type that you immediately notice but still can’t figure out who they really are. One thing I can say for sure – he was in military uniform and his butt was like… like the butt of a woman? These two things were incompatible. I came a bit closer and… I don’t know whether it was his beard or cigarette smoke that made his face vague. I said,“Hi” and had to stop right where I was.
“Hey pussycat, why are you standing there, come over here.”
Eighteen years old and gentle. Something utterly surprising – the military sometimes tolerates such contradictory phenomenons. Eighteen years – gentle and… I asked to volunteer. They took me. I was very vivacious and that’s why once after I had climbed a three story building on a stirrup I said I was like a cat. I don’t know why I said it – either actually for climbing or as a self-excuse, but my nickname at oncebecame pussy-cat. So the first thing I saw during war was that woman… rather someone with a woman’s butt, more like. I had to forget him, completely unwillingly. Remembered him every day but said not a single word about what I had seen. Once like an idiot I made a huge mistake and told the guys about the woman who guarded the border. They deGraded me, mocked me, filled me with shame…hate those words…mocked me. I hate mocking and I hate when people mock to overpower.
“Guys, pussycat is horny, but bitches won’t make him horny…”
“Oghul, a sissy and on the border?”
“Ok what do you want from him? He’s a good boy.”
“Yes, he is a good boy, except he has a hole in his ass.”
There was one among them who was champion of mocking. He was intimidating, cornering and even made you cry. All of that was endless. One doesn’t work more than 8 hours per day, but this man, how was he not tired of mocking and intimidating me 18 hours every day, he barely slept or went to toilet because of that. His nickname was Van Damme. He was manly, ripped with juicy lips. Once when we were on the border for hardly a week, they called me.
“Hey pussycat, we shot a rabbit, come have a look.”
I only went there for them not to say that I was afraid of seeing blood. Then… It’s a horrendous thing to feel that you are about to be mocked and humiliated… How can you feel it, with which sense, from where? I would give everything in my life not to feel that ever again. To cut short, probably you already guessed that there was no dead rabbit. Van Damme looked at me with his juicy lips more precisely I couldn’t move my eyes from his juicy lips when he said:
“Swear, right now.”
I don’t want to go into details of how he tortured me for more than an hour, but I didn’t give up. And it wasn’t at all about surrendering my manliness, no. I guess I was still a momma’s boy and swearing was completely foreign to me. After an hour of shitty and disgusting military inquisition I wailed:
“Shit on you… Go away…”
The sounds of laughter and rapture… Laughter? I’ve never heard such explosive laughter. They were laughing or the Grad was striking? Probably the Grad was striking, but were they laughing? Grad and laughter were one by one, incompatible. But they were laughing, when I was hitting by their Grad, they were laughing…
The second time I saw Him was then, during that laughter-Gradish time. Recognized Him by the butt. When I went out, with the thorny piece of mockery in my throat, barely suppressing the tears, he was standing in front of me and smoking. Hell, it was so real. That damned woman existed and was right on the border. He looked at me with the shrewish eyes and…
“Pussycat, why are you standing dumbfounded? You didn’t know that the spirit of war is not determined by the street thugs?”
“Then by what?”
He opened his mouth to say something, but the voice of Van Damme was heard behind.
“Ara!what a female butt he has”
…The war in the first place is known for its sudden appearance and disappearance. All the boys romantic stuff, fumingover, tam, tam, tam, ta, tam shooting, sending bullet through lunar orbit, examining “green” fields in the nights – all immediately disappeared, when the sniper found his first victim. That very moment we felt the enemy’s breath, the smell of his sweat, wolfish voices, his obvious and constant presence. The shit was that you didn’t realize how far from you was that damned enemy, one meter away, ten or thousands…
We put the first victim on the Kamaz and… to Yerevan. His feminine butt appeared and disappeared a few times in the fog made by “Grad.” The second victim was taken to Yerevan three days later by the same Kamaz, that brought us food. The woman was twisting, Van Damme didn’t stop talking.
“Ara!what a female butt he has…”
We put the third victim on the same Kamaz three days later. His physiognomy in the fog was taking the shape of a goddess, Van Damme’s lips were moving rapidly.
“Aaa!raaa!ara what a…”
Three days later was the day of the fourth victim, who was taken by the same Kamaz.He was being befogged more, and Van Damme’s lips were darning.
“Can that fuckin Kamaz not come anymore?”
The guys gathered around were staring at me dumbfounded. And suddenly the laughter, the rapture… They were laughing and the Grad was striking. No, Grad and laughter were very compatible. But this time, when they were laughing, their Grad wasn’t hitting me…
“Ara! Pussycat just swore, ara!”
That night Othello from rem-company was very drunk. The fifth one was his friend, officer, the wolf of strategy, who was killed by a sniper, a woman sniper.
“Don’t sleep overnight and watch the dead body.” – it wasn’t clear who Othello was shouting at, – “cats are gathering around corpses, can you hear me, pussycat, don’t sleep overnight?”
I didn’t sleep. More precisely, for not falling asleep, I found a Russian book “Slave Isaura” and started reading it loud. The sleepier I felt the louder and faster I would read. It was about 4 a.m. I heard rustling near the door, it was Van Damme. I warned reluctantly. I wish he wouldn’t start mocking me at least out of the dead man’s respect. I looked at his cracked lips, my eyes slowly lifted up and…
“You know?”- speaking in His voice, “Kamaz will come tomorrow”
“I know” – I barely answered, waiting for the next mocking.
“Can I say something… Can I stay here, with you?”
I didn’t know what I answered.
“Will you tell fairy tales? You will, right? Tomorrow Kamaz will come again. And, pussycat, did you know that the spirit of war is not determined by street thugs…”
I looked at him. This time my eyes slipped up Van Damme’s lips, at the same time I do not know with what sense I was seeing Him, that woman, like the first time, clear standing on the border with smoky and mossy face.
“I’m sorry,” – Van Damme’s eyes suddenly got wet, “I’m sorry ok? For mocking you every time I saw you.”
“No, seriously, I’m sorry for my words that I said in front of the guys…”
“For what words, precisely?”
“These: “What a female butt he has…”
 City in Artsakh
 Military Pick-Up Truck
 BM-21 Missile Launching Truck
 Oghul – a Turkish word of affection meaning “boy” or “son”
 Ara – is Armenian slang for “dude”
Hovhannes Tekgyozyan, served in the Army of RA as a volunteer in 1992-94
Translated by Piruza Manukyan and Samson Martirosyan
Edited by Ohannes Kalayjian
Illustrations by Vahe Budumyan