The “Afghan” Market: Kuzminki

Life is hard, death is distant. Let’s multiply this by two and make it simpler.

Hamlet is a wholesale and retail supplier of fur products at the “Afghan” Market in Kuzminki, a district of Moscow

Galina is a saleswoman who works at a notions and lingerie counter in the market

Why you holding nails in your mouth?
Don’t swallow . . .

Got to nail down
A plank that’s come loose from the stall.
How long you worked here?

I came on last month,
Started out with cosmetics.
Now Arthur supplies me with notions and lingerie.

Hamlet Want to switch to leather and fur?

For something in return, or just like that, for free?

Well, for a couple tricks in the fitting room. But it’s up to you.

You know, I was just with a guy for a month,
But I’m not always able to please.

Doesn’t matter: just breathe deeply.

Well, OK.
But there’s this looker here — Larissa from Nalchik, in stall 27.
She sells shoes and supposedly puts out after work for thirty.

Yeah, I did her day before yesterday,
And today she’s with Arthur.

So what’s it going to be?

I don’t know.
When I get home after work
I stare at the door until I get hungry,
Then I eat and sing along with my meal.
I have no pitch, so the neighbors think I’m screaming.
Soon as they bang the wall with a mop, I shut up.
Then I go into the bathroom and discuss a talk show with myself
Or sing some more.
But what can I get in that bathroom, what’s there time to get?
How to come out of there with at least something
That will last you till you fall asleep and think: I do have
A world,
Or rather, some sort of rustling?

Whatever. Let’s go to a fitting room.
Tell me how much you want — I’m not stingy.

You promised to put me on fur.
The percentages there are high, so if I leave Arthur
For expensive merchandise,
Then only for a 20 percent cut.

Go screw yourself, huh?
Do you think I could fuck you over?
Ask anyone here at the Afghan whether Hamlet’s
Ever fucked anyone over.

Everyone thinks that sellers understand only
The thingish part of life, as it were,
Only cutting loose from the pipeline with vodka.
But I don’t drink vodka:
You can’t drink longing away.

So what we going do?

Well, let me count my invoices and then we’ll go to a fitting room.

Be quick.

Green bras, China — three pairs.
Bodysuits, the Baltics — five. Panties, Belarus — thirty.
Socks, Smolensk Region — I sold all twenty pairs.
Lingerie sets, Italy — only four.
That’s it: let’s go.

Hang on, let me finish my cigarette.

When you going to put me on fur?

In a week or so.

There’s this series on Channel One now
About a man’s life, about his existence on earth.
He sort of lives but doesn’t know
Whether he has everything or has nothing at all.
Now he’s told, “You’re an asshole,” or later a broad licks him all over and lies beside him,
And he wants all this so bad he could scream,
Then suddenly he feels lazy and hides in his coat.
You seen it? The third episode’s on tonight.
Hang on while I run to the john.

Hamlet (to himself) 
She’s some kind of jerk.
I should have hit on that one with the perm.
The heck with it: the broads here are just all sweaty pieces of crap anyway.

That’s that: I’ll pack up now,
And you run and get me a Fanta while I’m busy.

Hamlet goes to a kiosk.

Galina (to herself) 
Another wog, but who else here is going to bite?
I’ll suffer through it somehow. With fur
Even if you sell only one item a day, the profit is around two hundred bucks right off.
If I make at least a thousand and a half a week,
I’ll rent a flat near the subway, go to the mall with Tonya,
Visit a salon, buy boots like Ksenia Sobchak’s.
I can take driving lessons,
And wear only foreign underwear.

Hamlet (bringing her a Fanta) 
Here — drink.

Galina (drinking) 
Oh, I was so thirsty.

A cell phone rings. Hamlet answers it.

Hello? Yeah, eight spots. I’ll do the cashing out tomorrow.
Two of the coats are rotten: give them to Zoya to sell.
What of it? Stolen coats are still clothing.
I can’t now. Tell Alik not
To fuck up the order. He’s got to feel it out.
No, don’t buy nutria. Later.

Should we go?


Which fitting room, the one here on the first floor?
Or on the second? There’s no one at all on the second.

OK, let’s go.

They walk.

Sorry for asking,
But did you remember to bring condoms?

I don’t even hit on anyone without a rubber.
Not even because of infection.
I’ve got manners, you see?
People have no manners nowadays: lots of assholes around.

Oh, shawarma! Let me treat you.
I haven’t eaten anything since morning.

That’s OK. I’ll pay.

They sit down and eat.

So in the last episode he’s trying to decide.
He doesn’t understand what to do next, so
He’s trying to decide how to kick the bucket. There’s pills,
Jumping out a window, but that’s painful. Basically
He’s afraid. Then he thinks about his reasons for living.
Well, he’s got a woman, he also has a wife sort of,
But it’s not clear how he can go on with her.

You can’t do anything more than what you’re already doing.
There won’t be anything else.
He’s got a good job sort of:
It’s enough to live on.
Only one thing ain’t clear: what’s the point of life itself,
What you supposed to do with it?

Hamlet’s cell phone rings.

Hello, what’s up? For four smackers?
What year is the car? OK, I’ll be there in twenty minutes.

Listen, I need to check out a car,
A BMW that came in yesterday. Can you wait half an hour?

OK, but don’t be late. Otherwise, the market will be closed.

Hamlet drives off.

To be is necessary.
Being ill is forbidden.
Be helpful somehow or be somebody.
I’ll wait for thirty minutes, of course.
There’s nothing above the visible or below it, either.
You close your eyes and there’s only bottom.
Yet everyone is born
With a little bit of info about that very thing.

Selling leather coats,
Meatballs at a deli.
Paying the rent.
Lucking out with fur coats and traveling to Turkey.
But what if all this is needless?
Maybe one should just go out on the highway
And walk along until one faints?

More from Issue 26