There is no point to me anymore. My family was first to notice.
In Soviet Glenview, the living room has twenty-one clocks in glass domes with spinning pendulums, all showing different times. Grandpa’s collection. Binders and pill bottles holding his coins are scattered around a plate of cranberry cake. Nobody touches it.
Grandpa starts in on his line of questioning with the traditional fakely coy giggle.
Had I met anyone “interesting” lately?
Overblown, umbrous seascape. Roma growls under the leg of the burgundy leather couch. Enormous burgundy rug blotted in pee pads. Babulya says nothing, stirring her tea.
When am I going to have children?
“When are you going to leave me alone?!”
“Why do you always start yelling! Your dedushka is just asking a question!”
“Stop it! Sasha!”
“I am not yelling! You’re the one yelling!”
“You think this is yelling! If I was yelling, the walls would be shaking!”
“Stop! Both of you!”
“Whyyyyyyyyy,” Nina whines. “Whyyyyyyyyy.”
She is hunched, hovering over the banister. She doesn’t dare sit with us at the table or even come down to hide in the corner behind the piano.
“Nina! Vermin! Shut up!”
Nina emits a sound that makes everyone in the house want to kill her, stuffs a handkerchief into the pocket of her tattered housecoat, and shuffles back into her room.
Wish Gleb could see me here — maybe he would yell, too. Gleb must yell, Gleb is crazy. Or he would be, like, engorged with irritation. I hope I hope. But they wouldn’t yell at him or in front of him, not until we were family, like if we lived in the basement: our children, the boxes of old-country dish towels, dying geraniums, black mold. Papa, Aunt Nina, my grandma and grandpa, Gleb and me, all together, the natural, communal order. Gleb and Dedushka, Papa and me, all four of us yelling, wow, and in what language.
He would be worshiped.
It is my birthday again.
“How is your brother?”
“I don’t know, why don’t you ask him?”
You baby, you bitch.
“Listen to how you talk to your dedushka!”
In her cruelest moods, Mama would say I would turn out like Nina. She hands me $300 and didn’t even go off about how much it hurt her how poor and alone I am and how poor and alone I will die. There is no point. Last summer, she had at least said that thinking about me makes her want to kill herself.