Vadim Bystritski was born in Kazakhstan and raised in Azerbaijan. He was educated at Saratov State U, PCC, Cal Poly and Ft. Sam Houston. His work has most recently appeared in De Canto, Silent Actor, Aroostook Review, Cause and Effect and Ox Family.
Remember the air-conditioned bus in Kuwait? Outside, there were long lines of soldiers walking past the weapons-clearing barrels, the sky the color of sand and the long lines everywhere, long lines moving across the desert, on foot and then in vehicles, in and around the villages and cities while I was watching over them as in a certain Disney cartoon where the drawings imitate the camera work. Now, do you see me in the middle of a firefight? I have lost my rifle. I am on the ground pressed by the weight of the equipment: seven thirty-round magazines, individual body armor, its ceramic plates are cracked; I am looking from around the aid bag at some robotic contraption that is busily digging itself a hole; I try not to move for fear that the thing may identify me as something hostile; and then I hear a voice telling me something in Russian; I look up:
On the bench rests a woman’s hand with a chocolate in the shape of a dog whose hind legs are bitten off. From where I am I can examine her chin and the mouth; the left eye which appears and disappears every time her companion shrugs, and then he leans slightly and gives me a good enough view…. Here we are at Charles de Gaulle. I am to enter the gate seven and she is on her way to the gate eight; meanwhile my passport is stuck in the hands of the airport security, for my passport photo does not resemble me: it has long hair complete with a goatee. I place on the counter my Geneva Conventions ID, bold and clean-shaved, and try joking in French, but the Frenchman asks in English first for the travel orders which are traveling in the suitcase, then…my watch is ticking louder with each minute, I click a black ink pen and draw on my face a mustache and a goatee.