A Funeral in the Bronks
Somewhere in that vast and hideous sprawling red brick barrio called ‘the Boogie Down’, anxiety is high and some are truly miserable. The story continues. A sea of low rise six story tenements and failed experiments in brutalist brick affordable housing run alongside highway beds. Then eventually that barrio sprawl, that cramped dead place of Spanish speaking poverty becomes a green and hilly oasis. Populated by the Albanians actually. This juxtaposition is striking. South of the Cross Bronks Expressway, the place is a fourth or fifth world country. To the north, something manageable takes shape. An Albanian suburb that mostly sat out the class war.
The friends of Sebastian Adonaev, known by many here as ‘Kawa Zivistan’ came from all five boroughs. They find their way north along those endless highway systems. Some too on trains. Some on buses or motor cycles or Guyanese modified muscle cars. The friends of the dead end up eventually in a place called the Wakefield Commune. Like most places in the Bronks, it has way too many people living there and no elevators. The vast labor reserve ghetto south of the expressway for the mostly Spanish speaking working class, it ends abruptly. The Albanians keep everything in their districts clean of the dirt they do everywhere else. The bleak and miserable looking South Bronks with it’s third world mentality and fourth world life span becomes almost a physical reminder of the culture and differences of the races religions. Or, more specifically perhaps how they are treated by the ruling order and secret police.
Viktoria Christiana Contreras is dressed in all black, a lace vale covering a pretty albeit heavily make upped face and contacts which turn her eyes feline brown blue. Her husband, Rafael Contreras is in denim jeans and black shirt as he owns no funeral appropriate suit. He has only sobered himself up long enough to attend the two funerals. Raffa is unshaven. His baby face is markedly hard for the first time in many years. The weather is poorly, really it seems in the Bronx hot or cold, the weather is always poorly. It is nearly the end of summer, but it had refused to snow this year. The weather machines were in real anarchy or Newyokgrad’s oligarchy is slipping. They are in a crowd of several hundred mourners.
The first Funeral is for Kawa Zivistan, the infamous partisan known by those who really know him as Sebastian Vasilivich Adonaev. It is very well attended considering all the bridges he has burned this year. Very few people believe he is really dead. Everyone is speaking of “not seeing it coming.” Also of his ‘incredible potential’ now buried just as many had suspected before his 30th year. It is rather like a sad circus actually. There are way too many people speechifying, justifying and explaining, and there is an overabundance of booze flask flowing. Who will lead the tribe? Many of the mourners are Negs. Many are wearing blue ambulance Class A dress event uniforms. His parents are kind and bourgeoisie. They don’t break down or cry. They just quietly hold court and whisper on the sidelines. His mother in particular conspiring with select old friends paying their respects.
It is a closed casket affair. Kawa had allegedly shot himself twice in the head with small caliber pistol and then toppled seventeen stories off a roof. Or he was executed. With two bullets to the head. Then thrown off the roof. Either one could have been true if you really knew him. Which to be fair a lot of these people did. Some had served with him in the emergency medical services. Some were from ‘the organization’. A few had fucked him. Others had made love with him for his poems or his hyper-colorful, somewhat naughty little drawings. Most are family. Most are comrades. There is very little left of his face. Seemed possibly the work of the secret police. Or his own work, hard to really say. Similar to how Rahula Today the famous martyr from Detroit had died in 2068. A little too similar. How do you shoot yourself twice?
Theoretically, it is an Ivory funeral. But the only thing Yiddish about it was that it is done on the tasteful but cheap, and scheduled to go on for seven days. There was liquor and also warm fresh bagels and various kinds of smoked fish. He was to go in the ground less than 24 hours after his alleged suicide. There not being a note was the most unnerving aspect of the whole thing. Kawa was amongst other things a very prolific writer. Not leaving a suicide note was highly suspect, completely anticlimactic. Out of character. The inner circle knew exactly why he’d gone and done what he did, kept it to themselves. What he thought he had to do. Whether he died by his own hand, or got snuffed; well it all had to do with that Maccluskey broad.
“Over a woman that didn’t even love him!” explains his oldest friend Nikholai Trickovitch. Then he spits on the floor and does a shot, “That dumb little Suka set him up! Blat.”
“I want to see the fucking body,” demands a woman named Anya Drovtich with thick black dreads and the blue F.D.N.Y. Emergency Medical Service uniform that many are wearing out of respect for the fact that Kawa had once been an E.M.T. with that prestigious organization. For four years until the Bureau of Trials and Interrogations had forced him out after various plots and labor agitations centered around the island nation of Ayiti. As well as a controversial subversive newspaper. Many core members of the resistance are of course E.M.T.s, Paramedics and also some Fire Fighters with the organization Kawa built during the long dark lost years. Anya just says what many are thinking, but few other than the parents, Trickovitch or Mickhi Dbrisk had the familiarity with the dead to outright declare.
Plain Viktoria and wild Rafael stand quietly drinking vodka in the background. They recognize many of Kawa’s associates. From dinner parties. From late night salons on revolution. Comrades and former lovers. Also the fair weather comrades who mostly drank his wine and ate his food. Who do so even in his time of death. Many, if not all are from the from the Z.O.B. His gang, clique, club, party and ‘cult’, which many have and did still call it. Whatever it had been, or still secretly was it wasn’t over with the death of Kawa Zivistan. After decades of clandestine organizing, theirs was a durable Otriad, the realization of an American guerrilla movement.
Viktoria knows the female faces slightly better than the male ones. Dinner parties and long nights at Mehanata, where Kawa would hold court up on the Mezzanine. Making deals and handing out homework assignments. She’s mostly stayed out of the Z.O.B. club affairs, despite his many attempts to rope her in. Rafael however is absolutely more involved. Inside the internal club politics, he knows almost everyone here. Since despite the blur of the drink, he’s a Kadro.
“The casket stays closed, sister,” declares Mickhi Dbrisk, a tall Jamaican gangster in a black pea coat. His gray armband and the small silver lion pin on his left lapel indicating him as a person of authority here. Openly marked as member of the ‘People’s Defense Forces’. The bulge of a pistol can be seen if you known where to look.
“I won’t believe he’s dead until I see the body,” Anya repeats.
The mob of comrades and family mills about in the brick-house cold. The mother of the dead man nods to Mickhi Dbrisk. Kawa’s mother has strange circular, red wizard spectacles. His father is portly and normally jovial, albeit not really such as his first son’s latest funeral. Dbrisk opens the casket. There lies a body. A body with no head. In theory it is the body of a prolific poet. A dedicated paramedic, partisan and hooligan named Kawa Zivistan. His head is severed, completely missing. His gray multiform is still very crisp. The Ayitian flag of Palmares is tucked in his left breast pocket. Red and blue with the tree of life. Cannons and spears defending hard won and bloody liberty.
“Where’s his fucking head?” mutters Anya in Arabic.
Rafael Ernesto and his wife Viktoria take a black town car hired out from the Mexican Express. Kawa’s funeral was in the North Bronx but Dasha’s is in Little Odessa, Southern Breuklyn.
Four hours in traffic, three shots of vicious Rakia, two Baltika 9s and a steady flow of Stolichnaya Premium and a pretty long car service ride later, they make it to Breuklyn a bit after sun down. Through way too many different factional check points. Inter-borough transit is getting prohibitively expensive. On the southern coast of Breuklyn they arrive at a pretty bleak gathering. This second funeral is quite small, but rather fancy. ‘The bitch didn’t die on the cheap’, thinks Viktoria. It’s on the very other side of of the grad.
There are fewer than two dozen people there. No speaks anything but Russian and no one cries except the mom. Dasha looks as beautiful dead as she ever did alive. Like a gently sleeping doll. The funeral is nominally ‘Russian Orthodox’, as that was her patron’s religion is. Although Daria was allegedly some part Ivoryish. Probably a deception. The patron has spared no expense. Her mother had been flown in from Penza. Based on the patron’s insistence she was to be buried here and not sent back to Russia.
There are a couple lady friends of the night that Viktoria recognizes from the tavern. Dumb foreign gold digging whores, she thinks. There is an assortment of men. All looking suspiciously at each other. Daria had a fan club and none of them are amateur. Rafael’s Russian is much stronger than Viktoria’s. Being American native, she speaks middle English and low English. Though it is his fourth language, he can follow the mood. He makes out vaguely hushed interactions. Scene size ups and accusations.
Viktoria knows actually very little about the nightlife of Daria, outside of the Bulgarian Tavern ‘Mehanata’. She can fill some blanks though. Even though virtually anything the girl said was a total lie. There was a paper work husband named Maccluskey. There was a ‘boyfriend’ named Serge paying for an apartment in Brighton. There was a corporate lawyer named Dmitry, who was her patron and was paying for her school and credit cards. She had a best friend named Tanya, a funny looking little emaciated tramp. Viktoria can basically only guess at who everyone else is besides the patron. Holding court on his failed investment. Allegedly, Daria’s black heart had stopped roughly 48 hours ago. The medical examiner inconclusively blamed a hazardous midnight cocktail of Red bulls, Vodka shots, Cocaine, and something else they couldn’t really identify. Daria was known to play with all that stuff, pretty often.
Some homies found her body at the Stillwell elevated rail station. She was pronounced dead shortly after a work up at Coney Island Hospital. She had in her purse a small book of poems written to her by one ‘Kawa Zivistan’. Who, allegedly killed himself just one day after confirming she was gone.
“Allegedly, blat” was the only word in English being bandied about this funeral.
“Who to blame for the death of daughter?” her mother asks Viktoria in real broken English when no one seems to be paying attention, “which one of these men?”
“I’m sorry I just don’t know.”
“My Dasha told us there was a crazy poet in love with her. Want rescue her from, this kept life. Life of shit in non-glamours Amerika. She say-tell me, this poet man. Trying steal her away. For about one year. Who kill my daughter really?”
“I just don’t know, I’m so sorry” repeats Viktoria.
“Is man here now? This fucking shit, this Kawa Zivistan Suka?”
“No. Kawa is dead too. He shot himself. Twice. After identifying your daughter’s corpse. We just came from his funeral,” says Rafael quietly knowing there are lots of bad man killers here. Rafael, drunk again, looks like he might cry looking down at Daria’s body. Buried in hyper-expensive completely out of season Peony flowers in fancy white casket with gold trim. He had loved her. While still partly loving his paper work wife Viktoria in sad way too of course. Everyone had loved Daria Andreavna. She had dark magic and ‘tits galore’. She had style, cunning and class. Without knowing very much about her, many men had tried to have her. Because she was young and free and exotic and beautiful and impossible to tame. She was a true collectors item.
Many men here had tried to own her. Her husband, boyfriends and patron included. Many of which are now here.
“Who to blame for this total catastrophe?” asks the mother again.
Nobody really knew. Allegedly, a lot of fucking things had happened over the course of the year, in the wilderness of Newyorkgrad, the third most powerful city on earth. The ziggurat of many, many lights and towers.
“A senseless tragedy blat. A senseless goddamn waste of…,” the very well-dressed man in the custom cut black silver blue suit whose name is Dmitry Khulushin, had almost said ‘talent’ aloud, but instead, says “…of perfection.”
Daria’s mother begins to sob hysterically which is permissible for a woman and mother to do at a Russian funeral. Skinny little Tanya tries to comfort her but starts crying too. Her daughter had come a very long way to die obscurely, for absolutely nothing. Viktoria grabs Rafael by the arm, “It’s time to leave. Now. Her browns eyes say she means it. Rafael looks like shit. Real poorly. The sometimes hard defenses of his machismo crumpled on the ride over, any minute now he could get in a bad fight. They Fenian exit.
They wait in the terrible cold outside. The funeral was held at ‘The National’ on Neptune Avenue. Another Mexican Express cab is coming to take them home to District Greenpoint. Rafael begins to weep heavily. Sobbing for Dasha, whom he very much loves, loved, no, loves. And for Sebastian too who was one of his closest real friends in this bleak city. He had introduced them and thus feels now, more than any other moment in the year prior, responsible for what has happened. Since in truth only he knows the full story of it. In both Peruvian as well as Russian culture, ‘real men’ do not by any stretch of fucking imagination cry. Specially in front of women. Paper work wives included. But, cry now he does. Wiping away the tears as they form. Hitting a brick wall until his hand bleeds, then breaks. Viktoria tries to stop him from boxing the wall. He slaps her. She is an American. The child of Fenian Catholics. They work hard and blue collar.They drink pretty heavily. They have lots of kids and cry in front of whomever they want. The ice cold wind blows deathly freeze upon them. The Mexican Express is nowhere in sight. Viktoria can’t believe he even hit her.
Brighton Beach is a bleak eastern oblivion. The endless ugly crumbling boardwalk goes past dilapidated public housing towers out a no where place, to drop out of time or sight. Drown yourself on the end of the Steeple Chase pier. The sun has finally set on this once plump and happy empire, a short lived Pax-American. But will it end in a pathetic whimper, or a vile gang bang? The vultures are circling the ‘grad. Have at it! Have at it! The Haan hordes and the Russian spy machine are ready.