We spent the day wiping dust off video cameras,
exchanging stories, associating words.
You liked seasons, hated LA for its endless summer.
Your family had roots in Oceania.
You were a trusted friend of a certain cabaret singer
who had just given a TED Talk on being poor.
Without jealousy I listened to your account
of the changes in your Doberman’s barking patterns,
now that you had a boyfriend
and the dog was no longer your only love.
For many years the way you described your boyfriend
became a blueprint for how I would strive to be:
determined, slightly obstinate, independent.
We joked. You said that before you met me
you thought all Russians wanted was a Big Mac
and a pair of American pre-ripped jeans.
I set you straight on that matter.
Your internship was ending. Mine had just started.
We said goodbye with a promise to keep in touch.
For a while we exchanged translated song lyrics.
I saw you one more time in Hampton, New Hampshire,
working a news story about an ailing amusement park.
Weather really wasn’t working out.
It sleeted just as the cameras started rolling.
I held my umbrella over your camera
and noticed in your thank you a quiet light
shining without needless emphasis
from behind your gray eyes.
Driving back, I saw the most beautiful sunset
over Route 95,
purple and green behind massive Tolkienesque clouds.
This is not a love story, and it doesn’t end in a death.
You’ve been getting many good jobs in Hollywood,
and I don’t exactly hail from a coffin either.
I don’t feel the need to get back in touch,
and I’m not curious about your day-to-day goings-on.
But in the most random moments,
whether I’m driving, sad, or witnessing weather,
your sunset returns to me,
as do your grateful eyes,
as does the dark of your sweater,
your humble way of putting your foot down—
a picture of the best of my early 20s,
a storybook of healthy and hopeful life,
unsentimental and devoid of demonic details.
Unblinking from behind the video camera,
you filmed and filmed Fast Eddy and awkward Bobby
as they took apart a century-old roller coaster,
not rolling your eyes,
not raising your voice,
your sneakers soaked,
your camera steady,
your heart awake.
This is a reprint of work originally published in Neptune Court.
Originally from Moscow, Russia, Anton Yakovlev lives in Ridgewood, New Jersey, and works as a college textbook editor. He studied filmmaking and poetry at Harvard University. His work is published or forthcoming in The New Yorker, Fulcrum, American Arts Quarterly, Measure, The Raintown Review, The New Verse News and elsewhere. He is the author of chapbooks Neptune Court (The Operating System, 2015) and The Ghost of Grant Wood (Finishing Line Press, 2015). He has also directed several short films.