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On the of unbecoming. Based on my childhood memories.

By Oleksandr MatvyeyevPublished 3 years ago Updated 3 years ago 4 min read
Photo by Sammy Williams on Unsplash

Growing up as a teenager in a small town in Ukraine meant for me, that I have two roads. To put it simply it was either to do sports or to do drugs. Every day, after the gym, where I’d been practicing judo since I was ten years old I would take the same road home. Tired or not, it was hard to get lost in it. All I had to do was keep going in a straight line.

In the middle of my usual home route, there is a store. It was tiny, with a basic foundation, that can be easily relocated, when it needs to be, and had enough space inside to fit the cashier sitting in a chair with a hunched over the counter. They would sell cigarettes, gum, lighters, basic groceries, like bread, candy, and dried fruit. All the things were displayed behind glass windows, stained by weather, the inside clutter and oily fingerprints.

It is unlikely that you will ever see the cashier's face, except for their hands giving you bread or cigarette packs, depending on how your day went, whether your mom sent you or you went there yourself. If you see their face when they come out to smoke, then you are lucky, and you can make a wish. Mostly they smoke inside.

The facade of this promising establishment was covered by thin gold metal, which makes it noticeable especially during cold and gloomy days of approaching fall.

Behind the cigarette store there always had been an old kindergarten. It looks run-down, empty, isolated by years of closure and lack of care. The front space had been temporarily used for thrift shops and a vet clinic, but overall hollowness in windows dominated the energy of it. Children's toys and tiny rides were still out in the backyard with a big old stump of an oak tree in the middle. It was used for card games and business meetings. There were always people there, standing, a wild bunch of what we called “Barygy”.

That is where you can buy drugs. Mostly weed, other substances, depending on whether you would like time to go slower or faster. You choose how to get through the day.

As I was passing by this saturated place I noticed a woman walking towards the concrete fence that surrounded the kindergarten. She had a gray stroller in front of her. Tiny gentle hands reached out of the canopy. The woman looked down with a warm smile, nodded, and then turned her head towards the meeting table surrounded by a bunch of men. One of them turned his head towards her and squinted his eyes. He recognized her, nudged a guy to his right without pulling his arms out of pockets, showing him with a nod to look behind. “Look, is that your girl?” He recognized her, his eyes opened up. A jolt went through him, he turned around and jogged towards the hole in the fence to greet his family. He was delighted by this unexpected visit. “Hey!”- he said while kissing his wife on the right cheek and kneeling down on one knee to admire his beautiful child. She reached out again to hold his hands, he played with her for a moment or two. They were happy. He got up kissing his wife on the left cheek and jogged back to finish the game. They were waving at each other, smiling. He put his hands in his pockets, focusing on the game.

He was a local boxing champion. Once or twice a week I would see him at our gym practicing his skills. His name was Serghei. Just a week ago he approached me, filled with boyish excitement, to congratulate me when I got a medal at the country championship. The spark in his eyes made me believe that he was even more stoked than me. We shared our experiences and how we celebrated the triumph after making progress and what it meant to be a winner.

When I saw all of this I stopped for a moment. I felt confused and helpless. If go talk to him now he would probably tell me to piss off, cause it may look weak to others from the circle. They operate as a wolf pack, so it is better to stay strong and do nothing. When I saw all of this I stopped for a moment. I felt confused and helpless. If go talk to him now he would probably tell me to piss off, cause it may look weak to others from the circle. They operate as a wolf pack, so it is better to stay strong and do nothing.I guess there are things that are more important than sports and titles. It is inconsequential whether you are a boxer, doctor, or teacher. By the end of the day, there are many opportunities to choose who you end up being. It is up to you. It always has been. Only hope that next, he goes out of his environment to meet his family, and that hole in the concrete fence won’t be covered with barbed wire.

Short Story

About the Creator

Oleksandr Matvyeyev


I am an actor and a writer. I began to write since the pandemic began back in March of notorious 2020. I've crossed the South of the US on my bicycle and went home to Ukraine for 4 months. I have a lot to say, so let's begin.

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    Oleksandr MatvyeyevWritten by Oleksandr Matvyeyev

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