Raphael. A Story.

This is a story I wrote in 1992. It is based on my meeting a young Russian man in Trabazon, Turkey.


His was the bright face who said a few words while I inspected three tin jumping frogs in the Russian Bazaar. A few days later he stops me at the market’s edge where veiled country women sell produce. He wants to talk to me. But hardly can.

About thirty-five. He wears a black leather jacket, worn, and jeans, new. Flat face, receding hair, eager eyes & when the dream of America colors his face he is touchingly attractive. America! He says the word like a prayer; drawn out looking up at the sky & blushing, Amerrica. America is his lover. Otherwise, he speaks looking down at the pavement – worried.

meet – meet – I was –  I will – work to me – my friend

The words explode – but quietly – a communication with self. Stutter with long pauses English mixed with Russian. To indicate future he says “past.” His last words.

past – past – meet – Turkey – France – America.

His idea, and he calls himself an immigrant, seems to be to work on cars in Ankara – he has a friend with a garage – and also in Istanbul. With this money

– money money –

he will buy a tourist visa to France for himself and his girlfriend.

help – to me – to her

In France he will work hard and make even more money and then he will buy a tourist visa to America.

Past – past – meet – Turkey – France – America..

I left Raphael in the gathering darkness, as it began to rain, on the 20th of May, 1992, by the concrete planter just to the right off Trabazon’s main square.

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