NIRVANA, A short story

by Martin Kostov; translated from the Bulgarian by Alexander Gurovski

A text by the 2016 Sozopol Fiction Seminars fellow and CapitaLiterature participant Martin Kostov

To G. N.

We met… If I must be honest, I don't remember how. I try to, but I can't. I don't even remember the place where we first met. It may have been the birthday of a mutual acquaintance. You were probably drunk, and shortly after the party begun, you came to me and asked if I was seeing someone. And I, I think it was the first time that I was sober, and I think that I was taking pictures of the birthday in question. All the guests wanted a picture with the birthday boy. They posed, drank, kissed. Boy and boy, girl and girl, and girl and boy. As all that happened, I turned around. You were on the couch, with your ex on top. She was holding your arms straight up. You were kissing, and I started to take pictures of you. I was making a clip. You liked to look at the camera lens and focus on it instead of me. Then I laughed and looked at you. I wasn't laughing because you were kissing a girl. I just liked to look at you and smile. I liked every single one of your movements. If only I was your ex! And while I wanted and imagined I was the girl on top of you, the time came for me to leave. You were all drunk, horny, so awake and excited. I left you to celebrate and have fun in any way you found suitable and left. Your question about me seeing someone, I think, I answered with I'm not. I was ashamed to tell you that I actually like men. I usually don't care about who knows what about me and what they say, but with you, I was a little ashamed.

Days later I imagined your lips and that look in your eye – the one reluctant to leave my mind. Your arms and the curves of your body. The way you bite your lip, half-close your eyelids, draw your hair aside, your aroma, which hung in the room and entrapped me, your skin – they were my dream each night. A dream that I didn't want to end, hours of the night when I didn't want to wake, didn't want to go out, didn't want to see girls, or perceive scents, didn't want to touch bodies, kiss lips, so I didn't forget yours, the ones I had such a desire to feel. To feel on me. To feel mine on you. To have you. For you to have me. For them to not have us. Until death do us part.

Weeks after all these feelings, dreams, and desires, we started seeing each other again. And again, I don't remember how and where. Maybe you came over to have your pictures taken. You wanted to be photographed naked, without posting the pictures anywhere. Nude photography brings people closer. The photographer and the model. And the model is as naked as the photographer could never imagine he'd see. You came into the apartment and looked at me. I asked you if you wanted a cigarette and coffee. I made some and I handed you the glass, on which you left your lips. Lipstick and imprints. We smoked and I asked you if were ready to start. You were ready to pose again. Ready to focus everything that happened, only this time, naked. You knew I was gay and girls don't get me hard, which was almost true. Or at least was. You came into the studio, which was in the apartment living room because it was the largest, and sat on a wooden chair that was close to the gray background.

You started taking off your clothes, in which you looked like a goddess. You started with your high heels. You slowly leaned over, so you could unclasp the small, thin leather strap with a buckle. You unbound them and took them off. The camera shook in my tender, feminine hands. Or at least so I thought. My eyes were searching for a place to hide. You started to take off the straps of your thin, short, black minidress. I started sweating. All the fire and all the heat in me were gaining ground and the perceptible pressure in my pants was becoming more and more obvious. After lowering the straps to the tips of your shoulders, you asked me to unzip you. The zipper at your back, like a strip on your lifeline and spine, wouldn't slide down. I pressed a little and slowly moved it. The camera attached to my neck started to sink. I stepped a few feet back, so you could finish undressing. You were left in your underwear. I haven't the slightest idea what color, shape, or design it was. I don't remember. I was high. I was out of it, I was drunk. On you. I closed my eyes. We took a few pictures in your underwear, but that wasn't enough, you wanted nude photography. You wanted to be naked. I wanted you to be naked. And you were. I opened your bra as I left my lips on your neck. My hands, they were all over; the camera, on the stand I used to take pictures. We were sweaty, alone, and real. Hot and slow, happy, but only as long as my eyes were closed. You moved the chair with its back to me and your face towards the camera, which wanted to snap every inch of you at a time. You were looking at me. I wanted you, but I didn't have you. Your breasts hung like a Da Vinci painting. So well, so in their place, and so towards me, that my tongue couldn't resist caressing them with its tip. Your slightly bent legs rested on my shoulders and smoothed your lips, as my gaze penetrated you slowly and ever deeper. The sharpness of your sounds caressed me all over, and my hands ran through your hair and removed every speck of dust from it. It was all just photography. Art and act. An act of our bodies. An act of our souls. An act of time. An act conceived in the studio. After the photo session you got dressed. We smoked another cigarette, which burned quickly, and you left, and I still didn't know you.

A month later, as I dreamt of you again, the doorbell rang. I don't remember who came and why. What they wanted or what we did, but you were there too. Here, with me. We talked, got to know each other, laughed. I fell in love with you. I wanted us to take pictures together, to create and compose, and hours later it was just the two of us. Just the two of us for a few days, in which, each night, we drank some alcohol, talked a lot, and listened to Nirvana.  We slept on separate beds in the same room, under the same roof, a few feet from the living room where I took pictures of you. Why didn't we have sex? Because I'm gay? Because you're bisexual? Because we were ashamed? Because we didn't drink enough? Why? I even think that sex wasn't necessary at this point. This time with you was the only consolation in my disgusting life. We started to go out together and with friends. To go to coffee shops and socialise. We went to a construction site, they called it The Swan. There, we played hide and seek, I smoked weed and got high. You drank juice and tried different games. We threw stones, planks with rusty nails, bricks, and random stuff at each other, not aiming to hit, but as a joke and a game. As we played hide and seek, you fell into the same shaft twice. Once with your left foot, the other time with your right. Then we stopped playing because it was time for us to go home. Unfortunately, you and one of my friends didn't leave. You stayed. You stayed to fuck on the site. Dirty and sweaty. On the bricks, under the stars, in the arms of the night and the embrace of the wind. I got home, showered and went to bed. High, already clean, nearly dozing off. Confused by the fact that I cared about you and maybe a little depressed.

I was at the movies. I don't remember when and what movie I was watching, I don't remember what time it was but you called me. You wanted, insisted that we see each other. I told you that I was at the movies and if you wanted, you could come to the mall, we'd hang out and drink coffee. That you should come to me and that I wasn't alone, I was with the boy who fucked you at the construction site. You agreed and said you'd be there soon. And you came. Maybe thirty minutes after I hung up the phone and was immersed in a movie about a prisoner, you called again and said you were in front of the theater. We had to cut the movie short and come to you. We got up, cleaned all the popcorn from our seats and left. I stood there with my back to the stairway that was beside the ticket sellers and someone put their hand on my shoulder. You had brought the police to the mall. But why? They handcuffed us. People were staring. It was funny. They took us down to the car, I sat on one side, you were in the middle, and the boy was on the other side. They took us to the 6th District Station and questioned us, or rather me. They may have already done it with you. It turned out that everything was happening because of the boy I went to the movies with. He hadn’t gone home for quite some time and his parents had declared him missing. They let you and me go, but they kept him.

We went out front, got on the tram for one stop and went to a huge park. I had a bit of weed in my wallet. I rolled it up and got stoned. You didn't smoke, so you stood a few feet from me. I smoked it and lay down on a slide. You came and hugged me. We had a conversation, I don't remember about what or why. I think you were kissing me or I was kissing you. I don't remember. We stood up, went off holding hands, then I walked with you. I don't remember why and how far. Did you have to go home? But why? It was in the middle of the day. I was alone again. Stoned. Outside, with slowed-down body reactions, amid the fast pace of the world and wind, which sucked me up in one drag.


Martin Kostov was born in Sofia, Bulgaria, in 1997. He writes poems and short stories. His first poetry collection, Home, was published by DA Press in 2014. His second poetry collection, February, was published by Pergament in 2016. Martin's works have appeared in the Bulgarian print and online editions LiterNet, Literaturen Vestnik, Literaturen Klub, Stranitsa, Banitza, Krastopat, and the Manu Propria project. He took part in the 2014 Malki Poetiki (Sofia, Bulgaria) and the 2015 Yuzhna Prolet (Haskovo, Bulgaria) literary competitions, the 2015 Night of Literature (Varna, Bulgaria), the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation's 2016 International Sozopol Fiction Seminars (Sozopol, Bulgaria) and the CapitaLiterature programme (Sofia, Bulgaria), as well as in a number of literary readings.


ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATIONTHE ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION and VAGABOND, Bulgaria's English Monthly, cooperate in order to enrich the English language with translations of contemporary Bulgarian writers. Every year we give you the chance to read the work of a dozen young and sometimes not-so-young Bulgarian writers that the EKF considers original, refreshing and valuable. Some of them have been translated in English for the first time. The EKF has decided to make the selection of authors' work and to ensure they get first-class English translation, and we at VAGABOND are only too happy to get them published in a quality magazine. Enjoy our fiction pages.


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