BY HARUTYUN AMIRKHANYAN
It was nothing more than a usual day in Yerevan when I got a call from my old friend.
He asked me for a walk. I put my outfit on, fixed my hair, locked the door of the apartment where I have been living alone, and left. Aram lived nearby with his mother and little brother. We hadn’t decided the venue of the meeting on the phone, so I started down the road, adhering to our tradition to encounter each other somewhere along the route. It was late December, and the patches of snow were heaped along the curb, while the trees held flakes instead of leaves. As always, the street was congested enough; I could hardly catch glitters of argent streetlights, yet this was prone to change as the dusk was shrouding the skyline as time passed. I was rushing along my way glancing at strangers when suddenly Aram came across.
He was tall and slim with short and bristly black hair and was wearing gray jeans and a white jacket.
“Hey chap, how’s it going,” I asked, shaking his hand.
“Nothing extraordinary,” he said; “have got to see a few guys; may you accompany me? That’s not a big deal, just for moral support, so to speak.”
His eyes didn’t give away any kind of alarm, nor seemed confounded in any way. It was obvious that I was not going to let him go alone. I knew him probably better than any other friend of his does. I didn’t like some of Aram’s character traits, though; his behavior did not overlap with mine, and we had many disagreements on various cases. He had certain peculiar ways that I could have never stood, nor could I convince him to give them up. But we had known each other for four years, so I had gotten used to living with his imperfection. Aram had seen a lot during his lifetime; he had been working as long as I had known him and smoking that long, too. He was used to finding himself in quarrels often, sometimes being right, sometimes not so right. He had a fair sense of appreciating morality in anyone and would never stay idle when someone denounced his close friend. That much for the prelude to a brawl we were about to partake.
We headed for a recently built bridge. The main highway was stuffed with the flashlights of cars we didn’t pay attention to. Walking along the pavement and the wind blowing against us, we almost reached the half of its span. Underneath the bridge was a creek that crosses the canyon and reflected the purple tint of overhead sky at that moment. When will they come and how many of them shall we wait for? I turned to Aram. “They are downward near the creek; seems three so far,” uttered he carelessly while leaning on the railings and taking a puff on his cigarette. I was engaged in chatting, sunk into the smartphone, and didn’t care about details; I just wished to face the upcoming action and get it over with fast.
All at once, I could hear the sound of sirens, which lasted as the row of police and ambulance cars drove by. Maybe this was a portent of death lurking somewhere down the corner, or it just casually alerted us to be careful; either one did not make any sense to us, though. “Let’s move on and reach them,” I said and descended the stairs first, with Aram close behind. The darkness of the stairwell did not arouse any fear. “It is quite a day,” I thought, cut the chatting dead and set the phone in my front pocket. The cigarette with its dim light made an effort to illuminate the space, even though it too faded soon.
“Is there anyone in here?” shouted Aram as we groped forward. His voice reverberated but no one answered it.
“Hey man, why we are pretending to be in a horror movie? Turn on the torch of your phone. Mine is lacking battery, and I’m saving it to order a taxi after all,” I said.
We almost reached the foot of the bridge, next to the piers and creek, where three men of middle height were chattering in hushed tones.
We greeted them, and a simple street quarrel commenced. Our interlocuters were overly arrogant that day, their intonation of voice and gestures became increasingly rude. Aram was not able to drive their reproaches back alone, while I had never mastered this branch of communication. The topic of the disagreement was dull and plain. I was trying to figure out how Aram had ended up embroiled in this. Is it my business or not? But anyway, I had to be beside my friend in a predicament. They were blaming us for protecting a girl with a negative reputation. I even did not know who she was; however, we had what we had. “Calm down, guys,” I insisted several times in response to their careless tone. No one heard me, that was sure. We were being morally abused to an extreme degree and I had had enough of it.
I stepped forward, looked at the talkative guy standing in front of me and punched on his face with my left hand, moving the right one towards my chin in anticipation of a counterstroke which never materialized. As he wobbled back daunted, he smudged his mouth and a not insignificant stain of blood appeared on his wrist. The two other lads pushed against Aram with a rough clinch. He probably fought them back, but my attention missed that development. I stared at my opponent. If we had been in a boxing ring and beyond a corner had stood my trainer, I would most probably be hearing whoops of public accompanied by my trainer’s exhortation: “Finish him off.” This time no referee was assigned to the fight, though.
“It’s my duty to stop it,” a thought occurred to me, as the fight was going to linger on and get out of my control. I dashed forward, clasped Aram’s hands, and pushed him out of show.
“Calm down,” I repeated several times. His heartbeat was irregularly fast and his face flushed. The three guys grouped and started to whisper huskily. I approached them, acknowledged my fault of beating first; then called up a taxi, and we saw them out.
We left with Aram on foot, climbing shady rungs of the stairs of the bridge in a deserted hour of the day. I cast a glance at the creek again from above and watched how the taxi of our former foes gradually dimmed and dropped out of sight along the path beside it.
The arrays of spruce and sycamore silhouetted the canyon, and over the horizon, the moon-filled sky shone dark blue with its mild clarity. It was almost 9 pm. We hit the road on our way home. I didn’t say any sort of complaint or disapproval. Aram, as a moderate fan of quarrels, admired how this show was stamped out that soon. “It is up to us—the bearers of power and strength—to put the lid on the boiling pot when it becomes overheated and gets out of control,” he probably thought. At any rate, it was fun to head home listening to music made available by the power still left in my phone….