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Don't even think about taking off your shoes. This is the floor for us, not us for the floor. Yes. And nothing else, - a narrow-hip woman with white dyed bangs tells me. I follow her into the hallway and my eyes rest on a black and white photograph of the Football Player taken many years ago. The football player runs at some unthinkable angle, almost contrary to the laws of gravity, and the ball seems to be one with the football player.

“They have some kind of telepathic connection,” my youngest son, who is raving about football, will say, looking at the photo. - I would like that!

The football player himself walks around the apartment in a blue T-shirt with the inscription "New sports technologies", smokes like a locomotive - small thin cigarettes are in ashtrays throughout the house - and for the most part is silent, smiling shyly.

- Markarov, - a woman with a white bang tells him, - do you remember, I had a "Babetta"?  “Such a very fashionable hairstyle, you know, like Brigitte Bardot, with a ponytail and a pile,” she explains to me.

It was forty years ago. He was a famous football player, the favorite and glory of the whole big southern city, and she was just an awfully beautiful girl.

- I was in the eleventh grade, and we had an open day at our school, to which graduates came, and he also came, everyone got there, he was a star then, they knew him by sight better than they know artists now. Do you remember what you were?


- Yes, I remember, I remember, - he says and lights another thin cigarette. - I had a golden Fixa and a Bologna cloak.

- In-in, in general, there is nowhere more fashionable. Only our guys were all tall, prominent, and this one, small, with a stupid parting, stands, pulled his head into his shoulders, and everyone - Markarov, Markarov, such a whisper through the hall, look at him as if he were a curiosity. And I say loudly like this: “I don’t understand why everyone is dying for him like that, give me another thousand rubles, I won’t go anyway.” Then he tried to reach me through our director, started a conversation, this and that, and I answered him - well, of course, your head does not work, then, of course, at least let your legs work. How he took it from me - I do not understand.

He didn’t just endure it - he handed her a note: “Tomorrow I’m waiting at the tram stop at 11 o’clock.” She didn't go anywhere, of course.

- I was a proud girl, but I simply hated all this football - we lived not far from the stadium, there were always people around the crowd on the days of the match, the windows were shaking from the screams of the fans.

And in the morning his friend comes. Are you, he says, out of your mind? Markarov himself is waiting for you, and you are here...

Instead of a date, she went to her friend, and he slowly drove behind her in a car.

Do you know what kind of car he had? A complete squeak for those times - the old "Moskvich" of a bluish-gray color, I remembered the number for the rest of my life - 19-54.

She sent him off for good, but a year later they met again at a friendship evening, where his entire football team was invited. He began to come to her house with champagne and Fairy Tale cake. The cake, apparently, was somehow eaten, and she put champagne along the wall, so the whole battery lined up. And the more he came and crawled, the more he got on her nerves. And one day she said to him: “Do you see this whole battery of bottles? They will fly at you if you don’t stop walking.”

And he stopped - for a while.

We are sitting alone in the kitchen, and he says to me: You have no idea how beautiful she was - you can’t take your eyes off her.

- And now?

- And now do not tear.

- And how did you finally take it?

“Intellect,” he replies without hesitation. “That was my tactic. I came to her house, sat with her mother in the kitchen, talked. And they all gradually got used to me. Then she moved to her grandmother, I began to go there, and also talk, somehow called her for a walk, and she did not refuse ...

- I lived then with my grandmother, her name was Shamiram, so he came to her for me. And we began to sort of decorously-nobly walk. Somehow we walk past the Wedding Palace, and he tells me, listen, Stelka, let's go in and have a look. I was such a fool, come on, I say. And come on, he says, we will submit the documents, this does not oblige you to anything. Surely not obligatory? I ask. Exactly, he replies. Well, come on, I say. We applied and had to wait two weeks. He again - and let's sign it, it won't change anything in your life. I say - definitely will not change? He is, of course, exactly. As you lived with your grandmother Shamiram, so you will live. Well, I agree. I sew for myself - I sewed everything for myself then - a new dress with blue flowers, we come - and the people there recognize him, again - Markarov, Markarov. But everyone thinks that it was he who came to someone's wedding, it was too painful for me to look like a bride, and the three of us came - he, I and a witness. We signed, got out - and suddenly, as all the cars began to beep - these were others who had come to marry, so they congratulated their beloved football player - and I went back to my grandmother. And we continued to meet, as if going on dates to each other. They looked like a couple of months, and then one fine day he told me: if you don’t go to live with me as a wife, I’m going to the left. I say - how is it to the left? This is betrayal. I couldn't bear this anymore. That's how it all happened.

He besieged a small fortress named Stella for almost three years.

It was forty years ago in a languid, viscous captivating city, where figs grew right in the streets, and the asphalt in summer was dark blue from falling mulberries. The inhabitants of the city then were not divided into nationalities, but were simply called Baku residents. Playing football didn’t need a gaudy uniform, only professionals had cleats with spikes, and shin guards, without which now no boy would go on the field, no one even dreamed of then.

The Markarovs now live in Yerevan. ZIDAN is written in large letters in the entrance of their house. It seems to me that they could also write MARKAROV - and in letters no less.

Victoria Ivleva (Novaya Gazeta No. 86, 2008)


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