Construction Literary Magazine

Fall 2020

Confessional: I’m Not Really Related to Lev Vassilynikov

Confessional: I’m Not Really Related to Lev Vassilynikov

Jay Firestone

Nathan doesn’t like Bobbins. Domenick doesn’t know who Bobbins is. And David (when we actually find Bobbins) can’t be trusted to ask him good questions. He’s too sappy, too sentimental, and if I don’t do something now, then before I know it he’ll be asking the greatest writer living today how it was that he could see into David’s soul when he wrote The Lilac. (I’m not kidding, he actually said that to Nathan last week, that while he was reading The Lilac, he felt like Bobbins could see inside his soul).

Anyway, Dave’s been dying to interview Bobbins. He thinks that the two of them have some sort of connection, that if he gets to Bobbins his career will suddenly bloom or something—“I’m the 1,247th most famous writer in Brooklyn,” he likes to joke (where did he even get that number?)—but I know what he’s trying to do. He’s trying to use Bobbins to boost his career, he’s trying to be the 47th!

Joint interview my ass. Dave wants to get to Bobbins first.

That’s why I had to make myself an indispensable part of the operation. That’s why I told everyone that I was distantly related to the absurdist short story writer Lev Vassilynikov and that we could use this fact to our advantage when we finally track down Bobbins.

So, now I’m on the Long Island Railroad on the way to see my grandmother. She’s been visiting from Moscow since July. THANK GOD! She’ll help me figure out this mess. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard her mention that Vassilynikov had an affair with my great aunt . . . Perhaps that could have resulted in a pregnancy . . . And grandma does have her foot in the door at Moscow’s most prestigious literary circles. Surely she’s going to have some confidential information that we can use to bait Bobbins.

So here I am in a freezing train car, pulling my skirt over my legs and wrapping my hands around a hot cup of tea from the Starbucks at Penn Station. It’s raining outside and the drops are slamming against the windows, reminding me of Ann Arbor, where I first felt like I got to know Bobbins.

It’s because of my freshman year at the University of Michigan that I’ll never have any trouble spotting Bobbins on the streets of Park Slope; back then I spent countless hours studying the hazy black and white photograph on his book jackets . . . Everything is Over, The Lilac, Slept Through the Night (something I was never able to do in those days), the photo was always the same, and I would stare at it after I read him, as I lay on my bed, listening to the rain patter against the windows and watching the bare trees claw against the glass.

Bobbins would stare back through the lenses of his rectangular black glasses, his lips pursed shut and the mole under his eye decorating it like a jewel. Of course I knew he wasn’t really staring back, but the intensity he projected even through a photograph was enough to make me feel like he was, and it was probably the only reason that I didn’t pack up my bags, leave Ann Arbor, and move right back to New York.

Now I live in Brooklyn, within blocks of Bobbins; he’s so close I can practically smell him. But unless we find him, and unless there’s some reason why he would actually want to talk to us, we’ll go on like two parallel lines that never cross.