the book of blood and snow

She dotted her i’s with little circles.

I fucking hate that.

I bet she covered her mouth when she laughed, and drank cocktails with coconut milk.

Her writing lilted to the left so steeply the words seemed about to topple over and fall sprawling from the page, with only the lassoes of the i’s to keep them tethered. No backbone at all. The colour of her ink curled my lip; pink, in a god damned Dostoyevsky book.

There was no writing elsewhere, no passages underlined that connected, that inspired, or troubled. Just her inscription inside, loping across the page in thin strokes like delicate strands of fairy floss.

I tried not to frown as I read it, but it was a cold day on Brunswick Street. It might have been the wind that made me scowl.

My S.

I understand why you have to do this….I do. And I want you to know that part of me will going with you to Russia, to walk alongside you on this amazing journey.

But in truth I’ll be back here in Melbourne, longing for your emails, your postcards, your stories….and always, always, longing for you to be back by my side. Just as I know why you have to do this, I know in my heart that we’ll be ok.

I’ll see you in six months, baby.

I love you,



I almost said the word aloud, and surprised myself with the sourness that flooded my mouth. I could picture her, this girl with one foot planted hopefully in the future, and her heart so clearly in the past. She had her hair cut into a bob that she thought accentuated her neck, and smoked menthol cigarettes. Like a girl. I wondered if she changed the spelling of her name to the Russian K when she knew her man was headed there, in an attempt to connect to him even as she was forced to let him go.

He might have sent the emails, and I’m sure that postcards of the snow capped domes of the Church of Spilled Blood would have fallen into her letterbox. They would have traded phone calls, of course, but they’d have tapered off as winter set in, and closer Dushkas with spikier vowels sat at his table and clinked glasses.

I could see her waiting. Longing, and hurting, and telling herself it would work out.

But it never does; and I despised her for not knowing that. A woman in tune enough with the world to appreciate Dostoyevsky should know by now that they never return, we never understand, we’re all broken and snow covered and clinking vodka glasses and trying, just for one moment, to connect.

And we’ll never be ok.

There was no sign of life in the book. The spine was barely cracked, no pages turned down. The fucker had never read it, had thrown it in his backpack and flown. And then a woman like me unearths it in a secondhand bookshop in Brunswick Street, shed like old skin and priced at $7. And she holds it, and imagines, and hates the fairy floss girl for her hope, for her trust, for her need. She should know better by now.

We all should.

The sky was ash grey and my coat was thin. I already had a copy of ‘The Idiot’, and I could use the seven dollars for a coffee and tram ride home. I threw the book onto the table, drew on my gloves. But before I turned my back my fingers reached for the book again, and tucked it gently at the bottom of the box.

Out of the wind.

© bellmusker 2008

the book of blood and snow


Melbourne, Australia

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Artist's Description

What is hell? I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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