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THE LOVE NOTE by Svetlana Beggs • Cleaver Magazine
THE LOVE NOTE by Svetlana Beggs In 1988, when our city was still called Leningrad and kids wore red (always wrinkled) Young Pioneer’s scarves, my friend Natasha developed a crush on Yura, the tallest boy in 6th grade. She blushed whenever he walked near her, causing us to start feeding Natasha’s backpack tiny love notes bearing Yura’s forged cursive. I was the designated forger, Lida was the writer, and Polina the spy, but we jokingly called her “the assassin.” In two months we published seven short notes and made five crank calls to Natasha’s flat releasing Lida’s “deeply meaningful silence.” Around this time Natasha began to apply her sister’s eyeliner in the school’s bathroom and we told her honestly that her new look was “amazingly alluring,” even though Yura’s friends now called her “The Vampire.” She would walk into the classroom holding the backpack over her breasts, the boys would say, “Hide from the Vampire!” and Yura would chuckle because he wanted to continue being friends with these boys. One day, Elena Nikolaevna, our fear-and-trembling inducing algebra teacher we all called “The Guillotine,” pried a draft of our love note from Lida’s fist and mercilessly unfolded the crumpled piece of paper. Everyone grew quiet from the effort of suppressing curiosity while showing overt dislike of The Guillotine. And then she started reading the note (omitting Yura’s name, thank God), her voice rich with enjoyment because she was delivering the pleasure a lot of students craved while simultaneously showing everyone her whip. The Guillotine had a way of making things sour and unappetizing, saying, for example, “comradeship” instead of “friendship,” or “it is in your interest,” when she clearly had her own interest in mind. In her voice, our note no longer felt like a clumsy first draft—it sounded sinister, as if written by a creepy stalker: “…When you walk home tonight, turn around five times and you might see me…”