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He was easy-going but incisive, as if everything was a joke,

including life, which actually was precious to him though

he did not show it and despised displays of emotion and

phony earnestness.

He was sensitive to others but had hard fists.

El was not kind but did not go looking for trouble, and

fought only worthy rivals, not picking on weak people.

If you asked him, “How’s it going?” he might answer,

“Dunno” or “As usual,” with no wish to elaborate.

He was not easily categorized.

I remember we were looking at windows one night, lit up in

the apartment block opposite, and El suggested we should

both choose a window with the light on, and if the first to

go out was mine, we would have to pardon a certain person,

but if it was El’s we would punish him, make him suffer a

bit for his sins. I won, but El ignored it and did his thing


Kostya was a designer, and when we told him about our

quirky wager, disapproved, but when I remarked about

Kostya and his scruples that I found people boring who had

not known real grief, El thought it over and said, “Bollocks”

(about my pronouncement). I saw once more that he was