Finally we found a decent white wine in Bishkek, at the Harodnie across the street, no less.
And on a sadder note, we received news that E’s colleague (and friend) died of a heart attack yesterday, but hours after the two last spoke. Ismail was a jovial, rudy-faced man of fifty, manager of one of the city’s larger construction subsidiaries. We had dinner with him a few weeks ago. He complained of his sharp-tongued and unrelenting Russian tutor. We cajoled him to stop smoking. But the man drank like a fish gasping for air and worked late hours six, seven days a week. Work, drinking too hard, smoking. It’s funny – we all joked with him that he’d kill himself too soon. But of course none of us actually expected it. We thought he’d defy the odds (after all, statistics are only probabilities and percentages) and live to be a cancerous old man or someone’s good-humored grandfather. His fiance, an auburn-haired fair woman of forty, was going to join him in Bishkek this summer. His son, a few years younger than me, is finishing up his MBA in the states.
This morning we were slowly waking up, re-modeling our picnic plans for the one day holiday after rain loomed on the horizon. When E got the call, from the few lines I heard, I thought he must have been in a car accident, or injured when something happened at a construction site. It never crossed my mind that he was dead. And when E looked up the look on his face was just confusion. Something we never expected to happen, no matter how often we all joked – and laughed at it’s impossibility.