No (Story by Risa Peris) (A reimagining of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 1)

“Feed’st thy light’s flame with self-substantial fuel, Making a famine where abundance lies, Thy Self thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel: Thou that art now the world’s fresh ornament, And only herald to the gaudy spring…pity the world, or else this glutton be, To eat the world’s due. by the grave and thee.” 

-Shakespeare Sonnet 1

He was handsome. His Babushka would lightly squeeze his cheeks and this would cause a red apple color to appear, which only made him more handsome and “gorgeous”. He was Babushka’s pride. 

“And you’re so smart,” she would say. It was true. His grades were as perfect as his teeth. Life unfolds wonderfully for the beautiful. He was no bauble – a jewel to be coveted. There was a dark streak in him. Around eight he killed a stray dog because it nipped hungrily at his heels. He knew then, as he stood over the wrecked corpse, he was evil and somehow this cruelty would curse him. 

The family moved to Moscow and left Babushka in the small agricultural town. He got a degree in mathematics. It was a miracle he finished. There were too many women to play with. Sometimes late at night he would miss Babushka. She died not long after they left Moscow. She thought he was an ornament for the world and loved no other. She never perceived the evil in him and for that he was grateful – even prideful. 

Grigori was recruited by the Russian Mafia. He seemed to have little prospects with his math degree in Moscow. He could be a teacher but that made his blood curdle. He was sitting in a park one day and a man in a long coat appeared. They chatted for hours and then Grigori was asked to find young women, date them, and then arrange a time where they would be whisked away. He would have to get them passports. He would have to promise marriage. A great deal of money came with this assignment. Grigori knew he was becoming a sex trafficker.

Ten years later, there was now gray weaving through his hair and he was riper – aging like a berry on a vine. He was now in New York City and running an operation for the Mafia. He was still so handsome. He got a girlfriend. A blonde toy. She wanted a child. 

“No, “ Grigori said. “No.”

She cried. Every few months she would ask again. No was the answer. He was handsome, smart…pity the world when the handsome and smart don’t procreate. But there was a worm inside him. An evil worm in a devastating Eden apple. He did awful things and he would go to the grave knowing no part of him would continue on. He was not proud of his work. He was also not sad. And this is why Grigori knew he could not procreate. He would eat the feast of the world and then go to the grave. Childless. His flame turning to cinders. 

Perhaps if his Babushka…she would cry for what he became.