Boris cohabited with bees; bees cohabited with him. The very first time his father took him to the beehive not too far from the house, the bees and Boris immediately took to each other. He was interested in the way his father pulled the honeycomb frames and pushed them back like drawers. They made the same sound. It all seemed like a game to his childish eyes.

Later his father would say that the bees did not gather around him, but swarmed around Boris. His father’s head was covered with a net, propped from below by a wide-brimmed hat. The shape of a planet. But Boris would learn this only later, in school: that there were celestial bodies, spheres, some of them with rings. Saturn. His father’s head at the beehive was like Saturn. Boris liked Saturn very much.

[. . .]

After that first time, Boris regularly went with his father to see the bees. He did not like the taste of honey. Perhaps that was why the bees liked him. He ate honey sometimes, because he had to comply with his mother’s wishes, but he never enjoyed it. He knew from the very beginning that honey belonged to the bees, and now his father rattling the drawers seemed silly.

When he found a wild beehive for the first time, he saw how imperfect the man-made beehives were, with their little toy roofs. Doll houses in which the bees were forced to do what they naturally did anyway. Such things, and others, would cross his mind.

At some point he learned that there were queen bees, drones, and brood chambers, and this filled him with admiration. The worker-bees worked; they did their tasks without thinking. Boris decided that human beings were imperfect in comparison, because they would always think while doing things. And they would tire. Whereas bees never grew tired. They simply reacted to changes in temperature. They stopped being bees below such-and-such degrees.

He gathered honey, filling jars with amber. Other people in the village also had beehives, but Boris seemed to have a special gift; he was so good at it that everyone relished his honey.

He never put on a beekeeper’s veil. Not a single bee ever bothered or stung him. Boris found bees to be perfect and tried to learn everything there was to learn about them. Then he became the bees’ man. And they became Boris’s bees.

Year in, year out, the same thing would happen. Boris would lie down in the tall, soft grass between the beehives. At first he would hear them moving along their flight paths, then a wave of information signals that he could clearly sense would traverse the air. The bees would start hovering above him, and he knew that they were trying to decide which ones should descend on him. They would begin to land on him, covering first the bare skin, his hands and face, and afterward his entire body. They would stay there until he stirred to get up. Then they would lift off at once like a cloud of sound and he would walk away. He would eventually leave them behind and they would again busy themselves about their bee work.

No one knew that Boris and the bees had a special relationship. Or perhaps no one wished to know. The bees, just as the glasses did later, provided enough explanation for the boy’s absent-minded wandering, his reticence and his lack of interest in what was on his plate.

[. . .]

One evening Margarita tripped over two enormous suitcases lying in the dark hallway. She knew immediately why they were there. She knew that the same thing that had happened to her father, and later to Valentin, was now happening to Boris. 

It was his turn to leave. Nothing could be done to prevent it. Maria had made up her mind. 

Margarita could vaguely sense that she was the only one with any influence over her mother. But she had no idea what she could do. 

Boris was not in the house. The suitcases were there, but he was gone. Her mother had also gone somewhere. Margarita de--cided to open the suitcases. She reached for one of them.

The metal locks were lovely, they were cold and made a clicking sound. She lifted the lid and, pushing it back, propped it against the wall, blocking the entire hallway. There were no clothes in the suitcase, only books, folders, floppy disks, and various little devices with a mysterious purpose. They were so small and shiny; she liked them very much. She was not sure what one was supposed to do with them. Just look. Then what? Margarita pressed a button and heard a voice. Boris’s voice saying things she couldn’t understand. She kept listening to the recording and played the whole thing. Boris barely ever spoke, yet here, in the dark hallway, his voice seemed to have a life of its own, independent from itself. Boris and the voice of Boris were separate. Margarita was not surprised, it appeared natural to her. She found a box full of tapes and began to play them one by one. When she started to feel cold, she got into the suitcase, where the hard objects made room for her. She nestled cozily, listening to the fairy tales of the voice from the little machine. Boris was good at telling stories. Margarita could see that right away. This Boris from the machine was a different Boris that no one had heard speak before and no one had ever met. These stories were meant for nobody, or maybe nobody and Margarita. It didn’t occur to her to ask why Boris was telling them. She just followed his voice in this exciting adventure, and there was suspense and something im--portant was about to happen, things were becoming more and more interesting, and she fell asleep just before what seemed to be some kind of beginning. The lid of the suitcase closed itself gently and quietly, so as not to wake her, and in the darkness inside, Boris’s voice went on speaking.