There is a booth in the central part of Bagratunyats Avenue, in a crowded place. An 84-year-old woman lived in the booth, whose name was Arpenik. More precisely, she did not live, but died on a self-made bed.
There are many passers-by in that area. Previously, Arpenik sold them cigarettes, coffee and candy. The booth was the only gift she received from the state: it was given to her by former Prime Minister Hrant Bagratyan, as to the daughter of a person who died in the Great Patriotic War [WWII]. But for a long time now, the passers-by were just walking heads, part of the landscape for the bedridden Arpenik Beglaryan. Sometimes their heads looked in through the window, but instead of the usual assortment of the stall – cigarettes, pens, crosswords – they saw poor furniture pieces, a poor old woman in a bed-like thing, they got surprised for a moment, and everyone went on their way. They didn’t need Arpenik, Arpenik didn’t need them.
The old woman did not eat anything for the last week. A relative taking care of her had placed a small kid’s kettle near his head instead of a cup. “It’s convenient to drink water from this,” Arpenik explained to me, so that I might think that she didn’t have a glass.
“I have everything. My father was a rich man, I didn’t need anything,” Arpenik repeated during our meeting. She waited for the journalist for 4 days. She was communicating with me with her eyes closed. In order to see me, she had to raise the lid of the only seeing eye with her fingers. She said that only I can save her. She told her story that she is very sick, that the state has forgotten her, that she asked the state many times to return her savings bank deposit of 780 thousand drams. But the state reduced the amount: it wanted to give 150 thousand to the woman. Arpenik got upset and, instead of demanding a recalculation and writing applications, she signed a paper and refused to take the money.
She was also upset with the hospitals, which did not take into account the woman’s first-degree disability and demanded money from her for examinations. She was upset with the municipality, which did not allow her to build a bathroom on her several meters of land adjacent to the booth, so that she would at least have water and be able to bathe in her old age. She is upset with me for wanting to put money in her pocket. “I will tear it, I will burn it; don’t you dare,” she says.
Arpenik is proud. She says she doesn’t want people to feel sorry for her. And in my ear, whispers in a low voice that she has a side income: occasionally she sells cigarettes. A naive woman. She couldn’t open her mouth to eat a slice of apple, but believed that she would still live, that I would save her, and with the power of the press, I would help her to at least have a toilet in her old age.
I did not save. This night, Arpenik Beglaryan died in her smelly booth, surrounded by photos of her wealthy relatives looking at her sternly.
P.S. During the four-day war, Arpenik Beglaryan collected 100 thousand drams from her pension and sent it to the soldiers. It was her duty to his country. I remembered her words. “I am not a deceitful girl who eats the bread of the state and disavow. I will say this much… Do not forget me.”