On an October evening, in Sheremetyevo, where dust-bunnies hung hauntingly from odd metal cylinders affixed to the ceiling, my hostess hailed an off-white cab and haggled firmly with its driver.
"Oy!" grunted the driver, mangling my collection of suitcases into his trunk. I clasped eleven pink roses to my breast. The pair of young lovers who shared the back seat with me folded themselves into one another, rounded origami shapes. My hostess identified these first views of the dimly-lit suburbs of Moscow: schools, bakeries, the rectangular cement prisms of apartment buildings. Dark, snaking streets and alley-ways led to places inviting to be explored.
Down Gorky Street* we whizzed, nearly colliding with several passing pedestrians. I winced. We passed buildings marked Produkti, Kino-Teatr, Universalny Magazin, and endless rows of apartments, some constructed from brick or stone, while others displayed fanciful plaster facades.
We'd been driving for about half an hour, when V. exclaimed, "Look!" and there, appearing through the fog, were neon ruby stars, the towers of the Kremlin, its solid walls.
When I spied the baroque conglomeration of cupolas that forms St. Basil's Cathedral, the shiny paper around the roses crinkled as my grasp tightened. Is it necessary to admit that I gasped?
It was not long before we reached the Taganka, and the cab bumped to a stop. "Shhhh..." I was instructed. "In the apartment building, do not speak a word of English. I do not want anyone to know an American is here."
Y. kissed me three times at our first meeting; once on each cheek, and a third time for the Holy Spirit.
I opened my eyes in the morning and saw bone china behind glass, tulle and velvet curtains guarding tall hinged windows, and the shadows of lace flowers on the high ceiling: I had arrived.
A dreamless sleep falls from the shimmering leaves. --Sappho fragment, tr. Andrew Bellon I changed, thickened, ...
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