This is what she says about Russia, in the year 2000, in a restaurant on Prince Street, late on a summer night She says: all the chandeliers were broken and in the winter, you couldn’t get a drink, not even that piss from Finland. The whole country was going crazy. She thinks she is speaking about the days before she left, but I think, actually, that she is recounting history. Somebody should be writing all this down Or not. Perhaps the transition from Communism to a post-Soviet federation as seen through the eyes of a woman who was hoping, at least, for an influx of French cosmetics is of interest only to me. And why not? It seems that the fall of a great empire—revolution! murder! famine! martial music!—has had a personal effect. Picture an old movie: here is the spinning globe, the dotted line moving, dash by dash, from Moscow across the ocean to New York and it’s headed straight for me. Another blonde with an accent: the city’s full of them. Nostrovya! A toast to how often I don’t know what’s coming at me next. So here is a list of what she left behind: a husband, an abortion, a mathematical education, and a black market career in trading currencies. And what she brought: a gray poodle, eight dresses and a fearful combination of hope, sarcasm, and steel-eyed desire to which I have surrendered. And now I know her secrets: she will never give up smoking. She would have crawled across Eastern Europe and fed that dog her own blood if she had to. And her mother’s secrets: she would have thought, at last, that you were safe with me. She hated men. Let me, then, acknowledge that last generation of the women of the enemy: they are a mystery to me. They would be a mystery even to my most liberal-minded friends. That’s not to say that the daughter, this new democrat, can’t be a handful. And sometimes noisy: One of those girls you see now (ice blue manicure, real diamonds and lots of DKNY) leans over from the next table and says, Can’t you ask your wife to hold it down? My wife? I suppose I should be insulted, but I think it’s funny. This is a dangerous woman they want to quiet here. A woman who could sew gold into the ragged lining of anybody’s coffin. Who knows that money does buy freedom. Who just this morning has obtained a cell phone with a bonus plan. She has it with her, and I believe she means to use it. Soon, she will be calling everyone, just to wake them up.
From Our Post Soviet History Unfolds by Eleanor Lerman, published by Sarabande Books. Copyright © 2005 by Eleanor Lerman. Used with permission. All rights reserved.