Russian Sketch 1

It’a been a month since I arrived to St. Petersburg in mid-September and started this fellowship at the Higher School of Economics. A month of big changes, of settling in, of all kinds of memorable moments (both good and bad), and — no matter how “local” I may be to this part of the world — of culture shock.

Throughout these weeks, in my mind, I kept outlining a comprehensive blog entry covering at least some of these things: changes, settling in, culture shock. But too many smaller one-act plays have taken place in the meantime. From now on, I’ll switch to (mostly) shorter sketches: they reflect the mosaic of the international-slash-Russian experience better than any longer text. At least at this time.

Longer texts tend to be more conclusive. It is just too early for that.

*

KoniushennaiaThe temperature has dropped rather suddenly. In a small, simple cafe on Bol’shaia Koniushennaia, I huddle with a coffee, having arrived too early for a rendezvous scheduled outside. A man asks permission to sit at my table (all others are taken).

The owner soon notices him and rushes over to kick him out. “You’re drunk!” she exclaims. “Come on, off you go.” He shivers in his thin dark jacket: “I’m sober. I swear. I’m just about to order something…” Eventually she departs with a threat to get a security guard. (Where?…)

For a while he sits very quietly, as if trying to be as small as possible. Then he sighs and looks over at me. “Don’t be afraid,” he says earnestly. “I’m harmless. Really. I am a warrior of light.”

… On my way out I get the warrior of light a cup of hot tea.

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