(or A Letter To The Editor of "Ochevidnoe-Neveroiatnoie")
Translated by Galina Aniakina
Forgive me! Forgive me for I am a sinner! Forgive me for writing this letter only now, 3 weeks later... Oh, damn it, how difficult it is to type Russian letters in English print (for the keyboard is still American here!) I had to spend a quarter of an hour to paint my keyboard. O.K., enough of lyrical digressions and apologies.
The way it happened. Everything in succession. On January 20, this year, late at night, I put all my belongings into one big suitcase and fell asleep. I can't say I was happy before leaving, - that's why, perhaps, I managed to fall asleep only at 1a.m. (besides, the phone kept ringing and ringing- thanks that you didn't forget to say "good-bye" to me... by the way, who was the last one?.. Oh, yes, Sveta Vysotskaya called; the last, separate individual thanks goes to her for that). Early in the morning I drank some tea, swallowed a dozen meat dumplings (rather chewed them thoroughly, because I had no appetite as well as no desire to fly to far away distant lands). I called a taxi (the taxi driver spent much time grumbling when he found out that we had to go to "Minsk-2": "It's been a long... peep... time since I was a... beep... "svoi" (i.e. "private" - rus.) own cabman... beep... and it should necessarily have been me... beep... Didn't you tell her where you're going?!.."), came to the airport, boarded the plane, and it started: take-off - feeding - waiting - landing - take-off - ... And all that three times!!! For I was flying via Warsaw and Paris. In Paris they seated me in a Boeing 777. At first I got lost in it, but then the hostess politely asked me for my ticket, looked at the place noted on it and pointed: "c'est la" .
I came to New York surprisingly quickly. What was fun: I left in the evening - and came to New York, JFK that very evening! And they say that we're behind America. Where are those 7 hours that my life became longer?
At first my luggage was lost, but in half an hour it was brought to my feet. During the time I was standing near the conveyor belt I saw several times the bags clinging to some nail... and suddenly one got stuck - it was cracking and cracking, ... and I imagined that my luggage might be missing for the same reason, when I got hold of my suitcase, started out on the right road. The bag, however, was so heavy, that I obviously couldn't cope with the task alone - but here one more sympathetic passenger ran up, and... It fell to pieces! Oh God, how happy I would be if this had happened in Minsk airport... but this is America! Be it free or not, but in this country one can be arrested for such things! I immediately jumped aside not to seem involved in the incident. And what do you think happened after that? Nobody even cared to bend down and help me pick up the belongings, scattered all over the floor! "And these are American morals," I thought (I had more opportunities for these thoughts later...) Some attendant ran up, threw the stuff into a tub, and took the homeward road. "Well...", - I thought again. "The show must go on"!
I was put into some Buick, and we speeded away through all New York to its main (but not the biggest) part - Manhattan - where I had had a hotel room reserved. "We were driving, could hardly keep our eyes open",- the cabman was talking about his first visit to New York, - "almost asleep, and suddenly... Manhattan lights!.." It was almost the same for me - I was stunned by the picture... But a bit later more about it. They say it's better to see everything with your own eyes.
The next morning, Saturday, when all normal people (and you in particular) were going to bed, I opened my eyes because of the wailing of the wind outside my window (on the 32 floor, not far from the ocean). I quietly brushed up the recollections about my mission and tried to call my new boss. However hard I tried, whatever codes I dialed, whatever the Front Desk advised me, I couldn't reach his home! How could they have known that I was a stranger there and was completely unaware of the fact that to make a non-local call I had to dial "1"! Probably, even an infant knows about it here, that's why they forgot.
My job! I can't say what was stronger: my curiosity and interest or dejection and regret for the lost untroubled days. Probably, the feelings were equal. However, when I heard the usual Russian obscene language, the melancholy was dispelled by morbid interest. What was that?! Aha! 75% of all the employees were Russian! That's nice! Although, frankly speaking, as one would go along Brighton Beach and... No! We decided to go step by step.
The first three weeks at work passed in a blur. What can I say? I got my Social Security Card, checking account, apartment, furniture and everything else you can't live without here. Even though in total I spent about $3000, everything here seemed like anywhere else... almost like anywhere else. And this day I would sleep in my new empty apartment, where one can hear every rustle of the neighborhood, which is inhabited by cockroaches and people like me. I think that'll do for today! I am bowing low and sending you my best regards from the core of the World Trade Center. Oh, yes, one more thing - yesterday morning we had an explosion in Wall Street! Cool! I was glad for the sake of the whole American nation...