It takes over an hour to cross Moscow by car, and a bus of American students sit quietly in traffic.  They come from the airport and they had trouble with customs and they are very tired.  It is almost silent.  Outside, the long, red wall of the Kremlin abuts the river.  The students find it very beautiful, or are dissapointed, or are asleep.  On the street a woman, tall and Russian, hails a taxi.  Next to her an old lady, with a scarf over her hair, is waiting to cross.  There are many cars; somtimes the bus does not move for a long time, but the students simply wait and watch.  Eventually they reach the dormotory.

Later, upstairs three of them lie on their beds.  The room is very small: there is only space for two parallel beds and a third at their foot.  The Americans lie flat, with their limbs spread out and hanging over the side.  The window is open, and from the street there is the sound of metal and spitting and slavic words.

Inside the room though, it is very silent, and this quietude is mysterious for these Americans who have only just met and who have talked all their lives.  They are very careful to be quiet when they move.

Some black birds fly by, and one student understands what was said on the street, and the room is filled with joy and wonder.  A great splash of hope rises form the belly and is spewed in magnificient, radiant sploches of neon rainbow all about the drab and soviet walls.

Land of the dark forest! Land of Empire, of the great flat steppe, of their black horsemen, nomads with daggers, of tundra and, in the far east, volcanoes.  Land of literature and vodka, of Blok and Pasternak, of Tolstoi andDostoevski; of romance, of Aleksandr Sergeivitch Pushkin.  Mysterious, hopeless land of gulag and orthodoxy and spiritual exstasy.  I come to you , my love, moya lyubov!  I burrow into you, to understand you, to know you, and deep in the cold of your Siberian winter to find myself in loneliness and poverty.  The room beats victorious Russian verse the student learned by heart.

Next door, a light turns off and a Russian curses, and the second American, who lies beside the first, moans silently in agony.  What blight of all that is beautiful and intelligent and cultural has reached this sad land? The drab and Soviet walls are silent.  What promise and hope was there?  God is mighty and terrible.  Who is to blame, What is to be done? Was it vodka?  Curse the vodka, slayer of hopes, curse the empty words, the ruined, decaying infrastructure, the polluted lakes.  Curse the new russians and their money.  Why have I come to you, desperate land? Why have I entered a sacred covenant with you: to learn you, to understand your words, you who hold nothing sacred? And years of my life! Gone, to be wasted away in this provincialism, bored and comical as a Chekhov character.  The student moans again, but the walls do not answer.

And the third American sits very still, and hears nothing and sees nothing, and is only filled with an empty, endless sorrow and knows that nowadays you can travel anywhere you like.

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