A World of Speculation

This one is in honor of my daughters, who came to America from Russia nine years ago Feb. 2.

Find your way in a strange city

Mila took me to the subway station. She handed me some plastic tokens and told me where I needed to get off.

I had never been on a subway before, having spent my life in small American cities, where the closest thing to public transportation was a wheezing, belching bus. I had heard about subways, though, had seen the movies showing knife-wielding punks tossing switchblades from left hand to right and back. Years later, I would ride a new York subway and not see any knife-wielding punks, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all, but that would be partly because I had crossed Moscow by subway.

It was Sunday morning. I was surprised at how clean the station was, with its tiled walls in mosaic designs of blue and beige. There’s much you don’t see in a strange place. Small details, like what the people were wearing or how they walked, elude you by as you sound out, letter by letter, the unfamiliar script. When the train came, I was thankful that the numbers were the same as ours, I stepped aboard and found a seat. A silence settled over the car, broken occasionally by the garbled and incomprehensible announcements of the next stop. There was no conversation. Some people read; others set their eyes on a distant horizon and rode. I put my entire concentration into listening to the driver and into counting the stops. When I came to the correct number, I checked it against the sign, summoning all my faith, hope and Cyrillic to match it with the destination Mila had told me.

I stepped off the car and climbed the stairs into the Moscow winter.