The center of Moskva was the stage. The outskirts were backstage, and when I met my troupe at the foot of monuments, that was rehearsal. When we went to other cities, we were a traveling show. In the actual theater, the cramped balcony where we nearly always sat, to save money, was the tsar’s elegant box. In the rails of the streetcars I saw lines of tapes marking the stage for ballerinas. In one church there stood an enormous container for holy water, which I took for a samovar.
On the train between Moscow and Kiev, I asked the conductor for a kitchen knife, and he refused, saying, Девушки нерные, могут кого-то зарезать - Girls are hysterical, they might knife someone to death. When I sent a boy in my stead, the conductor cheerfully lent us the knife.
In Lviv we dined at an eatery called “Flowers-on-the-ruins;” its walls were papered with Polish newspapers from the turn of the century. We spent the night in a hostel without heat. Before bed we played Russian Scrabble, crammed around the table in our coats. The next day a city employee locked us into the tower of the City Hall, allowing us an hour for the round-trip climb and bird’s eye photography from its crown. We worried he would forget us. It would have been compositionally sound, had he done so. Whether or not he did is ultimately decided here, by the narrator, who is, for all intents and purposes, a finished man.
В русской столицы полночь. Приветы всем, кто меня узнал. - It is midnight in the Russian capital. A shout out to those who have recognized me.