We meet twenty years later.
In Moscow. In front of the Peking Hotel, a hulking reminder of the days when Russia and China were friends, but competitors.
So far from a student apartment on Telegraph Avenue with bookcases made of cinder blocks and plywood.
He’s in an expensive, navy blue, wool overcoat; but I wore snazzy two-tone pumps.
Oh my god, you look exactly the same!
Oh my god, so do you!
So, what, you live in Moscow now?
Yeah, four years already.
Wow, that’s awesome. Chicago’s a great city, too. It really is.
OK, so what became of you after Berkeley?
I went to law school.
Really? Me too!
Yeah, I went to Harvard. Classmates with Barack Obama. Hahaha. How bout you? Where did you get your law degree?
Oh, well, y’know, I knew I was going to practice poverty law, so it didn’t make any sense to look at expensive schools. Legal aid work: it doesn’t pay anything and I don’t get to live in Moscow, but I feel good about what I’m doing. Helping people.
Yeah, that’s god’s work.
And, you’re married, right?
Twenty years now. What about you? You never got married?
No, never did. There are lots of beautiful women in Moscow.
Right. That’s very true.
You know, I’m never moving back to the U.S. It’s so boring.
I have two children.
So, I’ve seen a lot of theater since I got here. Last night I saw the visiting production of Hamlet at the Moscow Art Theater.
Sure. I saw it on Friday!
I’ve been keeping a blog for a few months now. Trying to write a little bit about this Russia obsession we have.
Really? Interesting. I’m thinking of writing a book about Khodorkovsky.
This is it. I’ve been saving my strength.
I lean in close, and almost in a whisper, I say: I’m amazed that museums in Russia are still charging foreigners higher entrance fees, but (can you believe it?) I guess my Russian is still OK, because I haven’t been charged the foreigner’s rate once since I got here.
Friday night, he says, I was at the theater. It was packed. At curtain call I bolted for the coat check. I think I knocked a couple of people down along the way. The babushka checking coats said to me: At first, judging by your clothes, I thought you were a foreigner, but then you behaved so rudely, that I decided you were one of ours.
I slink back to my corner.