The Death of Communism
A year or so after the Wall came down, I paid a brief visit to Moscow. The first thing I noticed was that the taxi drivers in Moscow, always masters of small talk, were repeating themselves.
“Where are you from?” a taxi driver would ask.
“Has Communism bit the dust there?”
“It is still holding on…”
“Well, here it is dead!” taxi driver after taxi driver would boast.
The taxi drivers tried to convince me that Communism had bit the dust, but in the cafeteria of Hotel Belgrad, I waited patiently in a long “Communist” line for my first morning coffee. Some guy spoke up behind me hoarsely:
“Devushka, let me buy you an eklerchik.”
“A what?” I asked.
“A little ‘ekler’ for you, a little cognac for me…”
The man waiting in line had kindly offered to buy me an eclair, a sad little pastry, the product of a Communist conveyer belt. Of course the display case had nothing else to offer. Touched by the sight of the squished little pastry behind the glass, nostalgic in advance for the vanishing of the landscapes of everyday Communist life long before they actually disappeared, and softened by the use of the Russian diminutive, I agreed to share the table with the stranger. I sipped at my weak coffee. The man nursed his 250 grams.
“Devushka, who are you, anyway?” asked the fellow.
“Me? A writer.”
“Wow, I have met many women in my life, whores and boozers, but never a woman writer!”
“ And you, who are you?”
“Me!? I am an alcoholic,” the fellow said courteously.
The alcoholic told me how he had sworn many years ago that he would live until he’d seen Communism dead.
“Only then will I be able to go peacefully to my grave…”
“Well? Isn’t it dead, now?” I asked.
“I’ll be sticking around another year or so…. Just to make sure,” said the self-proclaimed forensics expert.