It was a winter afternoon and it’d been snowing for three days now. It was a little past midday, but in these parts of the world the sun just doesn’t care, the snow had been packed into natural balustrades by the sidewalk courtesy of poorly paid foreigners, exposing the ice paved pavement. The day was sabbath , it didn’t look holier than any day I had seen, in fact it was quite gloomy, but not the kind of gloom you’d associate with the end of the world . Fanatics would swear in Jesus’ name he’d be here any day now,( it has been theologized that swearing is sin) but not with those lazy cloud formations, it just didn’t have that intrisnic cataclysmic quality and the sky was shabby with a substitute teacher feel about it, like it was there just because it had to be.
I was walking with a student of mine, I was just done teaching a class, it was held in a veggie cafe. I was famished but I had decided this week I wasn’t having no falafel, nor tofu as meat replacement , nor was I gonna be eating brocolli shawarma. We were enroute a Столовая (Old soviet type canteens with Soviet type dishes)the kind of place where they don’t bother you with menus you just pick from the buffet what you want and pay in peanuts. Not that my friend was particularly interesteed in eating, he had just lost his weekly argument of where we should go after class he always argued in favor of his favorite coffee shop( never stepped there) or a place to grab good burger(managed to convince me once in his tab).
In big cities such as Saint Petersburg, the sidewalk is a battlefront, good thing most people who walk it are armed; with elbows, cold stares and the occasional observation of patience.
Walking down the infamous Nevskiy street we were absorbed in culture that didn’t matter if you lacked perception and a conversation about something that didn’t matter as long as were talking, we navigated the battlefront that is the winter sidewalk . On this front most people came armed; some with elbows,some cold stares and some with the occassional but highly effective patience. Our attention was drawn to a scene about 10 metres in front of us. What at first looked like figure skater doing tricks on the sidewalk, my brain would quickly rectify that twas in fact a b-boy breaking with ritual precision, i was drawn in by something so familiar yet so ancient in the way the feet moved.
Familiar because i had experienced this ritual and ancient because it was the most basic human instinct; survival. Of course he wasn’t dancing it was a Babushka struggling for balance on ice. Her wings of black fur were set loose in the air, the Wright brothers rolled in disappointment as she came crashing . Her fur coat flowing like the closing curtain to a glorious but painful show. The old woman was on the floor in a heap,I imagined the thud even though I didn’t hear it over the noise of the city. I tried to help but before I could make my way to her a man was helping her up. I got there just in time for her to be on her feet she must have been in her late sixties she had a Soviet red lipstick on, and i was surprised to see she had a huge smile on her face. She was smiling and brushing snow off her fur, I felt I should say something just to show some concern or to improve her mood so i said the most clichéd thing in the book. ( did anyone ever get around to writing the book btw) “все будет хорошо” ‘everythings gonna be fine’ she replied “я надеюсь” ‘I hope so’. So i walked on with my friend onward towards the столовая and the promise of meat.
But something about the whole scene made me uneasy and soon I figured what it was. It was the fact that the woman wasn’t just smiling she was indeed very happy, excited even maybe. I turned to my friend and said ” i think there’s an age you reach when a fall is actually an exciting event and you feel exhilarated”. My friend laughed and seemed to agree with me, but i can’t say for sure because i was lost in thought again. Thinking why are we so attracted to our own destruction?