Finally after some more time, they have opened the door. I took my belongings and they walked me to very head of prisoners' line. I squatted as others. Then the convoying officers, looking like medieval knights, arrived. Why medieval knights? Because they were wearing so many heavy clothes, they were barely able to move.
I stood up. I reported my name, my crimes. Red-faced knight hurled, "Why that hair of yours!" (Because I had long hair and beard.)
Office warden of our Prison No. 2 murmured something into the ear of red-faced. "Yes, no problem!" said red-faced. "Go!" said he to me.
I got my belongings and have run to a prisoners car. "Run," because they were screaming: "Run, run!" So I got first to the car, I got a place in the end of one of two confinements. As I proved later, I was best of possible places. Packed as sardines in a can we were nevertheless happy. Any place would be better than prison N2. Most of us have dreamed to be transferred to building N3, in Saratov itself, of Saratov's Central Prison. Because building No. 3 was special building for serious criminals. Because of that, regime of building No. 3 wasn't severe, anyway inhabitants will be sentenced to heavy punishments. I have many chances to be relocated to No. 3, as I was previously held in No. 3.
Traveling at night, packed as sardines, 23 men at all, 12 in our confinement, 11 inside of other confinement, was uncomfortable. We were squashed, cold, but happy anyway. Then I suddenly realized that all "civilized" world is celebrating now. That is the Christmas time, the night from 24 to 25 December!
"You know," I said to a thin man, scrambled at my left shoulder, you know, tonight is a Catholic Christmas!
"What is Christmas?" asked he.
"The day when Jesus Criste was born," said he.
"Tonight?" he asked.
"Exactly," said I.
"Good," he said.
He was polite, everybody are polite in prison, except wardens. Prison is a place where etiquette reigns supreme.
I thought about all my Christmas nights, all twenty of them, celebrated in glorious capitals, in New York and in Paris: Seasons of Greetings...about skating rink at Rockefeller Plaza with huge Christmas tree above it, "jingle bells" near Sak's and Bloomingdale's, of aroma from roasting chestnuts...Oh Jesus Criste! I always thought that I was unhappy in New York, but now from inside of a prisoner's car, speeding on evening Asiatic road to Saratov, I understood that I was happy in New York. And I thought about my Paris Christmases... Sometimes I have been busy with writing on Christmas nights, because my former wife Natasha was occupied, she was singing at night clubs. I would write, then at midnight I would drink a glass of wine, hearing claxoning from the Paris streets, because French always claxoning on Christmas nights, and at night of a New Year...
Few hours later I was entering "quarantine cell" of Saratov's Central Prison. Usually "quarantine cell" is a place of torture for a new arrived prisoners. But in my case, senior of "quarantine" named "Dima Furious" have ordered tea for me.
"Tonight is a Christmas Night, isn't it?" said he.
Seniors of cells usually are recruited amongst prisoners with a high IQ.
"Yes," I confirmed, "Christmas Night."
In the morning I was driven to "my" cellblock Number 3, the object of desire for every prisoner of Saratov's region.
Happy New Year! -- Edward Limonov