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Feature Story March 6, 2002
 
Too Fast Times
By Matt Taibbi Browse author
 
Page 6 of 6
 
Sasha shrugged as he listened to her tell the story. "I would have done it," he said, laughing, "but her tits were too small."

He's got a few family problems. He's quarrelling with his parents, who are mad at him because a decision he made regarding his propiska that's going to cost them a room in their new apartment. This is the kind of absurdly brutal bureaucratic situation that wrecks lives in this country.

The deal is this: Sasha's parents live in an apartment building that's going to be torn down. The state is obligated to give them a new apartment. They would have been due a three-room apartment, except for one thing: since Sasha and Olga had a baby, they're considered their own family unit, not part of the same family. Now, instead of the extra room for Sasha, his parents are only going to get a two-room apartment. Because of this issue, the parents are no longer speaking to him, and won't even visit the baby.

Sasha didn't shake my hand when we met, but he forgave me pretty quickly, on the condition that I let him come by and trash my office at some point. If the next issue doesn't come out on time, that will probably be why.

 

Out of the four, Kira seems to be in the best situation.

I think I underestimated Kira. Two years ago, I thought she was headed for trouble. For one thing, she was constantly getting in fights. Not that this was necessarily a problem: she never lost any of them. The last time I'd seen her, she was flattening a kid named Slava outside the "Stimul" nightclub at Proletarskaya. She threw a right hand that night that was not a lot worse than the right Lennox Lewis threw last fall to knock Hasim "The Rock" Rakhman through the ropes in Las Vegas. She had an extremely short fuse and in her love life seemed to take things very hard. Of the four of them, she was the last one I expected to land on her feet.

Separated at Arrakeen?


Interest-rate-setting, hideously deformed U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan...

...and space-folding, horribly mutated Guild Navigator from David Lynch's "Dune"?

But this city favors the pugnacious. Kira's aggressive, domineering character has served her well. She got into the New Russian University in the Baumanskaya region, and was named a study group leader by her teachers. She's majoring in English now, in a pre-law program, but plans to switch in a few years to prepare for a career in tourism. "What's the point of law?" she says, and it's true, there aren't many real jobs in the profession. Tourism, however, is another story... She talks about a career in business and even for a person like me, completely lacking in commercial sensibility, it's hard not to recognize a natural managerial talent. She could easily end up as one of those success stories you see in Western news articles about Russia, travelling, holding down a paying job, having some extra money to spend on herself.

"The most important thing in this life is a hard-headed character," she says. "I have that. I think I'm going to be fine no matter what I do."

Kira had some very bad luck in her love life last year, a story that cannot be elaborated upon here, but even there, she seems to get her way. Her looks, her posture, her dress have all improved, and being a woman clearly agrees with her, whereas Ella looked better as a girl. Just last week, she said, a "fan" appeared at school.

"He's been after me for a week," she said. "Finally, I let him drive me home. When we got there, he said to me, 'Haven't I at least earned a kiss on the cheek?' So I said, 'Sure,' and just went like this." She closed her eyes and turned her head to the side, offering her left cheek. She laughed. "That took him off-guard. He was expecting me to kiss him on the cheek."

 

Kostya's trial on the 19th was going to be a reunion. It was going to be the first time since high school that all four were in the same room. Not that it would have meant anything in particular, but it might have been nice; Kostya acquitted or let off with time served, all four hugging in the courtroom. Once Kostya's best friend, Sasha had only recently decided to go. "He called me the other night," Sasha said last week. "He said, 'Do you recognize me?' And I was like, 'Of course I recognize you.'" Even with the tough-guy act, it was obvious that Sasha was happy to hear from Kostya, with whom he'd lost touch since he graduated ahead of him two years ago. "I'll go," he said. "I'll be there."

Kira's been in touch with Kostya throughout. She's been the one arranging for his phone cards, sharing with Carina the role of his liaison to the outside world. She is urging all of Kostya's friends to show up at the trial, and particularly pressured Sasha to be there. But now this thing with Ella has happened, and the trial is on the back burner. No one else is looking for Ella, so it's up to Kira to try to find her.

There's something about getting older, almost like a biological change in your relationship with the world. When you're fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, no matter what the situation, you're still growing and you're bigger than life. Then one day you wake up and life is bigger than you. When that day comes in this country, you'd better be ready. You can fall a long way.

I'll publish the verdict of Kostya's trial in the next issue. If there's anyone with any advice on what we can do with Ella when we find her, who knows of something like a women's shelter, for instance, please write to me at taibbi@exile.ru.

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