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Unfiled March 20, 2003
Escape from Tynda
By Jake Rudnitsky Browse author Email
Page 5 of 6
The next thing I knew, I was shaken awake by a friend's girlfriend, telling me some girl wants to meet me. Within half an hour, I was heading home with Dasha, a 16-year-old who dreams of moving to America. She seemed sober, although I wasn't in any position to judge. In bed, she tried to get me to act out the whole fake rape thing, but I was too wasted to even try. So we settled for more conventional sex. The following morning, I woke up in time to see Dasha off to school.

It was my last evening in Tynda and I'd already packed everything. My article had been filed, my tickets bought, and I had recently gotten rid of everything that Misha - the junkie I wrote about last issue - hadn't used and was feeling just fine. I was going home.

The doorbell rang. It'd been several days since I'd opened it to strangers, but now, with everything packed and samogon the only incriminating substance around, I decided to take a risk. Even if it was the FSB, it's not like he wouldn't let me leave. He'd won.

It was Misha and his wife. Misha was jonesing hard and wanted a fix. The wife looked much healthier. Apparently, he hadn't believed me earlier when I told him that I flushed it. I told him again I didn't have anything for him. He only stayed a few minutes.

Ah, solitude... bliss. I hadn't slept or eaten in about two days. I planned on nodding in and out of consciousness all night, reflecting on my imminent escape. I knew it wouldn't be easy - 17 hours on a train to Blagaveshensk and then an 11 flight to Moscow via Irkutsk while crashing. But the nod had already kicked in and I wasn't particularly worried.

Then the doorbell rang again. This time it was a surprise visit from Dasha, the 16-year-old, who wanted to say goodbye. I couldn't have looked good - three days of stubble, sunken cheeks, eyes lolling somewhere in the back of my skull. But she still spent the night. I would nod off and wake up to snippets of her questions. A few I remember were, "Would everything be different if I was 18," and "Would a guy like you ever marry a girl like me?"

I was blunt: no. She told me that she'd wait for me, however long it took. I told her not to. She claimed to have broken up with her boyfriend.

Everyone in Tynda wanted out. They escaped through violence, self-destruction, or by farming themselves out to a rank American junkie. It was all one and the same. And I was about to get it.

When I got on my train the next day, I slept for the entire ride. Nearly 17 hours, interrupted half way through just long enough for an Imovane to kick in.

Waiting for me in Blagaveshensk was an acquaintance that was supposed to give me 3000 rubles. Which, of course, he didn't have.

The problem was that I had made several hundred dollars of bad loans in Tynda. The only loans that ever got repaid were the ones for 10 rubles, enough for a pack of smokes. Not that I really cared about getting my money back, just as long as I got enough to pay the cab in Moscow. So my biggest debtor promised me his friend in Blaga would cover for him.

At least he showed up. I only had about a hundred rubles to my name, so I was pretty much completely at his mercy. There were several hours to kill before the plane, which we spent doing nothing. Then, two hours before the plane was to leave, he suddenly had several errands to run. By the time we pulled up to the airport, I'd missed registration. But they let me on, without even x-raying my computer.

The flight was uneventful; I sat next to some aging trophy wife, who was returning home to Qatar after a month of "drinking vodka" in her native Khabarovsk, and her escort. She kept calling me George Michael and bought all the cognac onboard. We got drunk on the Irkutsk leg, had to go through a real security screen, and slept it off on the way to Moscow.

Moscow's well-lit, towering apartment blocks had never seemed so impressive, even attractive. My cab driver from Domodedovo had actually spent three months building the BAM in the early 80s. He said that even back then everyone knew the project was doomed. "Trains would arrive from the west full of supplies and return empty," he said. "The officials just thought it up to line their pockets."

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