Bus No. 122 was going down Belvederska Street. The passengers sat in silence. Of late, people tend to sit in silence on buses. None of the arguments, none of the jokes you used to get. The bus halted sharply at a crossing but even that failed to provoke a comment. A ribbon of army transporters and lorries stretched out in front of us while the bus waited. Guns wobbled under tarpaulins. A Gazik brought up the rear. As soon as the convoy had passed, the bus moved forward cautiously over the icy asphalt. It passed the ‘colony’, a row of buildings of differing heights surrounded by a wall, housing Russian diplomats and advisers.

‘Walled themselves in, the Russkis!’ said a nondescript young man in a fur hat which had seen better days. ‘Must be afraid of an attack.’ His voice was surprisingly loud and penetrating. He ended with a crazy sort of giggle.

A few passengers looked at the walled quarters. Nobody spoke.


Fragments of a Lament for Thelonious Monk
Rayme - A Memoir of the Seventies