Tom Wagenmakers 2018-11-22
Another Fairytale from Russia

Again, a new day begins. It’s not the first time I am taking the night train to Saint Petersburg, and the morning light through the window shines on my face again, waking me up. My body slightly rocks with the movement of the train – a pleasant feeling, one only people who slept on Russian trains can understand. I look out of the window and see trees. We’re getting closer, but there’s still quite way to go. I look at my phone. Of course it’s silent, it’s disconnected. There is no service here in the forest. These forests, where so many battles raged on, from Napoleon to Hitler, again and again. I think of all the people that fought here, every man for himself. I look at the sun, and it seems no more than a dream to me.


Then, finally, here I am. I’m walking along the streets, with a rain pouring down on me that seems to come from a machine gun. Autumn sweeps through the streets, the trees lost their leaves, or no, not all of them: some of them still have a few orange or brown left on their branches. A wall of clouds that looks like it’s made from bricks hovers above us, giving the already grey buildings an even more gloomier feeling. The rain fills the canals, and in the many churches along Nevsky Prospekt the lights are being ignited. It’s getting dark. Now the warm street lights are on, causing the trees on the streets to cast long shadows. Now missing their leaves, the shadows cast by the branches have strange shapes, as if they fell ill with some kind of plague. It’s a plague that already settles itself in the trees in the spring, when the new leaves start to grow. They grow, only to be cast away in autumn again. As I walk along to the end of the street towards the islands, the wind gains more power, tearing the last leaves from the trees. The leaves fly over the streets, waving to me haughtily. I walk on, hurrying towards a café to catch some heat. 


I enter the café, completely soaked. I sit down and order some coffee. It’s an old café, made in European style, and a waiter just got the fire going in the old-fashioned fireplace. A pleasant warmth slowly starts to fill the café, and I don’t even notice the coffee that a waitress puts on the table in front of me. I’m looking outside. The rain is beating down on the windows, and people are hurrying down the streets. Some people wave to a taxi and get in, anxious to just get out of the rain. Traffic starts to fill the streets. I sit like this for a while, and then notice the coffee in front of me. I take a sip, and then she comes. Clean up, she says, let’s go. Puzzled, I look at her. I remember her from somewhere, but I can’t place it right now. Give the body back to the earth, she says. I look at her again, and then I find myself saying that the body did not finish yet, that just a little more is needed. And, I add, well, the body did not give enough love. She looks at me for a while, then she leaves. From the window I see her walking away through the rain. Crossing the street, she disappears between the people hurrying through the rain. The rain unforgivingly beats on. I follow a drop of water as it trickles down the window, one of the thousands. A strange affair…


I stay in the café some longer. After I finish my coffee, I order some tea. It’s completely dark outside now, and the raindrops blur the lights of the cars stuck in the traffic jam that always chokes the road at this time. I look at the tea in my hands, then I look back at the window. Suddenly, I see something that was not there before. On the screen of the window a fairy tale with an unhappy ending is written. A strange fairy tale…