“You Can Build A Real Life Here”
by Annah Feinberg
It’s just like, you can build a real life here? I’m not telling you you should move, I know you are just settling in and everything, you just got settled, but I’m just saying, ever since we moved to this side of town it’s just been, better? I can’t even explain it, it’s like. You know our old neighborhood, we could walk places? We would walk to that, what was it called? That dive bar, you know. Why can’t I remember the name of that place? Wow. It’s probably gone now anyway. Gentrification, whatever. But. Wow, I feel so old. Anyway, it’s kind of like that, it’s, you can almost – you can walk a few places is what I’m saying. So when you get settled, just start, you might want to think about maybe moving. Just food for thought, you know? Like, peruse the websites and whatnot. Peruse. Click on things, they have pictures of different places and you can just, imagine what your life would be like over here. Not that over there is that horrible. It’s fine, it’s functional. You have a Starbucks, you have, I don’t know, a Starbucks. But it’s not a life. It’s not a real life. We love it here. We LOVE it. So happy. It’s like, a real life. We’re like, grownups. We will probably die here. Ha. We probably will. Not actually die, I’m not talking about actually dying. I mean, we’re so young. But we all think about it sometimes, it’s a human universal, to think about one’s own mortality. It’s what separates us from – I mean – it doesn’t even separate us from – we all have fear, and what is that fear about except – how could fear be about anything else, when you really come down to it, right? Right? But really, we’re so happy. We picked the perfect place to live, and we decorated it perfectly. Shabby chic, I think, mostly. And we live there, we really live there. One Sunday, we walked over to the cafe near by, and we bought fresh bread and we made coffee in a french press and had hard boiled eggs from the farmer’s market and read the New Yorker, side by side, in print, we each had a copy of the same issue. It was like a dream, like a movie, like a fantasy, like France, like Europe. Not that you can’t do that where you are, but it’s not the same. It’s more corporate, more cookie-cutter. We only have one life, right? We only have one chance to. So. Just consider it. It would be so good for you. I miss you. I miss the old days. Even though we were miserable then. But moving here was the best thing. We were miserable then but I miss it somehow. We’ll never live there again probably, no one moves back, it’s somewhere you live when you are young. You’re just in an in-between place, I get that. You need that to get to where you are going to go, but maybe you should get to where you are going soon. Here. Be my neighbor. How great would it be if you were my neighbor, we could share sugar, it wouldn’t even be borrowing, it would be shared. You just don’t seem like a person who lives over there. Grad students live over there, people with certain types of shoes, you don’t live there, you don’t have those shoes. You belong here. You really do. I really miss you. I am miserable. I mean, I’m happy, so happy. We’re getting a divorce. We got a dog. My father is dying. I got a promotion. I got an abortion. I’m pregnant. I’m thriving. I’m flailing. I’m so glad you are going to move to this side of town. It will make everything better. It will. It will.
“The Spy Who Killed My Dog; or, 8 Tips On How To Survive in Russia”
by Rebecca Strong
If you are posted as a diplomat of a certain superpower to the Russian Federation, be aware. You will be watched. Day and night, night and day you will be watched. There’ll even be some evenings and afternoons when this will happen. Be mindful of your surroundings, but most importantly, learn to live in the world where your life is an open book.
Living under constant surveillance isn’t easy but it can be done. Here are some tips to help you along.
Tip 1: If you are male — especially the kind that’s going bald, has a beer belly, and is approaching his golden years — watch out for the blonds. And the brunettes. And the redheads. Be suspicious of young and beautiful Russian women with long legs, perfect bodies, and an inexplicable desire to date you. Or to introduce you to her best friend. The woman herself, her father, or her friend might be working for the FSB. In fact, they may all be working for them.
Tip 2: If you do become involved with a beautiful Russian woman, make sure you are not married. Because if you are, your wife will read about you in the local paper the very next day after you refuse to divulge top-secret information. She’ll be surprised to find out what sexual positions you fancy and how many times you did it with both men and women.
Tip 3: Your house will be searched. They’ll come when you are not there. Get used to it. Leave cookies on the table and hot coffee in the thermos. Don’t fuss over cigarette butts in the sink. They are just letting you know they were there. It’s very considerate of them, if you think about it. And, for Pete’s sake, don’t set traps. Don’t put buckets of water over doorways. It’s counterproductive.
Tip 4: In a rare instant you may walk in on them. Don’t panic. Act as if you haven’t seen anyone. Don’t greet them or worse yell at them for entering your house and violating your privacy. Remember you are in Russia where privacy does not exist. Also: Don’t pull on any wires protruding from walls, electrical outlets, or appliances. They are there for a reason. Your actions may interrupt transmission and bring in more house visitors. After all they’ll need to fix their equipment.
Tip 5: Don’t be surprised at the amount of attention you may receive in the spring in St Petersburg. You’ll probably be followed by at least two if not three people at once. The reason is simple. St. Petersburg is home to Russia’s spy school and students need to prepare for the finals. They want to get a good grade. Since the number of students far outnumbers the number of diplomats, sometimes they need to double or even triple up.
Tip 6: They know your financial standing. They can track all on-line payments you make, all debt you’ve accumulated, and all expenses you have. But don’t worry. No money will disappear from your bank account and your financial secrets will be safe with them. Unless, of course, you are in a financial distress. Then they’ll try to help you — in exchange for some secret information, of course. If you don’t agree, they will share your financial troubles with the world.
Tip 7: They will access your computer and break through passwords. Don’t fool yourself with the notion that you can outsmart them. The best hackers come from Russia and many of them are employed within the FSB. You are computer-illiterate in comparison to them. Give easy access. You already know they’ll be able to get whatever information they want, so why aggravate them?
Tip 8: And now to the last and most important point. Whatever you do, do NOT irritate them. Because they will pay you back. They’ll harass your family, follow you everywhere, and make it impossible to lead a life that resembles normal. If that’s not enough, they’ll poison your dog and leave a note hinting that they did it. It sounds cruel, I know. That’s why I encourage you to take what I say seriously. This isn’t a joking matter.
(Note: The author of this article does not own a dog, is not a diplomat, and has never been to Russia.)