On the morning of her departure to the US, she got up at 5 a.m. The luggage was packed days in advance, so there was nothing really left to do but take a shower and to have breakfast.
“I can’t believe you’re leaving me,” Alexander said. “I can’t fucking believe it.”
“It’s fine,” Tanya responded airily. “You will survive. Don’t forget tomorrow you have this trip to Ashdod with Sharansky. Can you imagine? You will have a VIP treatment and all the bells and whistles you can eat.”
“You’re my wife. How can you leave me here alone with all these Jews?”
“Alex, I can’t deal with this anymore. Just think, you’re a bachelor now, you’re free. You have no responsibilities for others, just for yourself. Have fun. Live a little. You went from high school to the Army, from the Army to the Academy, and into marriage. Man up and try to learn to live on your own. Plus, it’s only two years. I will be back with a degree and better English.”
“Don’t come back. I won’t take you back if you return.”
“That’s good to know. No expectations, no disappointments.”
She kissed him on the cheek one last time, and rolled her suitcase out of the door on the street. A bus showed up on the side of Carmel mountain and came bearing down the road, gleaming in the sun like an oversize beer-can on wheels. Shaking and swaying side to side an old city bus took her downtown to the harbor, where the intercity bus terminal had been located. She got a ticket to the airport and found a seat preparing to wait for almost an hour, but unexpectedly ten minutes later a bus showed up. It was actually two hours late on its schedule, but an hour earlier for a bus Tatyana was aiming to catch.
This lax attitude to time and a broad interpretation of schedules that was a norm in Israel gave a slight aftertaste of adventure to everyday life. What can be more exhilarating than taking a day off work, an intercity bus ride, a taxi cab ride to the Ministry of Internal Affairs office in Tel Aviv, only to discover a note on the door that office was unexpectedly closed for the day due to the party to celebrate the birth of a secretary’s baby? Nothing, unless you count an instance of coming to the airport on time for your flight only to discover that your flight had already departed and that your only option is to take a charter flight with a stop at the place marked on the departure board as ‘HEL.’
After Tatyana boarded a bus, she discovered it to be carrying a battalion of so of TZAHAL soldiers. She looked over in search for a seat, but saw the tops of soldiers’ heads and barrels of their automatic guns all the way to the back on the bus. The seats upfront were, however, empty and she took one next to the window. She was joined by a middle aged man in a white dress shirt, tucked into jeans. Not to be outdone, he had a holster around his solid midsection with a brown handgun inside.
The three hour ride to the airport was uneventful. They made a stop at the central station in Tel Aviv, where most soldiers left, and picked up several civilians. They stopped at the Elvis Presley themed cafe, a tourist trap, but the only chance to take a leak before embarking on the last long leg towards Jerusalem.
An Israeli next to her bought a sandwich at the Elvis cafe, wolfed it down standing outside, and then fell asleep slumped in his chair, pressing into Tanya with his broad round shoulder. He woke up only once, when a young tall skinny soldier nodded off and dropped a huge gun off his lap and into the aisle. Despite the carpeting the gun landed with an unexpectedly loud metallic thud, and lost its magazine and most of its bullets which flew between the seats and along the aisle. Everyone on the bus got up to help the soldier, red with embarrassment and with tears in his eyes, to look for bullets. Everyone got up, with the exception of Tanya and the man next to her, who just looked back briefly, but made no effort to assist.
She watched round hills pass by, some gray, some charred black after recent wild fires and thought about how she actually liked Israel and understood its people without sharing any of their fears and aspirations. What she would never do was try to insert herself into its life and politics with her opinions about them. She would never express any criticism of how Israelis lived their everyday existence; she would never mock or insult their national character and the dynamics of their society. The most she would say was that Israel was a young and unsettled country of immigrants who didn’t know how to handle themselves after coming here driven by mistaken identity, or direct Zionist propaganda. It’s hard to decide to immigrate, but once you do and you go through this whole soul-wrenching process, it’s almost impossible to admit that you were wrong and that you got yourself trapped.
If you make one mistake and keep persisting in it, you go forward making many other mistakes, unless the true reason for your very first mistake rears its ugly head to consume you at last. The Torah states that God exiled the Jews and forbade them to have a state, but to be patient in exile, honor the rules of the country they live in and not to own land. I dare them to come up with a New Torah with God saying “fine, guys, you bent me to your iron will. I give up. Go ahead forget everything I’ve said before and have a good time.”
She has never thought of herself of being an immigrant, but a traveler. She wasn’t an immigrant, she was an explorer, like those Russian sailors who explored the Western shore of the American continent with their two ships Yunona and Avos and had built a fort on the river in California they dubbed Russian River.
They passed Jerusalem, and on the approach to the airport their bus was flagged down at the gate by a couple of the security officers. One went to talk to the driver, while the other stood outside, not far from Tanya. He was wearing a sand colored security guard uniform, a black gun holster and a black military issued hat. With his perfect Roman profile, dark eyes and desert wind patched lips he looked like one of Michelangelo’s creations come to life. Sometimes you get a glimpse of people who truly make you think of the possibility of time travel. Speaking of time, she was really glad she got to catch an earlier bus considering all those unexpected stops. It came to the point that even a man traveling next to her got fed up and went outside to take a part of a very animated conversation. Israelis talk with their hands, and they rather shout at each other than talk. So, when you see a group of Israeli men shouting at each other and waving their hands in the air, you know it’s a friendly conversation. Maybe that’s why it’s so difficult to negotiate with them because when someone talks to Israelis in a calm voice, with laconic hand jesters and looking them straight into their eyes, they perceive it as a threat and take defensive postures.
Almost a quarter of an hour passed before their bus was given a green light. It took off, slowly passing a guard.
The Ben Gurion airport was beautiful. The first time Alex, Tanya and their daughter arrived to Israel it was in the middle of the night, and they were so tired and preoccupied with their move, that they didn’t notice much at all. Now, in the daylight with its walls dressed in cream colored limestone and surrounded with hedges of rose bushes and palm trees, with large gold tinted windows and doors, it emanated wealth and power that Tanya has not quite noticed anyplace else in Israel. “Maybe I missed something,” she thought. “Old City of Jerusalem sort of looked like this.” After the bus stopped, she waited to get her suitcase from a compartment under the bus, then entered a large departure area that was even more beautiful inside with a water fountain in the middle and raised flower beds along the walls with a multitude of live, blooming flowers of dizzying colors.
For a moment she even felt like calling her husband and asking him why they would ever leave the airport in the first place, they should just stay and live here. She then remembered that they had parted their ways forever, and that there would be no more exchange of sarcastic remarks, cultural references and inside jokes.
She was three hours early for her flight, but it didn’t bother her at all. She thought about checking her luggage in and then going to shop at the duty-free, then having lunch at the cafe with the windows overlooking the runways. Tanya was looking forward to reading Emanuel Swedenborg’s book on theology to refresh her memory so she could speak with the locals upon arrival.
She found a line to the luggage check-in and stood patiently behind a bunch of elderly American tourists in ridiculous pastel colored wrinkled pants paired with Bermuda shirts. A uniform that only tourists would wear for fast identification.
“…identification, please. Excuse me ma’am.”
Tanya’s tourist watching was brutally interrupted by a petite woman with a mane of shiny curls and a matronly type of body.
“You passport and tickets, please.”
As it turned out it wasn’t actually a line, and the airport workers walked right up to you, instead of waiting for you at the gates.
Tanya opened her purse and got a long envelope with her international passport, a Teudat Zehud, and tickets inside. She handed it to the woman and watched her rummaging through her papers.
“Oh?” The woman tilted her head a bit. “I see you have a student visa to the United States here. Is that where you are going?”
“Yes,” Tanya nodded and smiled warmly.
“Why?” the woman asked less friendly, reading and re-reading Tanya’s visa.
“I’m going to college. I am talking a Master’s Program.”
“Yes.” Tanya said.
“Your English is very good.”
“Thank you,” Tanya said.
“Why do you want to study more?”
People with suitcases and children were moving around them.
“Because,” Tanya explained with great patience, “An advanced degree from an American college will allow me to get a position as a college professor.”
The customs officer acted like she didn’t hear her.
“What is this place, the New Church Theological School? Do you know anyone there?”
“It’s a university somewhere in Pennsylvania.”
“Do you know anybody there?”
“Yes and no. I have met two old men from there in Moscow, and I have met an old lady here. I don’t know if I will meet them again.”
“You said that you have met her here? Where? When?”
“About six months ago. In Tiberias. She came here as a tourist.”
“Are you traveling alone? You’re married. Where is your husband?”
“I’m traveling alone. My husband stays here.”
Someone walked between them, and the female customs officer asked if it was okay with Tanya if they would move closer to the wall and away from the noisy crowd of tourists. Tanya saw no objections to this proposal.
“Have you packed your luggage herself?” asked the custom officer once they moved closer to the limestone lined wall.
“Yes.” Tanya said.
“Do you mind if we go into this next room and take a brief look at it?”
Israeli airport security is notoriously difficult, though when they were arriving as immigrants from Russia, no one even looked at them or talked to them. They could bring a missile for all intents and purposes, no one would care.
The female officer took possession of her suitcase and rolled it into a room as Tanya followed her. It was a fairly large room with a single plastic chair in the middle, a long metal table, and large floor to ceiling whitened out windows, so as to allow light in but block the view out.
The customs officer plopped her suitcase on the metal table, unzipped it and started taking out its contents and laying it out on the table. Tanya watched with slight amusement how this woman was taking out her t-shirts, jeans, a pack of socks and a pack of panties all brand new with an expression of reprehension and even disgust. She fished out a plastic bag with toiletries and dumped its contents on the table letting makeup cases and tampons rolling along the table. She had grunted in disgust again.
Preoccupied with trying to solve the mystery of her behavior, Tatyana didn’t notice a newcomer, a short stout male officer, pale, with balding round head. With flaxen blond hair and eyebrows, and pale blue eyes, he looked almost like an albino.
“What’s that?” he asked, pointing at two objects in the corner of Tanya’s suitcase.
A female officer with copper red hair that had showed up with him grabbed the objects and brought them to the light. Three of them made a tight circle, intensely studying something they in all probability had never seen before.
“What is this?” a male officer turned to Tanya holding one object in each of his hands.
“These are…” Tanya stopped for a moment trying to find the right name for the objects. “Jerusalems.”
“What?!” asked a male officer raising his voice, as if he found it so hard to believe. “What did you say?”
“These are two sterling silver Jerusalems. They are souvenirs… from… Jerusalem.”
“Is this a symbol of sorts of two Jerusalems… Of Jerusalem divided in two parts?” Everyone froze and the officer approached Tanya holding the silver egg shaped souvenirs like hand grenades.
“No,” Tanya said very carefully, as she would if she talked to a madman. “There is one city of Jerusalem. You, sir, are holding two identical souvenirs from the city of Jerusalem. So, there is just one city, but two souvenirs.”
“Why do you have two of them?”
“To give to people as gifts.”
“You’re lying. You said that you don’t know anyone there!” said a woman with black hair.
“That’s not what I said,” Tanya recalled the beginning of this bizarre encounter. “I said that I have met a couple of people from there, but I don’t know if I will ever see them again. These gifts are for someone special, so I would have something nice to give.”
“These are expensive gifts,” offered her “knowledge of the art market” a woman with copper heir.
“I wanted people there to have a piece of Jerusalem. It’s beautiful. Nothing is wrong with this. It’s a very nice gift.”
“It’s too nice for people you don’t know.”
“That’s your opinion.”
Suddenly, someone tapped Tanya on her shoulder; she spun around to see a woman with black hair behind. “Take your shoes off,” she commanded. Tanya took her flats off and stepped aside. A female officer wearing white latex gloves reached for them, brought them up to the table and got out from somewhere a long thick needle. “We are going to pierce your shoes with this needle.” She said. “Do you have anything to say?”
“I don’t know what people usually say in this situation?” Tanya looked at them for guidance, but three of them just stared at her with blank expressions. After a brief silence a male officer suggested that she could express her objections, if she had any.
“Objections to what?” Tanya still couldn’t understand what exactly they wanted her to say.
Finally, the male officer decided to clear out some air, “We think you carry explosives in your shoes.”
“You what?”…She paused for a moment coming to terms with the gravity of the situation. “I don’t want to dwell on the word “think” that you just have used. You probably simply don’t understand its meaning. Please, be more careful next time picking out English words.”
“Why?” a male officer asked flatly, his eyes almost disappeared under clam-like eyelids.
“Because, she is holding weightless flats with paper-thin soles. To suggest that they could possibly contain explosives is simply unprofessional for someone like you.”
“Is that so?” Hmmm…” he looked Tanya up and down as if seeing her at the first time.
“Am I right to understand that you don’t mind us probing your shoes?”
“Knock yourself out…I don’t care. These are cheap shoes, anyway.”
A female officer pierced Tanya’s shoes several times. Nothing had happened.
While Tanya watched this spectacle, another woman kept rummaging through her underwear and toiletries. “What’s that,” she asked picking up individually wrapped panty liners. They are from the US. How did you get them? We don’t have them here.”
“I know. A lady from the New Church community was kind enough to bring me some.”
“But, you just said that you have never met her before?”
“That’s true. She emailed me and asked me what to bring from the US, and I asked for these panty liners because you don’t have them here.”
“Are you saying that you have asked a complete stranger to bring you some female hygiene items?” another female officer had started, but stopped when her male colleague a male officer inserted himself into a conversation.
“What’s an email?” he asked.
“It’s a sort of letter you send from one computer to another via the Internet.” Tanya explained. “It’s really neat. It’s takes only about an hour and the other person gets it on their computer. The best thing ever.”
“I know what emails are, but how do you know about this technology? It’s only for military specialists. Do you know how to use the Internet?”
Tanya turned to take a look at him. He was so much shorter than her that she addressed a bold spot on the top of his head when she said, “Yes. Is this a problem?”
“We have to check all of this,” suggested the first female officer behind Tanya’s back. She scooped Tanya’s belongings back into a suitcase, and walked out of the room through the door opposite to the one they came in. Her coworker with red hair had also left.
A male officer planted his ass onto a small plastic chair and started ignoring Tanya, while pretending to study her papers, while she was studying him. His face got red, like he just came out of a hot shower. “Tell me,” he asked avoiding looking at her. “How did you get an American student visa?”
“I just went to the American Embassy in Tel Aviv, and they gave me the visa. Is there any other way?”
“Don’t get smart with me!” he looked up at her angrily. “Who gave you the visa? Give me their names!”
“How do I know? They don’t tell people their names. They don’t even have name tags, just like you. It was just a nameless American Embassy worker. I’m sure if you call the Embassy and ask them to give you his name they will comply.”
He looked up at her and their eyes met. Weirdly, the answer seemed to be to his satisfaction.
“Another question, why do they call it the General Church of the New Jerusalem? Why do they need new Jerusalem? We have our old Jerusalem.”
Tanya suggested that it was just a marketing scheme, like Colonel Sanders Chicken, or the American Football World Cup.
He closed her passport and placed all her papers back into an envelope. Then he slapped himself on his knee, as if he was about to burst into dancing a folk Russian dance called “Don’t enlist, Vanek, into the Red Army. Commissars will get by just fine without you….”
However, instead of dancing, he said the following: “We know everything about you.”
“No kidding? Please, do tell.”
“We know more about you than you know about yourself.”
“You didn’t know that I use a computer, for a starter.” Tanya reminded him. “Nevertheless, do tell me something about me, don’t be shy.”
He didn’t even blink, ignoring her sarcasm. “We followed you around. We know what you did every single day.”
“Dude, you’re so full of crap. If you actually followed me around and knew what I do every single day, you would know that I do absolutely nothing. You wouldn’t be wasting your time here with me.”
“It’s OK,” He said. “We have plenty of time. All the time we need. All the time in the world.”
“Well, I don’t. I am going to be late for my flight.”
“Forget it. You’re not going anywhere.”
“You are being detained. You’re not going anywhere.”
“Wait…what? But I have a visa to the United States?!”
“It doesn’t matter. We have reasons to believe that you are a very dangerous terrorist and we are keeping you.”
“Wait… What? Why? A terrorist?! Look… My mother-in-law is still alive. This speaks volumes!”
“Because you are a terrorist, and we don’t let terrorists to fly to the US. Do you know when the last time there was a terror attack on a synagogue? This past May, a bomb exploded near a synagogue in Moscow. A month ago, a member of the World Church of the Creator injured six people near a synagogue in Sacramento. Just two weeks ago, in Los Angeles a member of the American far right Aryan Nations killed and injured several people in the local Jewish Community center.”
“It wasn’t me. I didn’t do it! I have been here in Israel for the past two years.”
“He ignored her remark and just got up. “Stay here, don’t go anywhere. I will be right back.”
Looking around the empty drab room equipped with the most depressingly looking plastic white chair and the most sinister looking long metal table, Tanya couldn’t help but to wonder about a stark contrast between this room and the beautiful hall on the other side of the door. Beauty is skin deep in most cases, and when it comes to so called Western countries; something Israel was claiming to be a part of, their prosperity was like a slim colorful film pulled over the observers’ eyes. One could argue that the beauty and prosperity of Western civilization were as deep as the skin of our eyes.
“Where did you learn English?” it was a question asked by a petite blonde woman wearing a tight uniform, her ample bosom looking like an illustration for the terms “a mammary gland,” and “an udder.” Tanya didn’t even notice when she came in.
“At school, at college in Moscow, here at the Haifa University…”
A petite blonde stared at her with the expression of real unadulterated hate. I take it back. She actually walked in the room already wearing this expression of hate on her face. “We have thousands of real Jews coming here to Israel from Russia, and they don’t speak English. They don’t speak any languages, because they went to the Soviet Schools. What school did you go to? You are a Russian and you speak perfect English. Why do you speak English so well?”
“Miss, you have no idea what you are talking about. The Soviet schools were excellent schools. They gave a great education. People just didn’t want to study and learn. It’s not my fault. I’m not responsible for other people. Ask them, why they are being so stupid.”
The petite blonde and her really large round breasts jumped with rage. “Are you calling Jews stupid? You hate Jews, right.? You hate us!”
Tanya pondered for a moment being not sure if “us” was a separate category for short females with remarkably large breasts, bleached hair and black bushy unibrows. There should be a law banning this kind of look in public.
“Listen, blondie…” Tanya said evenly. “Remember ones and for all. I… don’t… hate… anyone… ever…. But I think I am starting right now!”
Something about Tanya’s face made the female security officer with bleached hair to step back. She also ceased bringing “hate” forward.
“Why do you speak English with a British accent? Have you lived in England?”
It wasn’t immediately clear why living in Britain would be so damming amongst the Ben Gurion airport security community.
“You are lying. You speak with the British accent. You cannot deny it.”
“I deny everything.”
‘Did you go to the United Kingdom to receive a terrorist training?” It was a question asked by a male security officer who came unannounced and stood now behind Tanya’s back.
“No, I didn’t. I have never been to the UK. Why is it being in UK makes me a terrorist? I’m not a terrorist. That’s absurd! I’ve heard that you’re professionals here.”
“You are a terrorist, You know this. We know this.” It was the bleach blonde again.
“No,” Tanya insisted. “How can I be a terrorist? I am a simple Russian Christian woman. There was never in the history of the world a Russian Orthodox Christian woman terrorist. Never. One can be a Russian Orthodox or a terrorist, but one can’t be both. Yakov Blumkin doesn’t live here.”
“There is always a first time for everything,” the officer said gravely.
“No,” she said. “Not always. And not for everything… It’s just a meaningless sweeping statement. I never married a millionaire, you know?”
“Where did you get money to pay for a Master’s program in America?” asked the fake blonde again.
Tanya had started to see a pattern here. It was a sort of table-tennis: question from the left, then question from the right, then question from the left…
“I got a book award for my novel.” Tanya said simply, and seeing puzzled expressions on their faces, explained. “My novel was published by a Russian newspaper and I got a book award for the best non-Hebrew novel.”
“’Non-Hebrew!?” a male security officer started to see the situation through. He had no name tag and refused to tell his name, so Tanya dubbed him “Fritz,” because he looked German. “Non-Hebrew!?”
“It means it wasn’t written in Hebrew,” explained his female colleague.
“I know what it means!” he screamed at her this time around.
Tanya exchanged quick glances with the blonde, who rolled up her eyes and shook her head in exasperation.
“This could be another way for the terrorists to receive money that we had never considered. Let me guess,” “Fritz’ pretended he didn’t notice anything. “You got money from some kind of anti-Zionist organization that promotes other languages besides Hebrew on the territory of Israel. Right?”
“I got money from the Ministry of Culture of Israel.”
The officers looked at each other and nodded. “This snake nest…,” “Fritz” mumbled. “It’s just a matter of time, before…”
Since they took her watch, she didn’t know what time it was, but it seemed like a right moment to remind these two zealots that she had a plane to catch.
“Fritz” shook his round head. “Look, forget about it. We will never let you go. You will just disappear. Nobody will ever find you. No one will ever know what had happened to you. You are not the first woman to disappear without a trace in Israel, and you are not going to be the last. So, the best for you is to admit that you are a terrorist, sign a confession and we will let you go home to your husband.”
“My husband will be looking for me.”
“Why would he do such a thing?” asked a female officer with sarcasm. “You have just separated!”
“Because, he doesn’t want to take care of our daughter. He wants me to do this. He will be looking for me high and low, because he doesn’t want to deal with a kid. I came to this airport, I was seen by hundreds of people. Don’t assume that you will make me to disappear without a trace. My husband will be looking for me, my family, our friends. You will be forced to answer some questions.” They both had this look about them as if they were calculating the probability of getting in trouble for their actions. “I’m a journalist and I will write about this.”
“You will never have a chance to write anything anymore.” “Fritz” predicted. “I want your confession that you’re a terrorist. Just agree with me. Just say “yes” and you can go home to your husband.”
It sounded so ridiculous that Tanya started to laugh. “Are you saying that if I make a false confess to be a terrorist, you will send me back home to my husband and my mother-in-law? Hell, no. I won’t confess anything, ever. If I can’t go to the US, I would rather stay here. I am not going back there, ever.”
“Look, you can’t stay here. We will take you to a maximum security prison for terrorists. Do you know what we do to terrorists there?”
“Let me guess.. You make them live with their in-laws?”
“No. We torture them every day until they die.”
“How is this different from living with in-laws?”
The big breasted customs officer snorted, and bit her lips to stop herself from laughing.
Her male colleague gave her a stern stare.
“Listen,” he said suddenly acting all tired and sad. “If you want to live, confess now. Tell us that you are a terrorist. And we will let you go. Go home, anywhere you want to go. Just confess. That’s all you have to do.”
“Are you kidding me? Do you think I am stupid? Have anyone ever bought this reversed stupidity crap? My answer is absolutely not. I’m not a terrorist. I cannot admit what I am not.”
“Yes, you can.”
“No, I cannot say what I am not. I can’t say it, and I won’t say it.”
“Yes, you will. We know how to make people to admit to anything.. Under torture you will admit anything at all. Believe me, I have seen it happening many times.”
“I believe you.” She said. “I absolutely believe you.”
“You do?” he sounded pleasantly surprised.
“Yes. Absolutely. I believe you can make people to admit anything, to give false confessions, but what good would it do? I’m not a terrorist. I don’t know anything. I don’t know anyone. I have no knowledge of anything. From nothing comes nothing. No matter how many times you add zeros, you still get zero. You won’t get your promotion and you won’t get your Christmas bonus for catching a big terrorist. Because I am not. Your superiors won’t be happy with you.”
“We should lock you up just for your manners, for the way you talk to me. I never had anyone talking to me like that.”
“That’s, my darling, because you used to talk to morons.”
“OK, it’s enough.” He made a deep sigh. “It’s a shame. You are a beautiful young woman and you’re going to die a horrible death in prison.”
“Oh, go and fuck yourself. I don’t need your pity. It makes no difference how I look.”
“Speaking of relatives… What your husband and your daughter will feel if you disappear never to found again?” He kept eying her with a deep ancestral resentment, real or perceived. “What will they say when they realize that you abandoned them forever?”
Tanya could not believe this: they were blaming her for abandoning her family, because they decided to detain her for no reason. Were they doing this to her because of spite, or because they could? The question was opened for debate at this point. The problem of the security forces expending their existence by perpetuating the myth of universal danger and inventing more and more of the new enemies seemed to be out in the open for everyone to see. And still, no one wanted to look. People avert their eyes from something unpleasant, like money in someone else’s hands, or food in someone else’s mouth. Come to think of it, she wrote about this in her novel, the one that was so highly regarded by the Israeli cultural ministry.
“My husband is a press attaché for Nathan Sharansky. He will be looking for me. Plus. If you accuse me of terrorism people will say that it’s for political reasons. ”
“We are the national security. We have nothing to do with politics.
“Press will say that you don’t want to let a soviet Jew to become your prime minister. And, that you are trying to discredit his election campaign.”
“It’s none of your business. You’re not a Jew.”
“I like your blunt Nazism. It’s liberating, for the rest of us.”
“You’re going to die soon. I don’t have to pretend with you any longer.”
“All right, then. Go ahead, spill the beans. Tell me everything. What’s on your mind?” Tanya packed as much sarcasm in every sentence as she could. After all, sarcasm is the only weapon human beings have when they get caught between giant rusty wheels of an enormous mill moved by historical winds. I would introduce sarcasm as a core curriculum subject for all college students regardless of their major.
The security officer was taken slightly aback. He still wasn’t quite himself after realizing that there was just one degree of separation between a Russian woman he was looking forward to jail and the head of the Yisrael BaAliyah, a popular political party. Sharansky, not accidentally was imprisoned himself back in the Soviet Union for political reasons as Sharansky claimed. The security officer knew that the reasons were financial trickery, but to claim political persecution was better for the goals of Zionism. Every stick has two ends, however, at least in this part of the universe. And the second end of this propaganda stick was hitting them hard, since Sharansky had become wildly popular with the millions of new emigrants, who thought of him as a political martyr, and was loathed by the old Israeli elite, who thought of him as a con artist. In addition, Tanya’s arrest could become slightly more embarrassing for him personally and professionally, considering that many of the new emigrants from Russia had Russian spouses.
“Who are you? Why are you talking to me like that?” he asked not entirely sure, or rather entirely unsure of the actions he should be taking next.
“I’m a journalist.”
“You’re going to be a dead journalist soon.” He said to convince himself that he was doing the right thing after all.
“It’s OK. At least, I will be in a good company.”
* * *
If there ever was such thing as an exact prediction of the future, it would be mildly interesting but frankly totally useless. In August 1999, of the last year of the millennium and the last year of the century, only four months had separated humanity from the new millennium and only four months had separated Russia from getting a new president, Vladimir Putin with his people, patriots who survived through the darkest times in Russia’s long tumultuous history. I am referring to what’s known as “the Catastrophe,” during which Russia lost 5 million square kilometers of its territory and 100 million of its people.
From the day one, Tanya called this event for what it was “an occupation” and “a catastrophe” of the demolition of their country. The occupants, strategically placed inside the government and outside, planted socially explosives devices all over the economy, culture, and politics, and blew up the country. Ten years after this tragedy, the “dust” has not settled yet. Every speck of this dust that came up after the demolition of the great country was a Russian person blown around in the wind. Just like Tanya herself who was just one out of tens of millions dust particles floating and thrown around by the merciless wind. She knew she had no country to stand by her. She knew she had no government or civil society that would be outraged and concern for her well-being. The same was happening with tens of millions of other Russian people who ended up abroad, and those who immigrated, and those who stayed on the territories cut off from Russia and ruled by foreign governments, and also those who stayed in Russia and were completely alienated from their government, economy, media, and any decision making. They all lived through the complete and utter horror of the foreign occupation. Each one of them was in this alone.
So, if someone would tell Tanya that it was all about to start changing and that all those millions of particles would start to gather resistance in order to get back together and to choke the world Hegemon, which engineered their misery. If someone would tell her that in a short fifteen years the situation would reverse itself, and that those who were seen just to be some human dust, would gather together into one great nation again, she would probably feel hopeful, but this information wouldn’t help her at all. She was, for all intents and purposes, the last Russian in the world, and nothing could dissuade her from feeling any different.
“Where is your daughter?” asked “Fritz,” making her to return back from daydreaming.
“You know… She is in Moscow with her grandparents.”
At this point of their dangerous encounter of the first kind, she was sitting on a white plastic chair and he was standing in front of her, his arms folded, his ass supported by the metal table.
He took a pause and held it as long as he could, looking down at her with the utmost contempt. “Do you want to know what we think about your daughter being in Moscow?”
“Can you think? That doesn’t sound right. But, please, go ahead. Don’t let me stop you.”
He ignored her sarcasm. “We think that you sent your daughter to Moscow, and you left your husband, so you could commit a terror act.”
“Is that’s what you call getting a Master’s degree from an American college?”
“People are bringing children to Israel to get them out of Russia and you, instead, sent your only child back to Russia.”
“Exactly. I did this because she is my only child. Do you have children?”
He gave her a dumb look.
“Fine, don’t tell me. I know this just by looking at you that you have at least two kids. Your earlier onset male baldness shows that they are getting on your last nerve.”
His one eyebrow jerked and she knew she was onto something.
“You see, if you have more than one child, you can afford to experiment, but if you have just one kid, you have no margins for error. I found that the Israeli early childhood education to be subpar and even dangerous for my child’s health”
“What do you mean?”
“Are you familiar with the practice of the Israeli schools and kindergartens of giving the children fluoride tablets? Of cause you are. I have never heard of this before. Fluoride is a highly toxic substance. I did some research on the internet, and I talked to some professional people in Russia and we all agree that fluoride suppresses brain development in children and suppresses their nervous system. That’s why you have in Israel a generation of morons, albeit with very good teeth.”
“How did you research all this?”
“On the internet. Do you know what the internet is?”
“Of course I know what the internet is. I’m surprised that you know. Where did you get training to use the internet? There is no Internet in Russia.”
“Oh, please… Russia’s programmers are the best. I have at least two friends here who are programmers. They work for big international companies. You, know, it’s really hard for me to talk to someone who is stupid. I just have nothing to say to them. For a moment I thought you have some intelligence somewhere deep under your rough handsome exterior. It’s so difficult to communicate with morons. It’s like talking to the walls.”
He just snorted.
“Coming back to why I sent my daughter back to Moscow. I wanted to opt out of her taking fluoride pills, but I was told in no uncertain terms that preventing my child from taking fluoride could only mean that I was an unfit parent, and that I must submit my child and myself to psychiatric treatment, and/or to lose my parental rights. I didn’t wait too long, I placed her on the first flight to Moscow and now she’s safe and sound with her grandparents. מבין?”
He looked at her with utter astonishment, like she had just nail-gunned his balls to a chair.
“No, I’m not. I never lie. It’s below my dignity. Have you ever caught me on a lie?”
“If we catch you on just one lie, you are dead.”
“That’s why I will live forever, because I don’t lie. Period.”
Without further ado “Fritz” unsealed his ass from the table and walked out of the room. Most likely he rushed to tell his wife not to give their kids fluoride.
“They are learning so much from me,” Tanya thought with sudden deep satisfaction. “If they knew better, they would hire me as a consultant, but these fucking morons are stupid as hell.”
Time dragged on and on. She wondered around the room, did some yoga, then pulled the chair to the table and sat with her head resting on her arm resting on a table. The metal was pleasantly cool. She had started nodding off, when “Fritz” returned without his female escort. As far as Tanya was concerned the female security officers in the airport were used for only two purposes, diversion and irritation.
He came back alone and with a bang, kicking the door open with his foot. He looked extraordinary happy about something.
“You are not going anywhere.” He said while he was walking towards Tanya with his index finger pointing directly at her nose. “It’s decided and it’s done. You will never get out alive. You will never see the light of day. You will never see your daughter. You are done, finished. From here you will be transferred to a maximum security prison in the Negev for terrorists like you, and no one will ever hear from you again. Most likely you will be just tortured to death. Do you understand?”
It suddenly occurred to Tanya that she could become the first person in the world jailed and executed for sending emails and enrolling into a Master’s program of an American college. A glimpse of things to come…
“What have I done to deserve this?” she asked, still sitting on a chair, with her head still resting on her arm.
“It’s not what you have done, bothers us.” He answered. “It’s what you’re about to do.”
A strange deja-vu feeling came upon her. She could swear she has heard this conversation before. Or, at the very least read about it.
“OK, fine.” she said. “I got it. I don’t care.”
“You don’t care?” he chuckled. “You have no idea what awaits you. “Hell” doesn’t even start describing it.”
“Look…” she said. “If you had lived with my mother-in-law and my spineless husband you would agree with me: an Israeli prison is not the worst place to be.”
He chuckled again and shock his round head in disbelief.
“Look.” Tanya got up and sat on the metal table, folding her legs into a lotus position. She wanted to be on the same level with him, but didn’t want to stand. She wasn’t really good at thinking on her feet. “Fritz” just stood in front of her motionlessly with his arms folded staring at her with a blank expression. “Look,” she repeated. “I’m not going to argue with you. Whatever you people have decided is fine. I have no say here. I cannot change your mind. But, just try to understand my position. I was going to the US to study in college. All of a sudden I am stopped at the border and told that I would be going to prison, where I would be tortured to death. It’s a significant change of my plans. Would you agree?”
“Thank you for agreeing with me.” she paused. “Could you do me one favor, please?’”
“What do you want?” she could tell that he was all ears
“Just one favor for someone whom you just have condemned to death without any due process, without a court, or a judge…”
‘We don’t need a court order to torture and kill terrorists,” he reminded her.
“I got it. That’s fine. That’s what you do. I don’t question your actions. I’m just asking you for one small favor.”
“What is it?”
“Just one small favor.”
“What is it you want?”
“It’s not going to cost you anything at all.”
“Tell me what you want, or I’m leaving now. And, I am not going to come back.”
“Tell me, why is this happening?”
“As if you don’t know…”
“No. I have no clue. Not at all. None.”
He studied her in silence for a couple of minutes. His face was completely and utterly blank. He was impossible to read.
“OK. It’s not going to change anything for you, so I will tell you. We suspect that you’re a terrorist because you belong to a terrorist organization.”
She made a mental list of organizations she belonged to, which was exactly none. Was a monthly bus pass a membership of sort? Was it the Russian engineering firm that employed her? It couldn’t be anything from Moscow. It’s been years since she last time attended the Moscow Philosophers’ club meetings. They spelled murder every time they wrote their endless philosophical opuses, but terrorists they were not. “What? What organization?”
“As if you don’t know.”
“I don’t belong to any organization. I have allergy to organizations.”
“The Swedenborgian Church.”
To be perfectly honest, I don’t consider Swedenborg to be a prophet, or a religious figure, but a writer. Tatyana shared my sentiment. The Swedenborgian Church was in her mind like a book club. Of cause, there were other one book “book clubs,” like all the Christians, or the Jews themselves, or the Muslins, or the Mormons, or like communists parties with Marx’s Das Kapital, and National socialists with Hitler’s Mein Kampf. She read Das Kapital in high school – just one of many economic theories. She found Mein Kampf at a used book sale long ago, although she did read of controversy about there being more than one translation and some sort of cover-up involved. Regardless, the BBC once did say one word of truth when they described it as ‘rambling’. She finally gave up in boredom trying to read that drivel.
“What? All this because of the New Church? I can’t believe this. This doesn’t make sense. You are lying to me. You’re a lying piece of shit!”
He grinned. “Be nice to me. I am the only one who would talk to you here. No one else here would talk to you.”
“Is it because they are too dumb to speak English?”
“No, because we don’t talk to terrorists. I’m your only hope here. I’m all you have got right now.” He looked sad, rather than angry, so she felt pity for him automatically.
“I’m sorry.” She said. “I’m really sorry. You most definitely are not a piece of shit. I exaggerated a little bit.” She showed him with her thumb and an index finger how much exactly she had exaggerated. “You are a national security officer on duty who is just doing his job. I promise, I won’t call you a piece of shit ever again. I was wrong doing this, and I apologize for my mistake. ”
“OK,” he said clearly satisfied with his small, but important victory.
“So,” she continued. “How come you call the Swedenborgian Church a terrorist organization?”
“Because, the Swedenborgian Church is on the State of Israel’s list of terror organizations, and their members are considered to be terrorists,” he said flatly.
It took her a little longer that a moment, before it dawned on her. “Oh, my God. You are not kidding!”
He suddenly got all red, veins popped up in his neck and he started screaming in her face, “No! This is not a joke! You think we’re kidding with you? You think it’s all one big joke?” He swirled his index finger in an air.
Tanya carefully considered it for a moment. “Well, yes. I don’t know what to think, to be honest. It’s outside of my reality. I hoped that it’s all just a bizarre procedure, of sort. I honestly, don’t even know what to think about all this. OK, look, for a moment I even thought that you people were jealous that I, a Russian, got admitted to an American college and go to study there. That’s why you are trying to stop me from going there.”
“Tanya, do I look funny to you? I’m not kidding. It’s not a joke. It’s a reality. What can I do to make you understand that it’s not a joke? Ah?! How can I put fear in you?!”
“Man…” she said, “you gonna have a stroke or something, screaming like this.”
“Don’t you worry about me, worry about yourself. Do you even understand what troubles you are in? Do you even understand what torture is?”
“Yeah… I think so. I know one thing that is absolutely torturous…”
“What is it?”
“To watch those Star Wars movies.”
“Do I look funny to you?”
“No. You don’t look funny at all. No.”
“Do you think it’s funny that the Jewish nation is surrounded by a sea of enemies on this small piece of land? Arabs can attack us any day. And you think it’s funny! You think it’s a circus, don’t you?”
She had an instant flashback to this tragic dark circus day in Kirovograd, when she as a kid witnessed a performer falling to his death. People there had empathy. These guys had no empathy. They acted like large predators, watching your every step, and trying to trip you and drag you into their cage of horror. “No, not like a circus. More like a zoo…”
“Zoo? You think Israel is a zoo? I see. OK. You will never get out of jail, I promise you. I promise you! You’re the enemy of the State of Israel. It’s official.” He wasn’t screaming any longer. He became eerie calm and relaxed. “The Swedenborgian Church in on the list of the organizations deemed to be terrorist organizations by the State of Israel. You belong to this Church. We think, you were going to receive training in this Church. We’re preventing you from going to the US and receiving training from this terrorist religious cult.”
“I’m the official enemy of the State of Israel? Wow. At least I accomplished something in my life. I should get a medal or something.” Tanya said, “Receiving training from a terrorist cult? Do you mean getting a Master’s degree from a government accredited American college? It’s an American church. It’s legal and it’s respectable. If it’s legal in the USA then it should be legal in Israel.”
“Israel doesn’t follow the US in goosesteps. We have our own security issues. In the US it’s legal to be a member of KKK and the Nazi party. Do you think we should allow them also?”
“Well. Yeah. It’s true. “
“Can you see, Tanya, that you are in deep, deep trouble. Doesn’t it scare you?”
“No…” she pondered for a moment. “I wish it would, but it’s really doesn’t. Not really.”
Suddenly, he abruptly came up to her, grabbed her left hand, and started counting her heartbeat looking at his watch. His palm was warm and dry, and not unpleasant. Finally, he looked straight into her eyes still clinching her wrist. “How do you do this?”
“Do what? I don’t do anything. Not a damn thing! I try to live my entire life without doing anything at all.”
“How do you control your heartbeat, your perspiration, your breathing?”
“What perspiration? It’s freezing in here. And controlling my heartbeat? That’s nonsense, dude. I can’t even control my diarrhea.”
“Where did you get trained to stay calm like that? Who trained you to talk to the security like this?”
“What are you talking about? No one trained me. That’s how I always talk. I was born this way.”
“Right… You were born with the British accent, with perfect English, with absolute self-control….”
“Don’t forget my brilliant sense of humor and unparalleled beauty…”
“We think you have been trained for some sort of mission. We are not sure what exactly. Tell us.” He was looking into her eyes so close that she could see red veins in his.
“Trained for a mission? Sir, what the fuck are you talking about? That’s absurd.”
“But you wanted to go to the US, and now you are not going?” He whispered in her ear maliciously. “It must upset you. Aren’t you terrified?”
His face was so close, she could feel him breathing. Hell, she could even kiss him, but she wasn’t convinced that he would like that.
“No, not really. It doesn’t upset me at all. Should I be terrified? I don’t know how to feel. I don’t know what it would be like if I went to the US. I don’t know if I would like it there, or not. So, I’m not upset. I do my best, but if I don’t get what I want, it’s not a big deal. It means that something else will come along, bigger and better.”
“Like torture and death in prison?” he asked with clearly detectable sarcasm.
“Here you go.. Something like that…”
He grabbed her shoulders and shook her really hard. “What should I do to you to make you feel fear?”
“Nothing, reality. I can’t feel fear. Hey, man, you are doing a bang-up job, honestly.” She said. “You are really good at what you do. It’s not your fault that you’re failing. It’s not you, it’s me.”
“Unbelievable.” He rubbed his eyes with the heels of his palms, as if he was getting a headache. Then he sat next to her on the table and hugged her, and pulled her to his side.” Listen, you are a beautiful girl. I just want to save you from the horror of torture. What we do to terrorists is indescribable. Help me to help you. What do you think?”
He gave her a little nudge. “Are you listening?”
“What? Sorry, I missed what you’ve just said. Can you repeat everything starting with “you are a beautiful girl”? Please?”
“No, I cannot.”
“Look, I am sorry, but it’s not my fault. You hugged me, and now I’m thinking about sex.”
“Are you making fun of me? Are you making fun of the national security of the state of Israel?”
“Jesus Christ! No. Can I do anything right by you? You asked me, and I gave you an honest to God answer. But. you’re still mad at me. Why are you screaming at me? I have a simple reaction to human touch. You hug me and I think about sex. What else am I supposed to think about? Should I do math instead? If you want me to listen to you, get your hands off me.”
“Unbelievable,” He dropped his “good cop” act and returned to his plastic perch, to contemplate and furry his brow.
“By the way, can I see the list?” Tanya asked, gently, like pouring honey on a toast.
“What list?” she has startled him obviously.
“The list of the State of Israel terrorist organizations.”
“No, you cannot. It’s classified.”
“So, I’m being detained, kidnapped, interrogated, imprisoned, tortured and murdered just on the basis of a secret list that no one had ever seen?”
“Yes. That’s right.”
“Have you ever seen this list?” she made emphasis on “you”.
“I am a senior security officer with a security clearance. So, the answer is yes, I am familiar with this list.” He got up and looked at his wristwatch. “I am wasting my time here with you.”
“Yes you are… But before you go, could you do a very last favor for me? Please?”
“What is it?” He was almost out of the door.
“Could you quote me exactly what it said about the Swedenborgian Church? Please?”
“It’s in Hebrew.”
“Could you quote me in English exactly what it says in Hebrew? Please?”
“But you said that my English was no good.”
“Actually, the more I talk to you the more I see that your English is actually very good. I would say excellent. Your English is one of the best I have ever heard from anyone here in Israel.”
”OK. Just this last time.” He returned, crossed the room and stopped right next to her. “The terrorist organizations list says and I quote: “The cult of the Swedenborgian Church, also known as the Church of the New Jerusalem located in the US and elsewhere, and all its members and administrative workers, and its clergy.”
He stopped and for a moment they stared into each other’s eyes.
“Is that it?” she asked.
“It’s not much.”
“It’s enough for us to arrest you and to..”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah… enough to arrest me, to put me in jail and to torture me to death. I got it. Wait a minute. A couple of people from this Church came here, staid in a hotel and left. They weren’t arrested. Why?”
“Because they were tourists. As tourists and American citizens they can come and go as they please, but you as a citizen of Israel cannot. As a citizen of Israel you committed treason by becoming a member of an organization that is placed on the State of Israel terror organizations lists. You’re the enemy of the State of Israel now.”
“I can’t believe it. I’m the enemy of the State! It’s ridiculous. That’s absurd on the face of it. Only my mother-in-law is capable of saying something like this. Did you talk to her by any chance? Did she give you this idea? Why wouldn’t you make this list public, so people would know what organizations are off limits?”
“We wouldn’t, because people would be careful and would make a conscious choice not to join these organizations. We only want people here, who wouldn’t even think about joining this kind of organizations, regardless of their legal status.”
They both became silent. Her, contemplating this profound Orwellian revelation; him – God knows what.
“Good. I know what we should do with you.” He sprang back to life. “You leave me no choice. We are going to hang you.“
“Oh, thank you, sir, you are very kind.”
“We have facility here just for this purpose. Adult men cry in their like little girls.”
“You guys cry more often than you like to admit. Plus, I am not a man, in case you haven’t noticed. I never cry.”
He looked at her with wry smile, “I don’t see any reason to send you to prison. You’re very stubborn and you are very smart, Tanya. I think you’re a very dangerous individual. I wish you a fast and easy death. I’m done with you. Someone else will take over. Goodbye.” He marched out of the room and closed the door behind him.
Tanya looked around and just couldn’t believe what she was seeing. This schmuck left his gun on a table. It was absolutely ridiculous even to suggest that she would grab his stupid gun. Since she was five, and played inside the Soviet military base armory waiting for her dad to finish his workday, she knew to never touch other people’s weapons, unless her life depends on it, and this wasn’t the case.
Nothing was happening and no one was coming back to retrieve the gun. She sat down on a chair, stretched her legs, leaned backwards and started rocking back and forth staring at the ceiling.
* * *
Time was dragging on and on and on. She could think of nothing with the solemn voice of Leonard Cohen playing in her head over and over again his song. “I did my best, but it wasn’t much. I couldn’t feel so I learned to touch. I’ve told the truth that I didn’t come here to Jerusalem just to fool you. And even though it all went wrong, I stand right here before the Lord of songs with nothing, nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah …”
It was very uncomfortable to sit on a hard plastic chair with her skinny ass, so she got up and walked around the long metal table. The front glass panel that constituted walls of the room was whited-out, so it was impossible to see anything outside. She couldn’t even tell if it was day or night, since she lost any sense of time. She did several push-ups at the table and stretched her arms. Finally, she climbed on the table and laid there on her stomach resting her head on a right arm. Since childhood, she had this ability to sleep anywhere, in any circumstances and in any position just by closing her eyes. All she needed really was twenty minutes of sleep, and she would be as good as new. The last thing she felt before falling asleep was a cold gun next to her leg.
* * *
“Wake up and get up!” Someone shook her out of a sound sleep.
“Come on,” she mumbled. ‘Just give me a minute.”
“You can’t sleep here. Wake up!”
Tanya tuned on her back to see a woman in a customs uniform with copper-red hair. It was painful to wake up. Now, she needed sleep more than anything. “What’s wrong with you? I can’t go anywhere. Give me a minute of sleep, at least.”
“Get up. You can’t sleep here. Where you are going, they will put you to sleep forever. Hurry up. I don’t have time for this. Get up!” She pulled her off the table.
Tanya noticed that the gun had disappeared. The rule of this play was that if a gun lays on a table in the second act, it must disappear in the third act. Almost Chekov. She shook her body like a dog trying to shake the sleepiness off.
An Israeli woman looked at her with disgust. “You look very pale. Are you ill? Do you need a doctor? “ She spoke slowly punctuating her every word, as if Tanya was deaf or mentally challenged.
“No, I’m absolutely healthy. I am not ill at all.”
“You are very pale.” She pointed at Tanya’s face. “Do you… want… to see… a doctor?”
“No,” Tanya responded. “Absolutely not. I don’t need your fucking doctor. I refuse to talk to a doctor. Don’t even try to make me. It’s not going to work.”
“You are very pale. Your face is white like white paper.”
“It’s because I’m a white person. My skin is white. That’s why I look pale. I’m Russian. I’m white, and I have white skin, don’t you get it? Why do you have a problem with the color of my skin? Are you a racist? ”
“OK,” the woman’s speech returned to normal. “If you don’t want to see a doctor, fine. We can’t make you to see a doctor. Come with me.”
She led Tanya out of the room into a cavernous hallway with no windows, just doors. A group of people were standing next to the wall, looking at them as they walked by. She stopped in front of a narrow metal green door and told Tanya to take off her clothes. Tanya took off her jacket, and t-shirt. She was still barefoot because they had never given her shoes back.
“That’s enough,” said the female security officer. “You can leave your bra on, and jeans.” After Tanya had done exactly what she was told to do, the officer opened the metal door, and Tanya stepped into what at the look of it was a stonewall closet, very narrow, just barely enough for an adult to fit in, but with no ceiling. The walls were going up into some sort of opening above with pipes or metal bars crossing above. She looked down. She was standing barefoot on a metal trapdoor. Through its bars she could see yet another stone chamber right underneath her feet, dimly lit. It smelled like construction dust in there. The space was too narrow to even sit down on the floor. Tanya leaned against the cold wall and closed her eyes, hoping to catch some more sleep, when the door had suddenly opened.
Standing in the doorway appeared a very tall and large man, with dark complexion, black military style cropped hair and dressed all in black. He squeezed in next to her, and someone closed the door shut behind him. Tanya was nearly 6 feet tall, and her face came right between his man-breasts. She could see his face only by looking up.
“God, it’s a Vogon,” was the first thought that visited her mind. “… their brains are badly deformed, misplaced, dyspeptic liver, and Vogons know what they like, and what they like generally involves hurting people.”
The newcomer leaned back against the green metal door, with his huge hairy arms folded on his chest. He was wearing a plain black short sleeve t-shirt, black slacks, with a black belt, and black uniform shoes. It was difficult to tell if he was dark skinned or very tanned. I would go out on a limb here to assume that this officer wasn’t known for being a great conversationalist and entertainer. He was the strong silent type.
Tanya also folded her long skinny arms, mirroring him, like David against Goliath. He stared at her in silence for a long while, before telling her in bad English with a heavy Israeli accent: “Finely, we have met, Tanya. I wanted to meet you for a very, very long time.”
“Why wouldn’t you? What was stopping you? It’s easy to find me. I am not hiding.” She said the first thing that popped up in her head. “Do you know why you have never met me before?”
“Why?” he sounded like he truly interested in her opinion.
“Because you just have heard about me five minutes ago. That’s why..”
“No terrorist ever wants to meet me.”
“I’m not a terrorist, so I wouldn’t mind meeting you.”
“We suspect that you are a religious terrorist and you going to tell us all about yourself.”
“But, but… the other blond officer just told me that he knows everything about me. Even the things I don’t know about myself. Go and ask him. You, guys, should talk to each other more often.”
He ignored her sound advice.
“We know that you’re a terrorist and that’s enough.”
“No, you are the terrorists. You torture and kill innocent people that mean you no harm. You’re fascists and Nazis.”
“Are you calling me a Nazi?”
“Yes. You’re a Nazi.”
“I’m protecting my country.”
“No, you’re protecting your job. You’re keeping everyone in a state of terror, so you, security people, would have jobs, retirement and pensions, because you’re too stupid and too lazy to do anything else.”
“Are you calling me stupid?”
I have to say here that it’s not generally recommended to talk to Vogons, since being creatures of one world view, they generally repel all the others just like water repellent repels water. If you, however, decide to engage a Vogon in conversation, make sure that you have a sound and realistic exist strategy. Tanya, for all intents and purposes, had none.
“We are the best people in the world to do this job. To catch the terrorists like you.”
“You have done what? You caught me? Doing what? Taking a flight to the US to go to college? It’s like shooting fish in a barrel. It’s like saying, that you are good in hunting sandwiches in a deli. Look at you. You must be good at what you do. You’re dressed all in black. Who can have any doubts? Lady, are you wearing black panties to match those socks?”
Muscles of his cheeks started moving. She wasn’t sure if he was about to laugh or to bite her.
“I am wearing black, because you can’t see blood on black,” he said flatly.
He was, in all apparent, particular to the questions of style and fashion. Many of them do, though it’s not entirely clear why.
“Blood? Oh, go fuck yourself you fucking fascist.” I suppose that she didn’t expect him to leave her alone and to go to do what she said, but it was worth a try.
He looked her up and down, leaned forward and placed his hands on the wall on the both sides of her head. “I think not. I think I am going to fuck you, instead.”
Clearly, his connotation of the verb “to think” slightly deferred from the one given by the Oxford dictionary for beginners.
“What’s stopping you?” she wanted his answer immediately, but he just kept staring. The guy was slower than a horse driven hearse. It was like talking to someone who was five minutes ago. “You’re full of shit. You’re not going to fuck me. You don’t dare to fuck me. You don’t have the balls to fuck a Russian woman.”
Vogon’s black bushy eyebrows went up, and he almost smiled, as if he was amused and entertained at the same time. Slowly, very slowly, he lowered his oversized head, and whispered tickling her ear with his lips, “Wanna bet?”
“Ten dollars,” she offered after a brief consideration.
“Ten dollars what?” His meaty dark cheek felt like 3M sandpaper against hers.
“I bet ten dollars that you can’t have sex with a Russian woman. You own me ten dollars.’
He pulled himself away from her to take a better look. “Who are you? Who trained you to talk like this to a national security officer?”
“Oh, is that what you are?!” There was no end to her surprise. “I’m so shocked. Shocked! When you came onto me screaming that you torture and murder people for fun, I thought you were a Vogon. Now you tell me that you’re an Israeli national security officer. How would I know? Did you even go to a middle school? Can you even sign your name?”
He froze. Her words washed over him before being promptly repelled and went down the drain beneath their feet. The lower part of his face moved, but he was saying nothing. Clearly, words didn’t come easy to him. After a truly embarrassing minute of him huffing and puffing and even changing the skin color several times, he pushed her into the wall with his stomach and slid his palm down her back and into her jeans. His breathing tickled her neck, and she could smell his hair… That’s was when she got an irresistible urge to bite his ear off. Her jaw would come down like these giant wire-cutters. She imaged a cartridge of his ear crunching between her teeth.
It sucks to have superior impulse control. Undoubtedly, it makes you feel superior, and it also gives you a nagging suspicion that if living had any fun, it was reserved only for spontaneous individuals. Vogons never control their impulses. That’s why they are happy to accept the task to torture someone, which places us, people, in a position of being tortured. The Guide1 says that Vogons didn’t like to leave their job unfinished, and looking at his monumental forearms, and his entire body, she felt at that moment that it would be more beneficial for her to propel him to finish his job, without…. well, you understand… actually doing it. She had no other options, but to keep trolling him.
“Only, think about your mother..” (We must never forget that Vogons have special relationship with their mothers. Actually, in the most profound way Vogons are created by their mothers.)
It popped the balloon right there. “What?” He asked her in a normal human like voice. “What about my mother?”
That was the exact question her husband used to utter every time she complaint to him about her mother-in-law. There is no Jewish man in the world who doesn’t ask this question on regular, if not daily basis. Time that Jewish men spend trying to sort out their mothers’ problem could pave a path to prosperity for any nation comparable in size with Israel.
“Dude, did your mother tell you to never, never, never have sex with Russian women? Didn’t she? Or, as she, probably, put it “Never fuck the Russian whores.” Am I right?”
He didn’t answer, didn’t deny anything, but just because he pulled his hand out of her jeans, she knew that she had hit the nerve, or whatever passes for a nerve in a Vogon.
“Do you know why your mother banned you from having sex with Russian women? Did she tell you that God will reject you and you will stop being a Jew? Did she? Do you want to know the real reason, why your mother scared you from having sex with Russian women? Do you?”
“Because after having sex with a Russian woman you would never ever, ever want to have sex with a Jewish woman. Thant’s why. You would always want to have sex with a Russian woman. You would always want to come back to her. Because you would never ever be satisfied. Because you would think about her every day till the moment you die.” Her voice dropped at the end to the bare whisper. They stared at each other in silence. His breathing emulated the Darth Vader’s, and he sucked all oxygen out of the room.
“Put your hands behind your back,” he barked like a street cop. “Spread your legs”
“I can’t. There is a wall in here. Don’t you see? I have long legs. If you want me to spread my legs wider, you need a bigger place.”
“Don’t talk. Shut up!”
“Talk… Don’t talk… Talk… Make up your fucking mind, already.”
“I just did. Stop talking.” He cross pulled her arms behind her back, as if tying a knot, and pressed her into the wall hard, so she was pressing on her own arms with her own body. He pushed his body against hers, and pushed his knee between her legs. He wrapped his right arm around her head and pressed her face to his chest. People say that smells bring instant memories. For a geek like Tanya, smells bring memories of books. He smelled like stories from the Old Testament: with desert dust, sweat, and smoke.
Tanya lost any sense of time, while he stood holding her so tight that her bones creaked, before he placed his left palm on her throat. His palm was so big that he easily wrapped his finger around her neck, pressing on her larynx. After a moment, instead of black fabric of his t-shirt she saw nothing, but silver-gray snow. Her knees suddenly went weak and she would slide down the wall, if it wasn’t for his knee, sturdy like a bench. Then he released his grip slightly, with his fingers pressing right above her collarbone, and just stood towering over her in silence. She didn’t know the result of his inquiry, when she heard him telling her something from far away. “Confess that you are a terrorist.”
“No. I’m not.” She could taste his t-shirt.
“This is your last chance. Admit that you’re a terrorist, and I will let you go. Just say “yes.” Say ‘yes’ and I will let you go. If you say “no” you will die. Do you hear me? ‘Yes’ – you live. ‘No’ – you die. What’s it going to be? It’s your choice.”
He gave her a friendly Vogon’s nudge, as if she was hit by a backing car, “What do you want me to do to you? Tell me. Do you want me to kill you? Do you want me to let you go? Tell me what to do.”
“Go fuck yourself.”
“Wrong answer. Think again. Do you hear me? Are… you.. a.. terrorist?”
“No. Fuck you, you fucking Nazi!” Because his t-shirt got into her mouth, it sounded more like “you fuckin’ fazi.”
Once again he tightened his grip on Tanya’s throat, and she saw post-apocalyptic silver snowflakes dancing in front of her eyes. It felt like being sucked into some velvety sleep, but he shook her out of it, almost raising her off the floor, and pressed, painfully, his fingers over her collarbone again, counting her heartbeat. He loosed his grip and released her head. He looked into her eyes, without blinking, and with no expression at all. Then he reached and pressed his lips against her forehead, softly. He was right here, but yet somehow very far away.
“I will take you to prison with me. In prison I will rip you apart, piece by piece. Is that what you want?”
“I want you to go and fuck your mother.”
“I will make you cry blood, instead of tears.”
“I believe you. You can kill me, but you can’t turn me into a terrorist, not now, not ever. I don’t harm the innocent.”
“You are here with me, it means you’re guilty.”
“You’re here also. Does it mean you’re guilty too?”
“I have enough of you for now. I am going now. I will see you really soon.”
“Go to hell…”
“What? Do you want to complain?” he asked.
“What? No. Absolutely not.”
“You can complain, if you want to.”
“Hell, no… What’s to complain about? Loving every moment of it.”
“I am not done with you. I have just started. I will take you to prison, and we will continue this conversation with you, for real.”
He finally estranged himself from her, backed out and slammed the metal door, leaving her stranded in a stone trap all by herself. She looked up again. The wall was designed just high enough for a trained athlete to grab the top of the wall and pull up. But, what would be the point? Another death trap was just behind it. Tanya leaned against the wall again. The place was too narrow to sit down. She recalled the story her mom told her about a woman she had met in Kiev, who as a teenager was taken by the Germans from the occupied Ukraine to Germany as a slave. She was bought by a German woman, whose husband was fighting against us. The girl cleaned the Frau’s house, and her disgusting commode, chopped firewood to heat her house, and cooked her food. If something wasn’t to her liking, Frau had beat her senseless and made her stand in a narrow closet for days. After, the girl’s legs would swell like two buckets. the German woman would laugh at her, calling her an Untermensch, and telling her what ugly fat legs she had. When the Soviet army came to their town, Frau hid in the basement of her house, and the girl killed her with an axe she used to chop woods, and ran for her life. When she reached our guys, they hugged her and gave her a military jacket and fed her. She was so happy. She stayed with them, cooked their food and washed their uniforms, all the way to Berlin.
Notably, there was no Soviet Army to save her, Tanya.
She was recalling this story to pass the time, when the door opened and revealed a short copper haired woman in uniform. “Is everything OK?” she asked, her eyes darting around.
“Oh, yes.” Tanya responded. “Everything is peachy.”
An officer took her left hand and started checking her pulse. “Are you satisfied with everything?” she asked again, apparently not trusting Tanya’s first response.
“Oh, yes. With every damn thing.”
The female officer seems to taken back a bit. “Do you want to complain about anything?”
“No, absolutely not.”
“Do you need a doctor? You look very pale. We have a doctor here.”
“Thank you, but no. Absolutely, not”
She handed her a jacket and t-shirt and told to hurry up. “You’re like in an army, hurry up and wait,” Tanya said, putting the t-shirt on. The officer pretended she didn’t hear that. They walked back to the first location where Tanya found her old pal in his usual spot, perched on a tiny plastic chair.
“Oh, here you are.” he said cheerfully. “I was wondering where you went.”
“Oh, shut up, will you?!”
He grinned. “You are going to prison after all, it’s decided. The prison people are on their way here to pick you up. You will die, but not now. If you have anything to say, do it now.”
Tanya couldn’t wait to get out of there. She had never been so tired in her life. She just wanted to close her eyes and turn herself off.
“Look,” she said. “I don’t blame you for anything. You’re in your country; and you can do whatever you want.”
“Damn right,” he said.
“I just think you should let me go to the US.”
“Give me one reason,” he said, and tilted his head like a dog hearing a strange noise.
“One reason? OK. One reason. Remember you quoted me the State of Israel list of the terrorist organizations about the Swedenborgian Church. You said: The cult of the Church of the New Jerusalem located in the US and elsewhere, and all its members and administrative workers, and its clergy. Right?”
“Right,” he nodded. “So?”
“I’m not a member of this Church. I’m just an innocent student of the college with the same name. I’m not a member, not an administration and not a clergy.”
“It doesn’t change anything.” He said flatly.
“But it does, if you follow your own rules. It does. The list hasn’t mentioned outside non-member students coming to the college. Look, Oxford University has a Trinity College, right?
“Trinity College is a very Christian name, but many Jews graduated from this college. Have they all become Christians?”
“No. Of course not”
“No. They just graduated, got their diplomas and moved on. Same with me… I considered other schools, but this one offered the cheapest Master’s program, plus, they allow the foreign students to work on campus. They offer so called work-study program for foreign students. ”
“Do they, really?’ he sounded impressed.
“Yes, they do. It’s just practical matters. The Master’s degree from the US would help me to teach, and maybe to open my own language school.”
It almost looked like he was considering something.
“That’s why you should let me go. Because… I don’t fit the definition of terrorist. I am absolutely innocent. I’m not even that religious. I’m not a terrorist. You won’t get anything out of me because I don’t know anything. I don’t know anyone. I’m just minding my own business and trying to get as much education as I can.”
She couldn’t read his pale Germanic poker face.
“You keep saying that you don’t know anything. We can make anyone talk, you know?”
“Yes, of course you can. I trust you completely on this. But, I don’t know anything. I can’t even save my life by revealing the information that I don’t have.”
He looked at her in a very peculiar way.
“You don’t understand,” he said. “We don’t need any information. We just need your confession. Look… I feel like I am failing to explain you the gravity of your situation. The deal is, if you sign a confession, you will get ten year sentence, max. You get out after ten years; you’re free to go anywhere you want. But if you resist, you will be in prison indefinitely. They will beat you into bloody pulp. They will torture you to make you to confess, and then you will get ten years plus a sentence for resisting. The longer you resist, the more years you will spend in prison. But, most likely you will just die of torture. They hate when people resist. It drives them nuts. So, what do you think?”
“It’s not fair. I’ve done nothing wrong. I don’t deserve this abuse. It’s not fair to me, and it’s not fair to your cause. You people act like sadists, and not the national security officers. You’re diminishing your cause.”
“It doesn’t matter,” he mumbled. “It makes sense, but it doesn’t matter. We can’t let you go. We just can’t let you go. We can’t. We’re not allowed. We have to follow the law. We have to follow the rules.”
He crossed the room and opened the door, “Sorry, I can’t do anything for you. People from prison should be here any minute now to pick you up and to take you with them. Get some rest, you will need it. Bye, Tanya.”
“Goodbye, sir. Thanks for everything. Thank you for your patience. I appreciate you taking time and talking to me. You’re really a very good security officer. I am glad we’ve met.”
He opened his mouth, but didn’t say anything and left. The day was going around and around in circles. This morning, Alex, getting ready, taking a bus ride across Israel, her entire life felt so foreign and completely irrelevant. She didn’t even know why she had bothered at all. She sat down into the same single plastic chair in the middle of the room and prepared to wait again. She was absolutely at peace with herself.
1 The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the first of five books in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy comedy science fiction “trilogy” by Douglas Adams.
An excerpt from How To Be Russian: A Biography of Tatyana Sannina by Scott Humor © Scott Humor 2016 The Enemy of the State, by Scott Humor © 2016 by Scott Humor. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any written, electronic, recording, or photocopying form without written permission of the author, Scott Humor, or his representative the Saker Analytics, LLC . Books may be purchased in quantity and/or special sales by contacting the author, Scott Humor at thesaker.is. Cover Design by: Dalibor The title page image is from an unnamed internet source Library of Congress Control Number: ISBN: 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 1. Nonfiction 2. Biography First Edition Printed in the USA This book is a work of nonfiction. The events described in this book are true and either documented, or collaborated by the witnesses. Some names of people and organizations, and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals. This book is not a self-help book. Although the author and publisher have made every effort to ensure that the i nformation in this book was correct at press time, the author and publisher do not assume and hereby disclaim any liability to any party for any loss, damage, or disruption claimed to be caused by this publication.
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