I objected. “There will be a hundred thousand people there. We’ll never find each other. Let’s meet in the metro.”
“That’s hardly romantic.”
“I’m being practical. I’ll bring champagne.” I took her hand, and she relented.
“Ladno. Teatralnaya at half past eleven.” Squeezing my fingers, she kissed me on the lips and left.
I waited at the station with a bottle of champagne and a packet of cheap sparklers. When the police started herding people towards the escalators, I let the crowd carry me along to the street.
The noise in the Square had a physical presence, heavy and enveloping. People rushed every which way in various stages of drunkenness. Roman candles shot bright threads across the warp of the crowd.
I wove my way to the center of this desperate tapestry. There, luminous in the smoky glow, Lena leaned against her husband. She saw me immediately.
“Artur came back from Piter early,” she said, smiling up at him. “He knew I couldn’t bear to be alone on New Year’s. Jennifer studies in the university,” she added by way of introduction.
“Ochen’ priyatno,” he said, and in English, “Will you join us?”
“No, thank you. I’m meeting someone here. At midnight.” I avoided Lena’s eyes, afraid to set off fireworks.
“Ah, how romantic!” he cried, and gestured. “May I light one for you?”
I handed them each a coated metal stick. Artur lit one, gave it to me. Lena touched hers to mine. Blue and silver sparks flashed between us. “S Novym Godom,” she said.
“Happy New Year,” I replied automatically. “Keep the box.”
I left through the gate that so beautifully framed St. Basil’s and walked down the center of Tverskaya, which was closed to traffic for the celebration. Stars burst up over the snow-dusted walls of the Kremlin, a magnificent display that put my tiny sparkler to shame. When it went out, I tossed what remained into the snow and walked home.
March 30, 2014: Lately I’ve been thinking of the time I spent in Russia. The news over the past few months, from the homophobic laws passed just before the Sochi Olympics all the way up to Russia’s actions in Crimea, has made me nostalgic for the country I fell in love with when I was 17. I’m posting this story for yeah write’s moonshine grid because, in a way, it reflects that wistfulness. It’s mostly fiction; I’ll let you decide which parts are true.
This post was originally written in response to the Trifecta Writing Challenge prompt, and was published on my blog on July 4, 2012.
You should write a creative response using the given word. You must use the word in your response, and you must use it correctly. Your response can be no fewer than 33 and no more than 333 words. This week’s word is:1: a device for producing a striking display by the combustion of explosive or flammable compositions2: plural a display of fireworks