A Brush with Moscow Night Stalkers

(an excerpt from my fledgling book)

The fat is in the fire. Today’s pig’s tomorrow’s bacon.

- Hunter S. Thompson

It was the late fall of 2012. A little Friday’s drinks party in my friends’ rented flat was nearing its climax, when I decided to slither away. I had cut out booze years before, and — with all due respect for my pals as personalities — I couldn’t stand their drunken ramblings. So I saw no point in listening to them and pretending I was interested. I hastily packed up and left. At 3 am sharp.

Truth be told, I had initially planned to stay there for the whole night, that is why — since at the time I was working out at the gym — I brought along a shaker with two scoopfuls of white protein powder inside and a plastic jar of San BCAA pills. So I stuffed it all in my messenger bag alongside a pack of low-fat cottage cheese and some random flotsam and jetsam.

Outside was a serene starless night where one could hear a pin drop and, perhaps, occasional shouting of sloshed hoodlums. Our dwellings were situated not very far apart within the same Southern district of Moscow, and it should have taken me about forty five minutes to reach my bachelor’s quarters. Roughly speaking, two long straights split by a ninety-degree left-hander and then a short descent towards my rented den. To employ a piece of aviation jargon, I was approaching the short final when I sensed a vehicle right behind my back. It was clearly stalking me, and when it overtook me and pulled over almost cutting me off, I already knew I was in big trouble. Stalking me was a patrol car. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist, nor a statistics agency officer to twig that a late night encounter with Moscow police forces in a deserted street spelled problems of unimaginable proportions and was a guaranteed shit dispenser. And here they were.

Out lumbered an ominously sagging fat belly followed by its brawny owner, apparently the crew’s senior. Without much introductory ado (prescribed by the law, but who cares at night time, right?), he requested that I unzip the bag and let him scour its contents for ‘suspicious objects.’ Launching into a rant about my constitutional rights would have been no use and completely missing the point. The illegal rifling was never meant as a step in fighting the terrorism or hunting for felons on the loose. Russian police viewed this exceptionally as a chance to find a scapegoat and pin their cold cases on an unwitting and defenceless simpleton. I complied.

The uniformed fat arse immediately nose-dived into my bag and started fishing rabidly through a wide-ranging assortment of wrinkled papers, glossy ATM receipts, yellowed copies of The Moscow Times, used cotton buds, pomegranate-flavoured wet towels, old plastic shopping bags with faded supermarket logos, dried felt-tip pens and hardened crumbs. He looked like a kid in a candy store, as they say in the US, if this can apply to a moronic on-duty thug decorated with shameful shoulder boards and serving the criminal authorities. While the bastard was enjoying himself, I glanced to my left and briefly detected three other silhouettes inside the cop car. Civil resistance was clearly not an option.

However, I believed I did have a sort of an ace up my sleeve, and decided to cash it right away. I resolutely produced my Moscow State University (MSU) postgraduate credentials and shoved it into the fat arse’s little face.

If only you could picture a face of a Neanderthal whose previous occupation might well have been herding the sheep in the middle of the Russian nowhere and who for the most part of his wretched earthly existence was having to come to grips with a social status of a complete nobody. Imagine how jealous he was of anyone who succeeded in this life both morally and mentally to a much greater extent, who pushed their intellectual boundaries further than he could have ever conceived of. And now he was in freaking charge of the situation.

Sure enough, the manoeuvre cut no ice with the dingbat. Quite on the contrary. He quickly eyeballed the ID, cackled straight into my confounded face and muttered an unintelligible tirade with the words “likely terrorist accomplices,” “masterminds of anti-state subversions,” and “drug dealers” in it. And he was right. I mean, absolutely. Who else can have the nerve and the balls to enrol for the top university in the country except for terrorist accomplices, subversion masterminds, and drug dealers? Don’t be kidding yourselves, mates, education serves no good cause in this country. It is for misfits and the embedded US agents only, the miserable outsiders who are crying out to be punched in their faces and stomped on their ugly educated spines, so that the real deal can storm their way to success.