The windows of my bedroom on Gorky Street in Moscow overlooked a building just beyond the Theater Studio of Movie Actors. One day, looking through binoculars, a friend and I found a naked woman and man, both wearing eyeglasses. Not everything fell into our field of view, but some illuminating details were visible. From then on the place at the window became our watchtower: we needed merely to wait for that sacred moment.
Not even beastly cold on the streets, or ice over the windows, could stop us. We would open the small ventilating window within the bigger window, the fortochka, lay a tome from the Great Soviet Encyclopedia on the frame, and set the binoculars on top of the book. Then we’d slide a matchbox beneath the binoculars, for precision.
Through this teenage rite passed the future greats of Soviet arts — Ovchinnikov, Tarkovsky, Ashkenazy, Chesnokov, Shpalikov, Ubransky — everyone who visited me, without exception. As soon as the one with the binoculars uttered the words, “It’s begun!,” we would stop whatever we were doing and race to the window.
We saw some truly strange things. We spied on the sexual lives of others — perceived them not so much as real, but surreal. Pure Kafka, perhaps. Or Buñuel.
There even was a fat, doughy guy and an old woman with an uninteresting, loose, waxen body. Sometimes she put on rubber gloves — for what, we didn’t know.
Once, standing in line at the produce store, I turned around — recognized the face of the woman behind me. But from where? Then it struck me: My God, it’s her! It was the woman with the rubber gloves.
I said nothing.