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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Citizenship Is Not Only Tie That Bonds

Dear Father,It's a bit strange, I admit, to write a letter to you while you are sitting next to me. But I may have a reason to write to you sooner than I would wish.


Allow me to note that Microsoft Office has just asked me whether, since "it looks like you're writing a letter," I would like some help. I would not.


These "wizards," or whatever they're called, are supposed to be trainable -- about as trainable as, you guessed it, bureaucrats. You realize, of course, that I don't mean they're not trainable at all -- they are in fact much too trainable; they can be taught but not untaught.


At times like these I feel how truly similar we are, how, well, related. The way you have pushed the two slices of fresh pepper to the edge of your tray and the way I have shoved mine over into the corner. These are the sorts of habits by which people's true alliances are to be judged. But they are judged by things so much less meaningful, circumstantial and almost entirely unrelated to genetic code, such as citizenship.


You are a U.S. citizen and I am a Russian one, and soon we may be separated. Perhaps they marked us by giving us fresh pepper of different colors -- green to me, red to you. Do you suppose that this means I will be allowed to enter the border zone to which we are flying and you will not?


Allow me to note that they have served chicken Kiev. Where else with people seated close by one another are you likely to encounter chicken Kiev? I'll tell you: You are likely to encounter chicken Kiev at banquets at the House of Journalists. This is because journalists, Father, are horrible, mean-spirited people. I have witnessed friends of mine position their chicken Kiev strategically and then cut into it, spraying butter all over a dinner companion's best dress. I know people so skilled that they can spray past one person to get another. My friend G shot her Kiev butter right over Yasen Zasursky, the dean of the Moscow State University journalism department, and got it all over journalist I (no, not me) from the newspaper Kultura, which, as you know, despite being a U.S. citizen, means "culture," which adds a whole ironic dimension to my friend G's action. And then G volunteered to accompany I (not me) to the bathroom to help her get the stains out.


Yes, Father, women can be downright scary. But still, you spared the young woman sitting next to you the chicken Kiev treatment. In fact, at my suggestion, you are being exceedingly friendly to her. She works for the administration of the place to which we are going, a border zone we do not have permission to enter.


Now you have been taken away, Father. I got by them and you were told to go to the third floor to see the border guards. I have been waiting for you for almost an hour now.


And now you are finally out. It turns out that all this time they were not torturing you to get you to confess to being a spy; they were just waiting for their chief. And when he got there, they said, pointing at you, "He doesn't have Anadyr in his visa."


"So what?" said the border guard chief.





Masha Gessen is a staff writer for Itogi magazine.