No, I’ve never been, but I have dreamed about visiting Moscow and St. Petersburg. Most recently, last night. And since I rarely remember my dreams on waking, I thought I’d set it down.
In which dream I apparently was seen writing poetry (something I don’t do much anymore) somewhere in Moscow, and this was enough for some organization above both the SVR (international intellligence service) and the FSB (the domestic one) to track me, watch me, and strongarm me by visiting my short-term rental apartment in the guise of a plumber and rendering the toilet unusable.
Later, when waiting for the processing of a tourist visa to some other place in Russia, I found myself on the phone with someone at the Russian tourist office, where I was told — by a shocked attendant speaking with a vaguely Indian accent (as if he were just some guy in Mumbai answering the call at a call center) — that the repairman who’d ruined the toilet and the spy I’d seen following me around town were the same guy… and that the person I’d talked to last time I’d called the call center was the same man, too.
“Spooky!” I said.
The guy at the tourist office agreed: “Yes, very spooky. Are you sure you want to come to Russia?”
“Oh, hell, how will that guy know I’m coming?”
There was a short pause, and then the Indian accent disappeared, the voice shifting to one I felt (in the dream) was not only familiar, but nearby: yes, the voice of the man who’d come and ruined the toilet.
“I’ll know,” that voice said softly, “Because you’re telling me. Take your troublemaking someplace else, Mr. Sellar.”
The last I remember in the dream, I was going through the security checkpoint at the airport, in my pocket a ticket for someplace in Russia, thinking, “I don’t care who is watching me: they can’t kill me for writing verse.” But I also remember a vague uncertainty about this assertion passing through me; and yet, off I was going, just the same. I think… or was I leaving back through security again, canceling my trip? I’m not sure. That was about when I woke up.