I was on the St. Petersburg-Moscow Express when I learned about the explosions in the Moscow subway. Ninety minutes out, my neighbor got a call on his cellphone. He asked loudly: “Papa, you at home? What happened?” He spoke for a long time in a whisper, then turned to me and said, “An hour ago there were two explosions in the Moscow metro.”
I hurriedly called Mama. Mondays she works in the Historical Museum on Red Square. It’s close to Lubyanka, where one of the explosions was. Thank God, she travels on a different subway line.
“You alive?” I asked.
“Alive, alive!” she replied. “I’m in the metro, can’t hear, call back later.”
Life can be so absurd. She didn’t know about the bombing yet, and answered, as always, with a joke. I often ask her this foolish question; it’s become a tradition.
A moment later, I got a text message from my daughter in Mumbai, where she’s shooting a documentary. “You alive there? Not by chance riding metro?”
“Alive, and you?” I typed back.
“Need $400, want to stay longer, can u send?”
Next my son, a photojournalist, called from Georgia. “Papa, you alive?”
“Well, I’ve got a sore throat. I rented a Ford Explorer and am heading out today for Batumi.”
All the other passengers in the car seemed to be asking the same questions. Everyone snuggled up to their cellphones. Soon the network had shut down.
So had Moscow. I barely got a taxi.
Cars trudged through the streets or stood still. The taxi driver gouged me and swore at everyone: terrorists, the government. He leaned out his window, howling at everyone who cut him off. The radio announced 26 dead. “There’ll be more, they’re all lying,” he said. “Those beasts, I would hack them up into little pieces.”
I kept silent. I wanted to get home. I turned to stare out the window.
At home I flipped on the news. Reports said that this was the 10th terrorist attack on the metro since 1974. I sank into the couch and decided that tomorrow I would send $400 to my daughter in Mumbai.
Though I don’t feel like going outside.
Peter Aleshkovsky, the author of the forthcoming novel Fish: A History of One Migration. This essay was translated by Paul E. Richardson from the Russian.