I wonder what it looks like when two sets of vampire teeth go through the x-ray machine at the airport.

I should’ve asked. The guy saw them several times.

I was lulled into a peaceful state in the short security line. The first security guy told me, “Now ‘at’s a good girl!” when I already had my liquids in a separate baggie. He didn’t even make me take my shoes off. And I only had one backpack, with no laptop, because this was a weekend vacation and work wasn’t coming with me.

I was gonna crack on through that line in Heathrow.

Until they stopped my backpack. Backed it up. Forward. Back. Forward. Off the belt.

“This your bag?”

This wasn’t your normal “search the bag for the questionable item and remove it” operation. This was a full-on backpack dismantle. The lady at the end pulled it to the side, got three separate plastic bins and begin separating the entire contents of my bag into them.

I wish I knew what the categories were. Level of threat, spy-like qualities or genre?

Purple and green vampire teeth in bin one.

Underwear, hats and jeans in bin two.

Dr. Seuss book (that she flipped through and read some of) in bin one.

Two jars of crunchy peanut butter and a starfish baby mug in bin three.

Groucho Marx glasses and a tattoo sleeve. She held those up, raising an eyebrow.

“Yeah, you can tell it was just Halloween,” I said with an awkward laugh, rubbing the back of my neck.

Those items went in bin one with the teeth. I’d drawn a crowd by this point.

When she finally finished, she ran all three bins through the machine separately, plus the empty shell of a backpack, and assembled some officials to decide the fate of the peanut butter.

It didn’t make it. Tragedy. But the teeth and I, we made it to Moscow and to my friend Kelsey, and it was definitely worth the shakedown.

Beautiful birch trees, stark white against the redness of the city. Metro stations treated as museums of convenience, opportunities to remind the Russian people of their history, their literature and their artists during their daily commute.

Churches that make striking statements against the capital’s skyline.

We wandered around the city, making up stories about what monuments meant. Red Square, twice. A free cello concert at the Moscow Conservatory. A little grocery shopping for boxed milk like a local.

The last night we ended up at a beautiful fortress of a church, bold and imposing against the frigid, quiet Moscow sky.

No one was around, we thought, as we ambled around it in the cold. And then we went inside.

Half of Moscow was there in the orthodox church it seemed, standing in the enormous chasm of an open space under arched ceilings painted with elaborate, gold-leafed murals. We wound silently and slowly through the flickering candles and scattered worshipers crossing themselves and bowing low as a recorded chant echoed through the great hall. A clergy member carried to the front a huge gold, sparkling Bible and held it up to the waves of bowing people before retreating into a gazebo-like room, pulling a curtain across and shutting the golden doors behind him.

We stared.

Our hearts broke.

The holy of holies? Is that what that signifies? I’m going to need to do some research.

No matter what was happening here, no matter what that signified or whether or not there were true worshipers in the room, we were sure from their faces that many of them didn’t know that that curtain had been torn, the doors opened.

That Hope was personal.

It was a heavy feeling in that bright room.

After a while we made our way quietly out of the church and onto a bridge nearby. The wind was frigid, but the view made up for it – the church to one side, and the Kremlin to the other.

As we turned to face Red Square, my friend began to erupt in prayer, lifting up the souls of that beautiful, massive city. She prayed for boldness for the believers. Wisdom for the leaders. For Light to pierce the darkness. For Hope to come to the hopeless.

I joined her.

And may I never forget to keep doing just that. It’s overwhelming, the need.

But the Light is breaking through.

3 Responses

  1. Thank you. On behalf of my city and my people…and myself. Oh friend, I’m tearing up! Thank you for bringing vampire teeth and Groucho glasses and Dr. Suess and a starfish baby mug and almost crunchy peanut butter (not almost crunchy, but almost present) to come visit me!
    I’ve still got a big Grace-shaped hole that aches…and no grads from the mystery academy of swashbuckling can fix it, not with all the perogies or onions in all of Russia. yellowbluebus

Leave a Reply