There was a strange feeling of disorientation as she looked at the sceneries of the city out of her taxi window. She felt both familiar with it and completely detached. It was like, one day you come across the book on your bookshelf, which you used to adore as a child, but when you finally sit down anticipating to be swept away by the imaginary world, you find yourself mildly disappointed. Because even though the book is the same and the words are the same, you can’t read it the same way as you could when you were a child. Nothing changed except you.
She had changed; there was no denying it. But she could feel it more acutely now, looking at her native city with stranger’s eyes. She was long past the fretting stage – that was during the flight – and now she was fighting a guilty feeling of disappointment mixed with nostalgia.
When the taxi finally reached her destination, she stepped out onto the pavement with barely a hint of a quickened heartbeat. Paying the taxi driver and then busying herself with smoothing the hem of her knee-length coat, she only briefly delayed the moment of truth. Finally, she turned and found herself face to face with the Red Brick City.
The magic had been lost.
A small square, not prettier or cleaner than any other square she had seen.
People, walking by, paid no heed to her, while once upon a time anybody’s very appearance in the proximity of the City would have been considered an event. The walls of the fortress had lost their glimmer and looked simply dull.
That was when she found her heart speeding up again.
She willed her legs to move. She walked stiffly, every second expecting someone to shout and stop her. But nobody blinked an eye as she approached the place that had been considered forbidden territory for decades.
There was no post or guard to prevent anyone from entering. The street just blended in with the courtyard, devoid of any visible border. But she could vividly remember that border and briefly hesitated before crossing it. And suddenly she was inside while everybody else was outside.
Dark cobblestone pavement was dirty and littered with rubbish. A street lamp flickered above her head. Her steps seemed to echo between the walls. She entered a dead city.
She looked at the walls, not believing her eyes. Once bright red and shimmering - now they were covered with graffiti and obscene words. She touched a rough surface with her glove-covered fingers. What once would have been considered a sacrilege was now in plain view and being ignored by everybody.
Overwhelmed, she leaned against the wall closing her eyes for a moment. It had been years, but those memories were still fresh in her mind.
They had been young and foolish and too much in love with each other and with a strange fortress that towered above the rest of the Red Brick City. It had been dangerous and thus so beautiful and alluring. They used to sneak inside and kiss against the cold stone walls and make love on the cobblestone pavement.
They had laughed at the threats and chased the bullets. They had thought themselves to be invincible and sung to sirens. But then there had been an air attack warning, and the bombs had flown like a milliard of black insects, growing bigger with every second. Barking dogs and screams and the red bricks covered with the colour of true Revolution.
She was broken.
He was dead.
But the City remained.