Hannah Johnson ‘21
Big Russia Girl
I woke up on that fine Thursday to a gentle snowfall outside my apartment window. Is it Christmas? Based on the dreadful feeling in my chest, either it’s actually Halloween (and the terror has already settled itself into my heart), or I’ve simply realized I have to go to Russian Grammar, my first class for the day. In hindsight…it was both.
Don’t get me wrong; I love ghosts, werewolves, and witches as much as the next guy, but you know what *really* rattles my bones on Halloween? Russian grammar. Social anxiety. Student loan debt. You get it, I’m sure.
Anyway, the scares don’t end there for me. I get ready for class; I make my 20 minute walk down Novoslobodskaya to the university. It’s 30 some degrees and snowing so no surprise that everyone is bundled up in coats and scarves, and not in any fun spooky costumes. But I do feel a little pang of sadness, because there are exactly zero decorations to be seen. Halloween isn’t widely celebrated in Russia, and everyone in Moscow lives in apartments in tall buildings. There’s nowhere to put out pumpkins. Stringing fake cobwebs everywhere is simply vandalism.
I roll up to the university. What better way to celebrate Halloween than having to take two tests and give a short presentation? They weren’t too bad for me, but still. Bones = *authentically* rattled. It’s not just Halloween, this is *life*. And life is scary.
I survive the school day. Some Russian students offer me a bat-shaped caramel lollipop on my way out of the university. Scares me a little, but it’s fine. It’s mostly young people, I think, who take any interest in Halloween here. I’m glad nonetheless to see anyone spreading that Halloween spirit. It warms my heart as the snow still falls and the wind chills my face. It reminds me of home.
I head to my favorite haunt, a Starbucks near the metro station. I like the pleasant cafe atmosphere–and a genuine Starbucks, which usually plays western music in English, is very comfortable for me and also reminds me of home. I head inside and thaw out. You’d think that this is the part of the day when I relax, done with classes for the day, in a Starbucks, right? There’s no more spooks in store for me? On the contrary. Do not fear (or, perhaps, do fear), because the spookiest spook of this story is yet to come.
So I’ve gone inside. The baristas always greet every patron by calling out “Zdravstvuyte!” and when I look towards the registers, it seems to me that some of the employees are wearing funny hats today. At the time, this made me happy again, but really, I should have been more observant. I should have, in hindsight…prepared myself.
I take a seat in a chair. I put my phone away for charging and take out my Grammar homework. I have a long trip this weekend, so I need to do some homework before I leave. I’m working quietly, and in my peripheries a barista in a green apron approaches me. I disregard them, thinking they’re just cleaning up the area, but they come right over to me, offering me a cappuccino or something that they mistakenly believe I ordered.
This is already startling, right? I’m just quietly focused on my work and suddenly, there’s a Starbucks employee in front of me, trying to figure out whose order they’re holding, but that’s not the part that startled me. You wanna know what startled me?
The employee that came up to me was Pennywise, the dancing ****ing clown. Full clown makeup, red hair, and two red balloons trailing them. It was ****ing Pennywise in a Starbucks barista’s uniform. You may laugh now, but that was possibly the most scared I have ever been. Imagine it. You think the worst of the day is over. You go to a place you feel safe–you *depend* on it to be a safe place. You sit down, lose yourself in your homework… and suddenly Pennywise the clown is next to you–he was working at the Starbucks all along–and you realize that you are NOT safe.
*You want this cappuccino? Take it. We all float down here!*