One of these expeditions through the basements ended with our coming out into a quiet, gloomy courtyard, whose heavy, almost castle-like gates look out onto the Winter Kanavka. These gates are opened only a few times a year, and the courtyard itself is full of gloom even in summer. Here on this day we are met by a sudden sadness and exhaustion. A padded silence, powdered with snow. White cylinders have formed on the cornices of the windows (or rather, not white - in the airless December light, the snow has a bluish tint). Our hearts go quiet and faint, hushed by this atmosphere; by the congealing, enclosing, indoors, milky haze. Snow falls quietly, leaving warm wet spots on our hands and faces. We are young on this day, but our hearts have a presentiment of our lives to come -- as if we have already lived to the end; of the weariness of future changes, of the whole sorry, longed-for journey. And now ... seventeen years have passed. Those times are already in the past, and there is no sign of anything to replace them. Apart from Misha, mentioned above, none of us has become well-known in any significant way. And as for money, we don't have that either. Which is why I am doing part-time work in the archive, across the road. Well, what else can you do? Something has to be done to pay for the golden dust which settled on my heart in youth, and whose soft sheen illumines the depths of the Hermitage courtyards like an avowal of adherence to everything elevated and excellent - an adherence which distinguishes our colourful, but unfortunately rather small, circle of friends.
Yevgeny Zvyagin, 1983
(1) 'Hanging Garden'.
(2) Place where alcohol is bought by the litre, being poured out into bottles or containers supplied by the buyer himself.