A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.




 

The Czar's Daughter
Monday, January 24, 2011

 
Anastasia at the Marble Arch

“Who?”

“Anastasia.”
“Isaac, can you be a little more specific than that?”

“You know the history books. Anastasia was Czar Nicholas’ youngest daughter. Most people think she was killed with the rest of the czar’s family after the revolution. But every five or ten years a woman would show up, swearing she was Anastasia”

“And you met her at the Christys[Christy Mathewson Club].”

“No,” Isaac said. “I knew another Anastasia, when I was a kid on the Lower East Side. She came to our school on winter, out of nowhere. It was during the war. She was a refugee. From Russia, I think. I don’t know how the hell she escaped. But she was living with some uncle or aunt. And she had all this European culture. She’d studied ballet in Moscow or Budapest. She could rattle off French until our teachers were dizzy. She’d read Turgenev and she was thirteen. We were all in love with her. And she played with us, said she was Her Imperial Highness, the Princess Anastasia…Anastasia with torn socks.”

“And what happened?”
“I told you, Sweets. I was crazy about her. Once she took me home to tea. Her aunt was poor as a mouse, but she had a samovar, and we had this black, black tea with strawberry jam in glasses with a silver handle…it was high society.”

“Did you kiss her?”
“I never had the chance. She lasted one winter with these torn socks. And then she was gone…to a different uncle our aunt. But Sweets, she had the whitest skin. You could almost feel the bones on her face, see them move.”

“And you want to find her?”
“Yes.””
“What’s her real name?”

Isaac held his check. “Anastasia. That’s what we called her in class.”

The Good Policeman, Jerome Charyn, 1990



     

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