Thursday, June 5

In the dream, they were sitting in a cafe. She knew it was him even though she had never seen him — by his smile. He smiled constantly — “Il rit. Il rit beaucoup” — while she was trying desperately to convince him of something. Whatever it was, it was evidently between friends, for whenever they didn't talk, they laughed. Their laughter was what she remembered as the best thing about the dream — that, and the smells, of baking bread, of coffee, regular cafe smells, but made stronger, richer, by the freshly falling rain. They stayed with her even when she woke up in the morning, clinging to her and merging in her mind with other, morning smells, so that for a long time she didn't know whether she was really awake or still dreaming.

Even at that hour when the grey sky of St. Petersburg is shrouded in total darkness and all its race of officials have dined and sated the...