A Walk Down Misery Street

Part One


I came to America with the green card I’d won in a lottery. No bribes or fake marriages here. Such things do happen. When I won the green card, I took it as a kind of sign from God and left with little hesitation.

My life in Russia never seemed to move forward. Firstly, I did not like the political gegime there. I addition, I couldn’t understand who I was or what my calling was. What I knew about myself was that I liked to read novels and ponder over life; that is why I enrolled at the College of Science and Art, with a major in philosophy. But after studying there for three years, I became disillusioned with classical philosophy and dropped out of college without getting a diploma. Then, I worked as an agent at an advertising agency, and then as a proofreader in a publishing house. None of these jobs brought me much money or any fulfillment. And despite all of this, in my heart of hearts, I always believed that my life should be unique, that God had a special plan for me, and that I certainly had a mission on this Earth.

Imagine the enthusiasm and joy with which I packed my belongings to go to the States! I didn’t doubt that I could quickly find my place in America, the country of unlimited opportunities. There, in the United States, all of my potential would actualize and I would flourish.

What can I say? This is how we—humans—are built! We hope that a change of scenery will fundamentally change us, and most certainly for the better—“The Geographical Cure.”

Finding myself in New York, I quickly realized that the situation here is very different from what I expected. All my hopes and illusions were quickly dashed. I had nowhere to go. I was in a foreign country, basically penniless, with poor English and no college degree. I couldn’t even get a job as a grocery stock boy. 

Once, having rescued a half-broken rocking chair from the sidewalk, I sat in my tiny half-basement apartment on the edge of the Capital of the World—in Brooklyn. I rocked back and forth, accompanied by the squeaking wood, and deliberated my next step.