Sometimes I dream for more
They tell me that someday the Cold War will end, and we in the Soviet Union will live just the way people do in the west.
I cannot wait for that day when I can live without fear, without the stare of strangers or spies of the state watching what I do and listening to what I say.
I am no terrorist.
I am a loyal soldier who is mostly satisfied with my life and my position, although sometimes I do dream for more.
In Moscow, it is no crime to be poor the way it is in the west.
We are all poor – even those who serve in the military the way I do.
But Moscow is full of intrigues, of fools calculating their way into better circumstances.
I have always avoided such intrigues, which may explain why I am still a lieutenant when I wish very much to become a captain.
My best friend, Boris, tells me I must seize what I want anyway I can or never get it.
He urges me to transfer to his branch of the military where I might advance more quickly and become the captain I am always dreaming of becoming.
A transfer, however, means a step back in rank, a slightly lower position and worse, a loss in salary.
I cannot step back when all whom I went to school with have already advance, some not merely my equal, but already my superiors.
And while military men in the west might not lose much in making such a move, even a few rubles lost here is a huge burden for me.
How after years of advancing fashions could I bear to appear in public in some lesser collar or coat, humiliated by my inability to keep up even in that regard?
I have also become accustomed to certain small luxuries such as my once a week dining out at an up and coming eatery.
So regular have my visits become that the staff treats me with great respect, even calling me “captain” when they know I am not.
No, I will avoid Boris’ advice and seek my own path to success, to seek the office of captain in my own unit, and thus acquire the salary and respect such a promotion brings.
I make an appointment with my superior and bring with me evidence of my nearly perfect record, a record of spotless performance and attention to detail.
In ten years of service, I have not missed one day or made any serious error, nor have I offended any superior officer.
Yes, I admit my record shows no real outstanding events, the material out of which other men have forged remarkable careers.
But in this, I believe I have been wise, a steady force rather than a shooting star, a survivor when others have cast themselves against the jagged stones of their own ambitions.
My superior is cold – worse – arrogant, asking me why I have this sudden need for increased rank.
Am I contemplating marriage?
When I deny this, he shrugs and tells me he will take up the matter with his superiors.
This is most unsatisfactory.
I leave half wishing I had not brought the matter up.
Why do I have need for more?
Am I not happy with my one night out per week and a job that no one else is seeking to put me out of?
I put the matter how out of my mind, assuming my request will be denied.
I go back to my old life and old habits and find myself moderately more content.
Then, one of my inferiors – a rather ambitious man himself – tells me I am being investigated.
I learn later that men are asking questions of my landlord, my neighbors, and even the doorman at the restaurant.
I see shadows on the street slipping from door way to door way with their eye on me.
The interview haunts me.
Why was I so foolish as to call attention to myself, my sudden urge for distinction making me suspect in their eyes.
I see all I have achieved in my life evaporating around me.
To undo the harm I have done, I rush back to my superior and beg him to dismiss my request for promotion.
He is both amused and perplexed, and agrees as long as this is what I want.
My relive evaporates the moment I come home and find members of the secret police waiting there for me.
They want to know about my friend, Boris, how close we are and how deeply am I into his confidences and if I knew he intended to defect to the west.
Only after they leave do I realized what has happened, how I am not the target of their investigation, Boris is, and how my superior will think me crazy if I return and beg back my request for promotion.
I must be content with what I have, with being called “Captain” only in the café once per week.
Sometimes, I still dream for more, and wonder if the Cold War will ever end, and if the west has satisfied Boris’ ambitions, when the Soviet Union could not.