A bearded man getting on in years was sitting opposite me in the trolleybus.
He was muttering something under his breath. He told me he had gotten a small role in a musical and was learning the lines.
The trolleybus isn’t just a form of public transport. It has a certain mystical quality of getting people talking; even if they are strangers, as was my case.
The already familiar stranger started telling me about the years when my generation hadn’t yet been born.
“In 1988, society was crystallized. There weren’t even any robberies. The thieves were also at Liberty Square. They too wanted to liberate Karabakh. People stood there for days on end.
Some would bring food to share. They passed it from the back all the way to those in the front rows. No one helped themselves to anything on the way. People were too embarrassed to say that they too were very hungry.”
This man was one in the back rows, and he now told me his story.
It wasn’t that late in the day, but the public trolleybus was already singing a lullaby for the taxis. Our trolleybus had broken down. We started pushing – that man from 1988, me and the driver. With some difficulty, the trolleybus began to move, leaving those hoping to catch a ride in its wake.
The 1988 man perhaps might not have remembered Liberty Square, the crystallized public, and the freedom-loving thieves, had the three of us not pushed the trolleybus, accompanied by the stares of those crunched up in the mashrutka (public minivan) on their way home.
What a pity that one day the people of 1988 won’t be around, and that there won’t be a need to push a trolleybus.
They too will share the same fate as the tramways, long since gone from the city.
For the crystallization of the public, perhaps, it will be necessary to wait for the collapse of the next empire.
The only thing remaining from the “people”, so majestic a concept, will be those hoping to catch a spot in the next mashrutka.