The weather is changing in Yerevan; winter is almost here. The evening, especially, are on the cold side, often rainy, the streets wet under the light drizzle.
It’s true what everyone says about such Yerevan evenings, when you leave a dinner party with friends, step out onto the wet pavements, and begin a slow, leisurely walk. You’ll walk until you’re tired, or until the rain intensifies. It’s what everyone does in Yerevan, on such evenings. If you’re an incurable pedestrian, you’ll walk until something stops you in your tracks, a minor, everyday miracle that reveals itself right there in front of your eyes.
And there it was for my dear friend S. and me last night: a white taxi, impeccably clean sliding, at it were down Vartanants St., sliding toward us like a swan on a lake. We had tired of walking and were on the lookout for wheels to get us home. As the white apparition came into full view, the light changed to red; the taxi stopped. We looked, incredulously, caught in the magic of the moment: an old Soviet Volga GAZ-21 in the middle of the quiet bustle of Yerevan’s midnight.
We jumped in. The car had none of the nicotine smell so characteristic of many cars here. The driver was not a smoker, we could tell, or at least he did not smoke when he was driving. He told us so proudly. “I don’t allow my riders to smoke in the car,” he said. “You notice what a nice smell the car has. ” It was the smell of leather, the seats light grey and comfortable with generous legroom and two round straps attached to the back of the front seats in case the car swirled and the passengers in the back needed support. Our driver switched on the inside lights which were on either side to the left of the windows. The interior glowed. “My father bought it in 1964,” he said, “the year it was produced. And I have taken care of it since then, for more than 50 years!” In those fifty years, the world had changed; revolutions had happened; empires had collapsed; wars had been won, and others lost.
The ride was smooth and elegant, an Armenian song of that same era accompanying us to our destination. We stepped out, and took one last look at the Volga. Its sheen had turned even brighter under the rain. Slowly, the Volga began to move away and up Vagharshian Street into the night. We stood looking, unable or unwilling to move, the swan-like machine becoming smaller as its driver navigated it up the street until it was only a spec, a white glimmer in the night.~~