Chapter Twenty:

Good Night, Sweet Prince

“There is no pain, you are receding ...

A distant ship, smoke on the horizon.

You are only coming through in waves.

Your lips move but I can’t hear what you’re saying.

When I was a child, I caught a fleeting glimpse

Out of the corner of my eye.

I turned to look, but it was gone.

I cannot put my finger on it now,

The child is grown, the dream is gone ...

And I have become

Comfortably numb

-Pink Floyd


"I'm wide awake,

I'm not sleeping.

If I could, through myself,
Set your spirit free,
I'd leave you a hollow egg
See you break, break away
Into the light
And to the day ...

To let it go
And so to fade away ...”

— U2


    Daniel’s eyes were wide with panic. He went towards the telephone to call Lena, but I screamed at him, “To hell with that!  Come on!  We’ve got to get help!”

    I grabbed Cyril’s still body and we ran down to the hotel lobby where the staff heard us coming, screaming “Pomogayte! Pomogayte!” (“Help! Help!”) all the way.

    At once the doctor on staff and Daniel began CPR treatments, but to no avail. Daniel had feared that Cyril might have choked on some of the food he’d been fed, but by now it was obvious that wasn’t the case. 

    And it was just as obvious, too, that nothing was going to revive him. The CPR was more for us, a formality so we could say we did all we could.

  The entire front lobby staff was there and a few hotel guests were standing around watching in horror and shock. I couldn’t watch, but hovered near the front desk, catching glimpses of conversation, of the doctor hitting Cyril on his back to get him to breathe again.

    My eyes met those of another woman who had come in and was sitting watching on the other side of the room. Her eyes stared back at me, tears rolling down her face.  

    I prayed to God to keep Cyril with Him. I just couldn’t see bringing back someone for half a life to live, but yet I continued to sob and sob, myself unable to do anything. 

    I remember glancing up at the clock above the front desk. It read 5:20 p.m.

    Someone on staff had called the paramedics, and they arrived in 10 or 15 minutes. I moved over to the couch where the doctor and Daniel had placed Cyril’s body.  

    The paramedics stuck some tube in his mouth attached to a pump, put some vial or an unknown drug to revive him, but it would be as fruitless as the CPR had been.

    Finally, the inevitable happened. The paramedic turned to me and said “konyets,” which means “the end” in Russian. I looked at him shook my head up and down and said “Ya znayu — “I know.”

    Somebody had managed to find a young woman out on the streets who spoke a few words of English. She and I were able to give the paramedics Cyril’s information — how old he was, and then she was gone. The paramedics handed me a card that declared him dead; Daniel and I were to wait for the police and give this to them. 

    And then the paramedics left. Without taking Cyril’s body.

    So there Daniel and I sat in the hotel lobby of the Hotel Mikos, with Cyril dead between us on the couch, in full view of visitors coming and going. Somebody brought out a towel to cover his body, and glasses of vodka were placed on the table for us (We didn’t drink them, but we fully appreciated the gesture).

    Glancing down at him lifeless, dressed in only a sagging diaper and a now stained T-shirt, I realized how inappropriately he was attired. My God, how could I leave the baby dressed like that?   

    I jumped up and ran back to the room to grab a yellow snuggly-type sleeping garment to dress him. It was what we were going to have placed him in that night for bed, and it was my mother’s favorite color.

    Daniel looked up at me as I approached him with the yellow snuggly sleeper in my hand. I could barely speak from sobbing, but managed to choke out, “Poor tiny baby. We can’t let him lay here like that Daniel. Poor soul.”  

    I told Daniel to take his head and lift it as I slipped the garment on him; we took note that his body had begun to cool as Daniel helped me put his arms into the sleeves.

    Neither of us will forget the tepid feeling of his dead, cooling body. Neither of us wants to feel it again. Ever.

    Neither one of us had thought to close his eyes, so they remained fixed and staring upwards, much like the little princess who died in childbirth in Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

    What were we going to do?  What were we doing in this godforsaken country halfway around the world with a dead baby between us?

    Then the door of the hotel lobby opened and in walked Sergey, Lena and Linda Wright. Linda came in, all red from the cold, looking around curiously. Later on she would say we looked just like a Russian couple sitting there so grimly.  When Lena turned to us, Daniel said to her in Russian, pointing down at the still figure lying between us: “On umer“he died.”

    Lena looked like she wanted to run and hide and never come back (later, Linda said, that’s exactly what Lena said she felt like doing). 

    I made a motion to get her to get Linda out of there; just what this woman needed to see, a dead baby on her first meeting us. Lena made the attempt, but Linda, was faster and smarter than that. 

    She went up to us before Lena could get near her, and Daniel finally found the nerve to say in English what he’d just said in Russian: “The baby just died.”

    Linda, a total and utter stranger to us, came up, sat down and immediately put her arms around me as I began to sob.  

    “Poor tiny thing!” I managed to choke out. “What is going to happen to his soul?  He wasn’t even baptized” (it was the latent Catholic in me coming to the fore).  

    “Don’t worry about that,” Linda said. “All babies go to heaven.” 

    I believed her and hoped that his soul had escaped to where he had to go, although there was still a sense of disbelief in the air around us.  

    Daniel still felt numb all over, hoping against the evidence of his own senses that this was all unreal and a fully healthy Cyril would be brought out from behind a nearby door.

    Only one other time, later, when we watched the World Trade Center towers collapse on live morning TV, have we both felt the same as we did here.

    Linda had just been brought from Dom Reybonka No. 2 from seeing Yekaterina.  She then said to me, “I had a bad feeling this entire trip. I really did.”

    Lena offered to have Linda driven to her hotel, but Linda wouldn’t move. She stayed right by us, because right about then, I don’t think Linda Wright trusted anybody in that room.

    More people entered the lobby of the Hotel Mikos. Sergey and Gennady  (I asked Daniel, “Who is the dude with the mustache?” Daniel answered, his brain being sharper than mine at the time, “Gennady’s partner whose office we were in before court!”), followed by the police and an investigator from the local Perm Militsiya (police).

    Lena, upon seeing her boss and the police went up and spoke to them. They looked uneasily over at us huddling with Cyril’s now-cold body.

    The look on their faces was pure “Oh no. What do we do now?” We were wondering what to do and awaited some directions. What do you do with a dead baby in Russia whom you had claimed as your son?

    Lena approached us, and we all stood up. Gennady, Sergei, the investigator and the policeman were beginning to approach the stairway to the guest rooms. We figured that we would have to follow and answer questions about Cyril’s death. Lena turned to me and said shakily, almost on the point of hysteria: “You have to take the baby.” 

    My mind and body paused and wrapped around those words. “Take the baby?”  Pick up Cyril’s dead body and carry him back upstairs? The headache I had been nursing was growing worse, as was the queasiness in my stomach. If I wasn’t in shock, I was one step closer at those words.

    “No, what? No ... I can’t carry a dead baby!  That’s really too much.” If I was going to lose it, it was going to be at that moment.

    Linda Wright stepped up and said, “I’ll do it.” And she was the one to pick Cyril’s body up and carry it back up to room No. 11 — a debt that I will owe that woman for the rest of my life.

    I don’t even remember getting up to the room, but recall following Linda, with Cyril’s body, wrapped in a towel, cradled in her arms, the line reeling us back in.

    Linda laid the baby’s body down on the blanket on the floor in the living room.  The same blanket that he had rolled around on those five days. The room was now full with the policeman, the investigator, two hotel staff members, Sergei, Gennady, and later on the orphanage director.

    Linda and Daniel were in the hallway — Linda chainsmoking, Daniel’s mouth just going and going and going, talking loudly about who knows what.  

    My husband was frazzled, his nerves shot. I sat in the living room, on the couch were Cyril died, blowing my nose occasionally and attempting to observe the proceedings.

    My headache was on full force, pounding in my temples. The light in the room just seemed to grow dimmer and dimmer. Any Russian language skills I had acquired and renewed both here and before were fading fast. 

    When the Medical Examiner arrived, he went over and knelt near Cyril’s body. I got up off the couch and sat down next to the baby. 

    We in America are usually so shut off from the physical and actual process of death. I noticed that the blood on Cyril’s face had begun to pool; his blood vessels had dilated on the left side of his face. His sky-blue eyes had sunk into his head, but somehow still remained staring darkly upwards. His fingertips, too, were growing purple as blood pooled there, too. 

    The Medical Examiner touched Cyril’s face, and moved his body; the body was stiff. He also attempted to close Cyril’s eyes, but the eyelids wouldn’t budge. I couldn’t look away from my late son’s dead body lying there so rigid and still upon the floor of that hotel room.

    The policeman took down everyone’s information and wrote a quick diagram of our hotel room, and the medical man categorized what Cyril was dressed in.  He pointed to the little yellow jumper I had dressed him in on the couch in the lobby and said “zholtiy.”

    I turned to Lena and said, “I dressed him in that after he died; I couldn’t let him go without something comfortable to wear.” After that, the policeman let the hotel witnesses go.

    I didn’t know what was happening; after a while, two men with STATIM written in long coats arrived at our hotel room. They were the people from the morgue.  Patiently, they waited for a signal from the investigator to remove the body.  At long last, the investigator gave the signal, and the two men stepped forward to claim Cyril’s body.

    Then it was a blur. The one man had a piece of black, stiff plastic in his hands.  He picked up Cyril’s body and wrapped it in the black plastic. He carried Cyril back down the stairs towards the lobby. 

    Daniel, Linda and I followed close behind. We were all sobbing as we followed the STATIM on the man’s coat.

     We followed him and the other man outside where he took and placed Cyril’s body in the back of the morgue’s truck. Sobbing, Daniel and I choked out a “do svidanya,” to the deflated and dead body of our late son.

    That was the last we saw of Cyril ... the child we had eagerly awaited all year, before we knew his name or his face, who we had come thousands of miles for on but a hope and a dream. 

    Where is he buried? We still do not know.

    Neither Daniel or myself will ever forget what that baby looked like wrapped in cold, black plastic, lying like a piece of discarded furniture in the back of that truck.  

    It was by far the cruelest, most horrible image that we took with us from Russia.  And all this was viewed through eyes pouring tears and sobbing in the coldest night we had ever lived through as a married couple.

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