There are many Petersburgs, each of them black and tasting of stone. The city sprawls in a tangled nervous system, twisted districts and zones crisscrossed by canals and deadend streets. Komendatsky, Dybenko, Kupchino. Within each grid another grid, courtyards and corridors and codes, stairs descending into darkness. The Neva sleeps below the ice, blue as veins, fish shocked with winter. The secret life channels deep and unseen through the city, the Russia that you cannot know with its dead grandfathers and simmering kettles and girls touching the red tips of cigarettes to the specific darkness outside their windows. Girls with voices like the jangle of toy pianos, broken and unnerving, who believe in the genius of chaos, who disarrange bouquets, necklace their throats with nails. At night these girls ink their eyes into purpleblack wings, drink fire, splash graffiti, piss their acids into snow. In the darkness of their mouths all vowels are bitten and swallowed. The next morning these girls walk down Nevsky like they’re sharpening themselves against the world, the swivel and piston and roll of their hips. They wear spiked heels and wound the ground they walk on.