The first time I saw Moscow Mark, I knew it was him. Oh, it was him. All I had to go on were the stories I’d heard from the boys at poker, the gym, The Warehouse, the cafeteria, Freddies Down The Road, Curtis and Falduto’s – hell everybody had a Moscow Mark story – and they were all good…
So I’m headed to lunch; and walking along – but not next to me – is a slim guy with long blonde hair that could be six-foot-two, but he’s probably got the worst posture of anyone at Arizona State University. The weight of the world was squarely on his shoulders. He’s wearing medical scrubs (not to be in style for about another three years), high-top Keds and a kerchief headband. He was mumbling to himself, staring at the ground and looking like the subject of a play that as far as I know he never got around to writing: “The Man Who Loved Disease”. But I wasn’t intimidated in the least bit. After all – this was why I left home in the first place – to meet people like Moscow Mark. To befriend them, get all the answers to my questions and become cool.
He gave me the chin nod (very cool) and crackled what was obviously his first utterance of the day; “Hey…”
“How are you?” He stutter stepped and slowed down, as my voice violated the very cool unspoken protocol of college introduction standards.
“Miserable;” he said, regaining his original gait.
“Hey – you’re Moscow Mark; aren’t you?”
A full year before Travis Bickle threatened his mirror with the same disconcerted confrontation; Moscow Mark stopped, turned and looked right at me. His squinted blue eyes snapped down to my feet, then back to my forehead.
“I mean – that’s what they call you… Moscow Mark.”
I could feel the people walking in front of us slowing down and turning their heads; guys cutting off their conversations and stopping behind us; people sitting up and focusing their site on the second at Ocotillo Hall along our path. Moscow’s face then turned to defeat and victory all at once. A long breath filled his lungs with solitude that in turn, fed his bloodstream, muscles and brain with the realization that the battle for anonymity – his quest for peace and quiet – was lost. Like a wounded Josey Wales, having fought long after the war was over, Moscow Mark shook his head, lifted his eyebrows in sudden insight and said;
“I reckon I am…”
I was in there, baby.