People in a public space.
Photo by Timon Studler.

Nine year old Nina is sharing a treat with Count Rostov at the Hotel Metropol, Moscow.

“So,” said the Count, “are you looking forward to your visit home?”

“Yes, it will be nice to see everyone,” said Nina. “But when we return to Moscow in January, I shall be starting school.”

“You don’t seem very excited by the prospect.”

“I fear it will be dreadfully dull,” she admitted, “and positively overrun with children.”

The Count nodded gravely to acknowledge the indisputable likelihood of children in the schoolhouse; then, as he dipped his own spoon into the scoop of strawberry, he noted that he had enjoyed school very much.

“Everybody tells me that.”

“I loved reading the Odyssey and the Aeneid; and I made some of the finest friends of my life. . . .”

“Yes, yes,” she said with a roll of her eyes. “Everybody tells me that too.”

“Well, sometimes everybody tells you something because it is true.”

“Sometimes,” Nina clarified, “everybody tells you something because they are everybody. But why should one listen to everybody? Did everybody write the Odyssey? Did everybody write the Aeneid?” She shook her head then concluded definitively: “The only difference between everybody and nobody is all the shoes.”

—from A Gentleman in Moscow, Amor Towles.

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