After lunch, Jay and I visit the Museum of Victims of Genocide, housed in the former KGB building on Gediminas Avenue. It is a fine day, the sky is high and we are cheery after our filming.
We only have an hour. As it turns out I am glad, because atmospheres work on me, and the building was heaving with its history. It is a heavy-doored, stone-staired, long-corridored structure. Eerie holographic hands holding guns reach from the walls.
In the upstairs rooms -which used to be office space to the Russians, then the Nazis, and then the Russians again - is a brilliantly assembled exhibition, beautifully lit, meticulously labelled. The walls are filled with writings and photographs about the various oppressions and occupations this fierce little country has had to tolerate. Cases of priceless human ephemera pinned behind glass like so many insect specimens detail the thousands of lost, deported, murdered lives.
Downstairs in the basement are the torture cells of the KGB prison, maintained virtually untouched since their last prisoner less than thirty years ago. The cells are painted an old, puce green. They boast of the darkest places the human mind can go. The Wet Cell struck me most, a nasty, claustrophobic space with a scooped out floor which would be filled with water which turned to ice in winter. In the centre there is a tiny metal pedestal, the prisoner's only refuge from the wet. Further down the corridor I find the Soft Cell, with its strange, stupid-looking straitjacket hanging on a peg just in front of me. This cell was padded in 1973, the sign says, to stop the torture cries, and the cries from those driven mad by torture, from being heard. Nineteen-Seventy-Three, I whisper, trying to make it fit. My nineteen-seventy-three, the one that I know, held in it Jackie magazine, and the Eleven-Plus, and bell-bottomed trousers.
At the end of the longest corridor, the penultimate cell has been put to a different purpose. It is the Prison Library. Books do not belong here! is my first thought. But then I think yes, yes let there be books. Let there - as with the volume of Shakespeare which Nelson Mandela read and annotated in his imprisonment on Robben Island - be hope. Beyond, a board carries simply a series of black and white photographs, all portraits of dead partisans as their bodies were propped up in town squares against walls and fences, for the people to see. The faces of the dead are beaten and battered, but oddly compelling. I cannot take my eyes off them. In one, the eyes of a woman are like the sewn-on eyes of a ragdoll, so swollen are they. I find myself wondering what act, what atrocity, could have done this to her, and discover that I cannot, literally cannot, imagine.
I step at the last down into the Execution Chamber. I make myself step: there is no-one else around and I make the journey into this brightly lit bowel with dread. The floor is glass and lit to reveal relics of those who died beneath your feet in the sand. Thousands were shot or stabbed in this chamber. I try to say some sort of prayer for them but am so troubled that none comes. I go and find Jay. I've had enough, I tell him. Because I have. Because I can.
I run to hide in the sunlight outside. From an open window in the next building on the Avenue pours a piano solo, someone practising long and hard and strong. I remember that this building is the Academy of Theatre & Music, and almost cling to its walls as I gulp back my tears. This building houses my belief system, I remind myself, my soul.
I walk across the street to a park bench, letting the music work on me, waiting for some sign that it's about love, too, this life: find it in the brief, steadying "Grim" of nodded agreement between myself and my old friend when he too emerges into the sunshine. I put my hand for a brief moment on his arm to pin myself to the moment, here on Gediminas Avenue, beside the bloody geraniums.