At dawn the next day I walk down Baruun Selbe Street. A light snow betrays the location of water pipes beneath the pavement, which appear as black lines where the snow has melted from the heat of the pipes. They read like maps to inhabited manholes.
The street dead-ends at Liberty Square, a large, open space bounded by an abandoned communist museum and the modern Tengis movie theater. To the left of the theater two holes steam like fumaroles. A filthy puppy dozes beside them. Inside, water pipes criss-cross above a floor of compacted garbage and cardboard.
A single boy sleeps among the pipes. It is Aizam. He awakens, and nods for us to enter, more out of fear than politeness. I step down through the opening to one of the metal pipes. Aizam shakes his head and points to my shoe, which is already melting from the hot metal. I shift to another pipe and wait for my eyes to adjust to the darkness. The chamber is shallow, only 3-4 feet deep, and 10 feet square. Aizam will tell me later that when he first came here, he could stand on the bottom with his hands overhead and not touch the ceiling, but so much trash has accumulated that he now must crouch to clear the roof. Rat feces litter the floor and cockroaches crawl along the walls. Water hisses and drips from the pipes.