It was distracting and possibly vulgar, the amount to which they were checking each other out, her lips parting, his eyes in the glass’s reflection, her heart beating underneath orange skin, his hair greasy and disheveled. Back and forth. I turned aside to prove I wasn’t watching them, but too dramatically. It became all the more obvious.
They exited with me at Leninsky Prospekt, and I walked with measured steps to see their progress. They weren’t talking, they weren’t exactly side-by-side, but there was something inexorable to their marching on and on, the little fishies in the stream they were.
I watched them get off the escalator in front of me, and watched the back that was his get closer and closer to the back that was hers. My own breath caught: yes, please, do; let there be something like chance and romance and sitcom television in this world, even if it’s only a cameo in my subjectivity.
Then he held the door open for her, and things fell apart. What spell there had been was abandoned by its enchantress; what magnetic, rent asunder like twisted marionette strings untangled before a performance.
They had known each other before.
I knew that fact, instantaneously, from that one gesture of door-holding. They were already well-acquainted, were, likely, already knowledgeable of one another.
I still don’t know what took possession of me – if it was sadness or rage or jealousy or pity or contempt or anger or all or none – I stepped up to my normal Moscow walk pace and outstripped them before we even reached the newspaper stand outside the metro exit.
And the air was cold, and snow was falling, and a woman begged, prostrate, on the barren ground.
10 months ago