You see, it’s like this, and that’s all.
Dusk and twilight are cousins who touch fingers over evening.
The time between them is voluptuous and welcoming like a cradle, the hammock between two poles of illumination. We can do anything in that time, without analyzing the why of it- for the world feels like a warm pearl in our palm.
Evening rolls dulcet between, like the Volga, like the Neva.
Like the Fontanka Canal, where the previous morning found my mother floating like a Pre-Raphaelite painting, pale and no longer alive.
The morning was too bright and high, even for winter.
And so it was the hour just after dusk that found me strolling the banks of the Neva, unable to think of anything but the Kirov House.
For there, within that House, had been the thing my mother had thrown her life at, deep in her own despair. Without thinking of her younger children- the thing that led her to drink herself into stonelike oblivion and abdicate her senses to the cold waters of the Ladoga.
Abdicate herself, and simply die.
Now and then the rain toyed with falling.
Leningrad was the one that never fell, but the rain always would.
When I could no longer bear avoiding the Kirov’s beautiful old façade, I circled it three times, without looking up. When I could no longer bear to avert my eyes, I glanced at the piece of paper in my hand, and began climbing the wrought iron back stairs to the lighted windows above.
Once inside, the ambiance of the place threatened to hurt me- sweetly, somnolently, like a Chopin etude, building to a place of poignance that brings you to orgasmic tears, pain and pleasure and hot tension behind the eyes.
It was impossible not to inhale the century- the scent of old theatres is specific and sentimental. Old wood, and soft dust, dry warmth and rusted railings, worn walls and scuffed baseboards, and large empty spaces of silence with halos of suspended lights.
The Kirov House was empty, in the desert of night, but a few rooms glowed, flooded with the lambent old metal lamps. The halls were dimly lit. I was climbing an old, wide staircase, beneath a high shadowed ceiling. A deluge of rain poured down cold over the high windows, and ran in clear rivulets that softly spanked the glass, distorting the world beyond this oasis.
But it really was an oasis, not a mirage, and so I knew that the lithe body that I saw through the open door in the semi-lit top floor studio was also not a mirage-
It was him. Her lover, unaware in his element.
I have always been able to move quietly, when it’s called for. There are times, of course, when you don’t want to go quietly. When the sharp, even strike of a Militsiyja boot heel is the most efficacious sound in the world-
And there are times to walk softly and carry a massive truncheon.
I entered the studio, passed the threshold.
It was the strangest feeling- as if I were walking onstage in a play, and he was an actor who knew to expect me, knew his lines, and was only pretending oblivion.
He was stretching, one leg up on the bar, toes pushed to a pointe. Leaning down, holding fast, then rising once more.
His eyes were empty, distracted. He was utterly focused on his task. Lengthen, and perfect. Form and function.
I paused, watching.
His name was Merkurii Barshai. This, I knew. I knew from his file, I knew from the calls I’d made.
My jaw twitched, and as he bent forward over his extended leg once more, I spoke, my voice quietly resonant in the still, warm room.
“So you’re the one.”
The bowed head raised, and a dark green eye gazed out from beneath slips of loose shagged hair, light chestnut in tone.
“She said she had a husband,” the dancer said, after a moment. He turned away, but not before I saw the suffering on his face.
“Look at me,” I demanded, and he finally did, turning his smoothly squared jaw and regarding me with his cossack’s eyes. Now I could see the sleepless circles beneath, the stain and flush of tears both shed and unshed. “I’m not her husband. I’m her son.”
The dancer’s posture shifted. I was amazed in that moment, at his mastery of his art, even unwittingly- that a mere body was capable of portraying actual emotion in its kinetic expression.
In that moment I could see why he should have been named a principal dancer- it was all there, honest and unconcealed- guilt, remorse, regret, chagrin, and over it all, a hanging patina of sorrow.
I read it all in his shoulders, his back, the slight give of his arms, the miniscule faltering in his grace, like the skip of a phonograph.
He raised his heel slightly and lifted his leg from the barre. There was muscle flexion all along his powerful thigh, a masculine strength that up close bore no resemblance to Swan Lake.
He turned and faced me, dark-eyed and solemn.
He regarded me, silently, his expression cryptic.
I know what he saw.
My crisp grey uniform, from cap to coat to jodhpurs to tall, polished boots that clung menacingly over calf. Eyes that were light green grey like Siberian river ice, blond hair swept smoothly back from my brow.
Purposefully done, for it accentuated the sharpness of my face, and the lie of my generous lips.
“You’re MVD,” he said finally.
“Yes,” I said. “Surely Avdotia told you that her husband is one of the Ministry Direktors.”
“Avdotia?” he smiled bitterly. “I knew her as Evadna. Among all the others.”
“Several Evadnes have come and gone, and made me their Apollo.”
“Bedding the bored wives of Party men,” I said, with an indistinct snort. “How bourgeois.”
“She was my favorite.”
“She was my mother.”
The straight tone of my voice seemed to draw him back to the topic at hand.
“And no. She never told me her husband was a MENT. Much less her son.” His eyes seemed reluctant to seek my face, but he couldn’t stop himself, taking me in across the empty space between us. “You look like her.”
He nodded, slowly.
“You look like someone else as well.”
He shook his head, laying his palms against his brow.
“Yes, of course,” he said, softly. “Of course you would.”
“You’re young,” I said.
A dancer, of course- I knew that he would be young. But it was another matter to see him here in this open room, with his overlong shag and carefully sculpted form, scarcely older than I was.
“She told me her son was seven,” he said, hesitantly. “A little boy.”
I raised my eyebrows, feeling a fleeting, irrational pain, even though I knew it wasn’t deliberate on her part, mentioning Andrei alone.
“She has two sons,” I replied. “I’m the one she doesn’t talk about to lovers.”
I understood why. It was necessary for the illusion, for if she spoke of me, she would be forced to think of what she was doing, who she was, and who this young man was to her. If he was some twisted Oedipal proxy.
Inside, however, was the lingering ache of uncertainty, and the indelible memory of her own words to my father, the MVD Colonel, on the day he’d learned of the affair and driven her from the house- the day he’d driven her to die.
You’ve already poisoned Ilarion. Must you destroy Andrei as well?
The dancer titled his head, spilling layers of soft hair across his jaw.
His eyes seemed to trail over me like diving birds, not quite committed to the sky.
“Then you are not Andrushka,” he said.
“No,” I replied, with utter dispassion. “I am Ilarion Alexandrovich.”
“Ilarion,” he repeated. “Comes from the Greek you know. Hilario- it means joyful.”
I hadn’t known that. Nor had I expected to learn it from my dead mother’s lover.
“I go by Lasha. And you?” I asked, even though I had read that name a hundred times since yesterday.
Since they found her in the morning, floating face up in the Fontanka canal like a Pre-Raphaelite painting.
“You’ve either come to kill me or arrest me,” he said. “I’ll make my peace with either.”
“No,” I said, quietly, and the words were fragile as ash, in danger of blowing away, had we not been in his still, warm studio. “I came to see how you grieve.”
I moved forward, slowly. My boot-heels clicked on the studio floor, a marked contrast to the soundless touch of his bare feet with their neatly bound arches. White tape, slightly dust-colored at the edges from dancing across the smooth-worn wood.
“I want you to show me why,” I said, easing him back against the wall, inexorable, my eyes boring into his. “What about you…justified her taking this risk.”
“I can’t,” he said, but he was not resisting me.
“Why not,” I said, lightly, pressing inward.
My hands rested on his well-formed shoulders, firm and immovable, despite their gentle urging. I knew him, for I had pored over his record well, with a bottle of scotch in my hand and a glass, unused, on the table. Deciding how I felt about this peer of mine, to whom Avdotia had been a woman, and not a mother or an accomplice in a mislived social experiment.
I had learned something else about him, as well. Which was what brought me to this moment, unstudied and raw.
“I’ve read your file,” I said.
“I can imagine what you think-“
Silence, as he raised his eyes slowly.
I tightened my hands, and let them run down his arms, twined with muscle beneath the three-quarter sleeves of his black dancer’s jersey. The neck of the pullover was wide and relaxed to below his collarbone, showing a hint of sculpted pectoral, the doming rise of a shoulder. His body was almost shimmering beneath my grasp, humming like live subterranean wires.
He’d been hers. Her contraband, her pleasure away from the State.
It felt natural, like breaking the sea, when I seized on his arm, and brutally claimed his kiss as mine.
It seemed the dancer had been on the verge of madness, for he crushed his mouth to mine like a ravenous bear, and I realized that he needed as I did.
I do not know what impelled me that day, drove me to the Kirov on foot, eschewing my black car and driver, through the snow-banked streets and up the back staircase of ancient wrought iron.
But I knew what I had come to do.
My hand reached slowly down to my gun-belt, so as not to upset matters between our mouths. I had every intention of drawing my weapon.
His lips drew me, nursed fiercely at my own. His mouth kept me tethered, fiercely devouring him against the cinderblock, as the protruding line of the barre forced an unnatural curve into his back and aroused me further.
I found what I sought, and opened the latch with my thumb. Careful, smooth. Not to startle him, not now, when I had him in my sights.
A moment later my holster clattered to the floor as I discarded it without disrupting us.
I broke the kiss savagely and stripped him of his sleek black jersey, all pretense gone and the nature of my visit revealed, crumpling the soft fabric in my hand and throwing it away.
When I pulled out my cock, he fell to his knees, and again I saw his innate grace, how lithe and strong he was. But there was nothing feminine in those motions.
He sucked me off, there in the studio, and my lidded eyes beheld it all in the panoramic splendor of three-mirrored walls.
To see him there, shirtless and kneeling before me- I cannot describe what things it did.
I watched his back muscles ripple, the running rivers of kinetic motion that paralleled my own shuddering beneath the hungry succor of his mouth.
All the while it rained outside, deluging Petrograd in godless tears, as the overhead lights flickered and swung gently, like the bare illumination of the interrogation rooms I knew so well.
Hands moving over my bared thighs and buttocks, rubbing long, mindless ellipses in tandem, and they were callused from the barre, I remember that well. Remember that, and how I liked it.
When my urgency grew beyond bearing, I grasped him by the hair, winding my fingers into the softness and drawing him roughly upright once more.
His eyes met mine feverishly as he chose his place. Back to the wall, arms fixed behind him in a tricep press, grasping the barre with his elbows angled to an arrow point.
I did not hesitate. My hands ripped into what remained to him, peeling his grey leotard away, exposing the last of the desirable body had it only scarcely disguised.
His stomach contracted in increments as he raised his feet slowly from the floor, suspending himself slightly above it, on the sheer isometric strength of his training, allowing me to draw the garment away and forget it, as I marveled at his conditioning.
Hunger, then, like I’d never known before. Raising his lean, muscular legs in an instant, hooking them over my uniformed shoulders. Meeting the bright antagonism of his gaze. He wanted this from me, as sworn by the slick, diamond hardness of his cock- but he was not too mad with lust to capitulate mind and body so easily. He was a virtuoso, respected, lauded, and a well-known lover of many women.
I did not care what the world knew him as. At that moment, he was mine to break or pleasure as I saw fit. And he acknowledged that, but it rankled gently in his brow. I understood him. Self-actualized men were wary of being owned by anyone, even in passing, in transient passion.
I leaned forward, then, struck by a moment of alien compassion. I kissed him as I entered him.
A grunt rose to his lips as I invaded, and he threw his head back, his cock jerking once, twice, revealing its enthusiasm without question.
I wound my arms around and inside his own as I settled inside him, fingers curling around the smooth wooden pole that supported his hands, supporting him between myself and the barre, feeling his trembling cock against my solar plexus.
And with that, I began- to fuck him, my mother’s daydream, my father’s nightmare. My first male lover.
Fucking a man, as I’d only heard of in shameful whispers and jokes about the Zone.
And he opened to me, wanton pleasure welling in those eyes, grinding me mercilessly as I fought to withstand the revolutions of his flat, carved hips.
I was aware of how coarse it was, to have not even removed my cap or jackboots. To be fucking him inequitably nude and spread for my use, while I still retained all of my uniform, save for my breeches grazing my knees.
And yet it pleased me for it to be like that.
Before I made him come, I whispered to him that I found him beautiful, phenomenal, that he was living art- that I understood my mother’s intoxication, but that she could never have known him as I did now.
For I had been inside him, I was inside him, and all his secrets were mine.
And just like that, I had stripped him of his grace.
He came hard, on my cock, and against my rough, quick thrusting, with sounds I’d never heard a woman make, and I drank them in, delirious, watching his cock twist and paint his stomach with creamy white- a stomach that rippled with orgasm.
Driven to join him, mere nanoseconds removed, shoving every last inch of my masculinity up into the tight clutch of heaven and past St. Piotyr, I burst through the gates and felt a distant sun engulf me.
I think I died a little that evening, in the run-down upstairs studios of the Kirov House, with unrelenting rainfall hammering the copper domes outside and the flickering lights above. Feeling the manful weight of the principal dancer of Leningrad’s state ballet on my loins like a sensual Siamese twin, knowing my grieving seed was lost to me inside him, fathoms deep.
The scent of a woman as you pleasure her is sweet and piquant as picking spice, or salt and oranges.
The scent of two men is heady like opium, and heavy as hell in a teacup. Impossible to balance, or deny.
And once you know it, it will infuse you with primal love- the same primal love that Dante spoke of in the descent to damnation. A love that is so piercingly hard, it is sometimes unkind.
But sometimes, it is armistice personified- in the moment of mutual capitulation, and sacrifices made and put aside.
It is always beautiful.
I thought so, even as I pulled my softening cock from him, hearing him moan, and let his weakened legs lower to touch the floor once more. Those strong legs, shaking with fatigue.
He breathed softly, regarding me with dark, wide set eyes, his chestnut sweeps of hair disheveled, his skin flushed with arousal.
I was breathing hard, as well, but pushed this aside as I reassembled my uniform with perfunctory gestures, shoving my cock back into my jodhpurs, lifting my shoulder holster back over my head so that it snugly crossed my chest once more, and fastening the belt at my waist.
The dancer had a powerful body, round of flank and shoulder.
“You did nothing alone,” I said, looking over him slowly, inspecting him like a thoroughbred. Seeking faults, seeking weakness. “She was her own woman.”
I met his gaze and nodded once, shortly.
“I don’t accept that,” he said, quietly.
“You don’t have a choice. The MVD isn’t holding you culpable for adultery.”
He was silent.
“If anything, she brought this down on you,” I added, going to pull my gloves on once more, and realizing I had never removed them. A soft flex of leather as I contracted my hand and opened it again.
He was silent, jaw lifted, poised.
I offered a twist of my mouth, slight and soft with cynicism.
“…You won’t have to worry about that with me.”
“You’re saying I’ll see you again,” he said, casually lounging back against the barre, arms crossed and sated, as if being naked and freshly fucked in a room full of mirrors was as unremarkable to him as breathing in. “…will I not?”
I turned to go, an uneasy peace settling over me, whole cloth, like the cosseting blanket of night.
“…I don’t see how you could avoid it.”