Sample text for Pushkin and the Queen of Spades / Alice Randall.


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Counter Chapter 1

Look what they done to my boy!

I want to say it, too. Pushkin strides across the screen of the television.
There is a television in my corner bar, one of the 219 million
in America, and he"s up there on its screen. He"s a football player.
He"s a freak of nature. His hands are immense. His heartbeats are
few. Fifty million people have watched him on a single Monday
night. He has given a Russian girl a diamond ring. He means to get
married. My son is a football player engaged to a Russian-born lap
dancer, a girl named Tanya who danced at a club called Mons Venus.
There is a God and he"s punishing me. This much bad luck cannot
happen by accident.

I have walked down to the corner to drink and disappear. It should
be easy. A black woman in a hillbilly bar vanishes into the shadows of
irrelevancy, especially when she wears preppy clothes.
It"s third and long. I"ve got to make something happen. I"ve seen
too many wins and too many losses not to know.

I bought the beige dress; I will bite my tongue. Got me three
fingers of Cutty Sark and half a Valium. My sweet son, my only-born
one, is to be wed. I"ve got everything in the world but an invitation.
So here I am in Babylon on the Cumberland, trying to wish I"d
never borne him. Professors of Russian literature do not spawn football
players. Their sons do not marry lap dancers. And when they do
. . . the professor is invited. It belongs to the professor, it belongs to
me, to decline. I am a professor of Russian literature; she is a lap
dancer. If I had stayed invited, I would not have gone. But I am no
longer invited—the invitation has been rescinded. Pushkin"s enormous
sable hand reached across a table and snatched it back.
After all I have done, I should have slapped his face. How many
other women would have carried their pregnant eighteen-year-old
selves all around Harvard? Every other woman I know would have
aborted his unborn ass. Other mothers have only to say, "I changed
your dirty, dirty drawers," or "I sent you to the best schools in this
country," and their sons do what they want them to do. I can make
both of those claims in both those languages. Why won"t he do
right? Why doesn"t he comply? I could kill him.

I sound just like my daddy when I say that. I want to go very
Marvin Gaye"s father on Pushkin. I"m crazy like my mother when I
feel that, but I"d kill myself before I would hurt him. That"s a promise
I made before he was born, a promise I have every intention of
keeping. He can"t imagine that. If he could, he would stop telling me
how much I am hurting him. I can"t listen anymore. I"m the mama
and I know what is best. I know he doesn"t need to know who his
daddy is and he probably shouldn"t be marrying a white girl. That"s
what I know. When did he stop listening to me?

My grandmother could throw a book across a room at her sixfoot-
tall sons, my father and his brothers, and they didn"t dare move.
They would let the book fly right toward their faces just because
their mama had said, "Don"t make me go upside your head." They
respected her. They trusted her aim. They did what she wanted
them to do till the day she died. Pushkin"s little white girl has provoked
me to remember that black mother and what she was due and
how sweet a black family can be, just in time for me to lose mine—
again. I can"t stand to lose it twice.

Tanya"s very existence is cruelty. Thin—you see the daylight between
her thighs when she stands; tall—enough to look him straight
in the face; and pale—there is a preternatural whiteness to her hair, a
queer mixture of yellow and silver and white. Tanya is striking. Even
at twenty-two, she is not a girl. She"s one of those big-breasted, narrow-
hipped waifish Amazons seldom found in nature. Gabriel teases
me about Tanya"s breasts. He says if I had breast-fed his stepson, I
would not be in this predicament. It"s hard not to laugh, but I manage.
That Pushkin would, or could, love Tanya, I experience as untenable,
if unintended, sadism. That I could, or would, feel this way
about his beloved, Pushkin experiences as unimaginable, if unassailable,
proof of my insanity, or as a vestige of archaic, banal racism.

No: he feels something blunter, that I"m a racist bitch. I had imagined
many brides for Pushkin. Not one of them resembled this creature,
which, adding insult to oft-counted injury, is called Tanya. She
cannot be named Tanya. She will not be called Tanya. It is too unfortunate.

Once upon a time a long time ago, broken straight through the center
of my heart, soft violet tattooing tender parts, I let my brain be
me. When I took my seat in a white-painted chair, flaking and cracking,
to rock infant Pushkin, slung over my shoulder like a sack of
sugar, reciting equations—six plus six is twelve, fourteen minus two
is twelve, three times four is twelve, two plus two plus eight is twelve,
twenty-four divided by two is twelve—did I know as I rocked and
spoke on the beat that he was sucking in the patter of crazy truth?
There are many expressions of the same quantity, many identities for
the very same number. Struggling to achieve some simple understanding
of the nature of number kept me afloat, simple computations
of small sums, a way to say, "Brain, don"t fail me, now." A way
to say, "The number man can." A way for the brain to gratify equals
reassurance. And now, so many years later, when I am mama to a boy
any other mama would be proud of, my brain has failed me.
I love Pushkin like the moon loves the tide. Everybody heard me say,
I love Pushkin. I said it over and over. I say, "I love Pushkin more
than the moon loves the stars above."

I speak that way, in superlatives ending in prepositions. These are
not the flaws that matter. I would like to write that I used to say, "I
loved Pushkin like the tide loved the moon." But what I said was
something with competition in it. Pushkin"s got competition in him.
Maybe that"s a good thing. For the most part, I can"t help but think
it"s petty use Pushkin has put to my ambition.

I love Pushkin. He doesn"t believe that anymore. He has equated
my rejection of Tanya with a rejection of him, equated my telling
him who his father is with love. I won"t accept and I can"t tell. These
are the flaws that matter.

The last time I said, "I love Pushkin like the moon loves the stars
above," Pushkin made a joke of it. He said, "But we don"t know if
that"s Pushkin your son or Pushkin the poet. Maybe it"s just Pushkin
the town, where, quiet as it"s kept, you kissed some white lips of your
own, that you love."

• • •

My meal arrives. It is the plate of food I always order when I eat in
this place—grilled cheese sandwich, French fries, a cup of black coffee,
and a Cutty Sark. There are twenty-seven fries.

Sometimes I need to eat a strip of potato fried in grease. It"s the
oldest ritual known to me to which I still hold. Sitting in Nashville,
slowly inserting the hot snack into my mouth, I can be in all my
towns—Motown, D.C., Petersburg, Cambridge, and Music City—
at the same time.

Everybody always leaves me very much alone. Which leaves me
time to think.

There is a question I"ve got to ask myself. I don"t know what the
question is, but I know there"s a question. After the second shot of
Cutty Sark, I know what it"s got to be. I need to say, "Self, what the
fuck is wrong with me?"

I hear Pushkin saying, "Moms, you all right."
They say in the South all the mother of the groom has to do is
wear beige and bite her tongue. That is not true for this mother. I am
not right. But I am trying to be. I am trying to be right in time for
you. It is a week before your wedding. I am trying to get myself
ready. Trying both ways I know. I"m going to write my way in or
shoot my way out.

I"ve got a present for you. A manuscript. If you come to see me
before your wedding, you"ll get it. If you don"t, I"m going to set a
match to all my pages wrapped up in leather and ribbons.
I"m trying to figure out if there"s something I want to accuse you
of, confess to, or apologize for. I know this: I don"t want to injure you
and I don"t want to lose you. I would rather injure or lose myself.
Last week I purchased a gun, something very much like the gun
the poet Pushkin used in the duel that ended his life. The man
who sold it to me was pleased it was going to a significant Pushkin
scholar. I am not a significant Pushkin scholar. I am a scholar of the
significance of the shadow of Pushkin on his darker brothers and sisters
in the United States. Pushkin is the great Afro-Russian, and I am
the scholar of Afro-Russianness.


How does a black mother tell a black child the facts of life, when
they are so often so poisonous? How did the poet Pushkin"s dusky
mother do it? Can anecdote be some kind of antidote? Is intellectualism
some kind of balm? Or do we all just lie till the day we die?

"Truth," says my mother-in-law, "is a peculiarly risky proposition
for a black mother." She states my case exactly. But then she
adds something: "A boy requires protection. A man requires truth."
Maybe that"s why so many black mothers seek to keep their sons as
babies. Yet again I am guilty of a stereotypical sin.

I"m eating a lot of French fries these days. Precisely 204 in the
last week. I"m going to get too fat to get into my size-eight beige
dress. Rose will have to let it out.

A hundred years ago, in 1903,W.E.B. Du Bois published The Souls of
Black Folk. Du Bois was the first African American to graduate from
Harvard with a Ph.D. and the first person, white or black, to have his
book published in the Harvard historical series. Before Pushkin had
his first real date, I purchased a first edition to give him as a wedding
present. I bought my Souls at auction in New York. Nestling the ebony-
covered tome with gold lettering away in one of my cupboards,
I felt comforted, knowing we would never starve. If robbers came,
they wouldn"t recognize the value of the volume. They would snatch
up whatever little cash, electronics, and jewelry they found, leaving
our treasure untouched and invisible to avaricious eyes. If flames
came, I could catch Pushkin by the hand, tuck Pushkin"s patrimony
under my arm, and get away clean. Spending that particular four
thousand dollars made me feel safe. I had acquired what I understood
to be a kind of permanent portable shelter, an umbrella of brilliant
blackness for us to rest under.

I didn"t wait for your wedding. Or maybe I did. Maybe you married
the NFL. I gave you the book just after your draft day.
That was a mistake.

Earlier this year, around Christmas, when I was still in and out of
Pushkin"s house, I found that first edition of Souls on a shelf in his library.
It was stamped all over with pale faded rings from where it had
been used as a coaster.

What I held up as a roof above us, the dignity of negritude,
Pushkin understands as a barricade between us, the vainer trappings
of the niggerati. Up to now I have craved the shelter more than I
have feared the barricade.

If my head, if Pushkin"s mama"s head, is bloody and muddled
now, maybe it"s because I"ve been bashing it up against the stony
monument I have raised in my mind to Du Bois.

Du Bois received his A.B. from Harvard in 1890; I received mine
from Harvard in 1981. Pushkin was admitted to Harvard, but he
didn"t enroll. He went to Michigan. He played Michigan college
football. That means something. I don"t know what it means. I just
know this: he doesn"t share my memories. Pushkin hates Harvard;
now Pushkin hates me.

Pushkin X. What is naming him for the best black brain and the
fiercest black heart about?

Superlatives ending in prepositions again. I used to tell Pushkin
the joke about the Negro student from way down South who made
his way to Harvard. Push used to like to hear me tell it. First day of
school, this student be looking for a li-bear-ee! Wide-ner Lie-bearee.
It"s the first time in Cambridge for this dark boy. He notices
a blue-eyed, smart-looking chap. Our dark boy thinks "chap."Walking
across the campus paths spins thoughts of This Side of Paradise
and Scott Fitzgerald into his mind. Our Negro student observes to
himself, "That chap looks like he know where he be going. He look
like he could be a friend." Our night-bright son from way down
South thinks this thought because he comes from a place so broken,
the best friends he has are Nick and Jay from Gatsby. So he thinks
"chap," says "chap." Says it right out loud because he stands six feet
and five inches. Says it even if Jay was a gangster, or because Jay was a
gangster, and especially because he was a gorgeous and doomed
gangster.

At this point in the story, about the time Push was eight, I would
always say, "Folks from way down South love the gorgeous and the
doomed." Then Push would embellish: "Particularly folks from our
family, who were ever so beautiful and refuse to be damned." Then
my boy would wait for me to recommence with the telling, and I
would start back to talking, looking right into Pushkin"s night-dark
eyes. "So the brilliant Negro boy asked, "Where"s the li-bear-ee at?"
by way of introducing himself. And the golden blond boy, who had
not read his Fitzgerald—this being nineteen sixty-three or four and
Fitzgerald having fallen out of fashion with, and having yet to be rediscovered
by, the academy—this sky-eyed Exonian who had been
far too busy to be bored and thus had had no need to read every book
in the local public Carnegie Li-bear-ee shelves, this new true-blueblooded
Cambridge denizen, responded with patronizing grace, "At
Harvard we do not end sentences in prepositions." And the colored
boy said, "I fix that right quick. Where"s the li-bear-ee at, asshole?"

After these words we would both laugh, my boy and I. And my
boy, who I thought would never end his sentences in prepositions,
learned to tell this story when his voice was still pitched high. His
voice would run over and above mine and we would laugh. I loved
him then. Or did I love my ambition in him? Or did I love knowing
he would never make my mistakes?

So now he makes his own. Pushkin "n" Tanya. She says she comes
from Pushkin the village. I don"t believe it. But life plots elegantly.
Maybe it"s true.

And maybe Sven Andersson was killed by a hit-and-run driver
who didn"t know his name. And maybe somebody nailed forty dollars
to a dope-house door.

Once I was the Negro student at Harvard. I lived there in the shelter
of the shadow of W.E.B. Du Bois. I have loved Du Bois a good long
while. Loved him like I love a man in whose arms I have frolicked.
Loved him almost like I love Gabriel Michael, my atheist husband
named for two angels. Du Bois would have understood this. In his
essay "Of the Training of Black Men," he concludes, if I remember
correctly, "I sit with Shakespeare and he winces not. Across the color
line I move arm in arm with Balzac and Dumas, where smiling men
and welcoming women glide in gilded halls."

Observe one of the little-recognized habits of the oft-unrecognized
African American intellectual—the making of friendships
across the chasm of death, particularly the friendship of authors, especially
white authors. Somehow friendships with dead white poets
and novelists and theologians feel less disloyal than friendships with
living ones. I shared with Pushkin my passion for Emily Dickinson.
Have I disclosed that once upon a time I considered Emily to be one
of my very best friends? Did my love of Emily somehow prepare
Pushkin to love Tanya?

Clearly, this subject is deranging me.

Pushkin, Harvard was the world I wanted for you, because it was
the safest world my mind could imagine. Carrying you inside me, I
had time to contemplate the reality: the world wasn"t very safe. I
limped into Harvard and across the Yard as into my own particular
Bethlehem, out of my own peculiar Egypt. Harvard was my havenhome.
How soon I would lay the baby in the manger! I read, and
read again, the course catalogue. It became for me a sacred text.
Knowledge not included in the curriculum of Harvard University
would not exist. I was careful not to taste any of the offerings of the
psychology department.

So much to learn, so much to forget. So much of what I knew no
longer existed. So little of who I was found reflection in the books
and lawns of this new place—and that was a good thing.
And if I lost something to be valued in all that shedding, as I
moved from D.C. to Cambridge, then it was nothing I valued. I was
all about amputation and amnesia. Every loss was an unburdening
that transformed survival from a possibility into a probability. Nothing
not taught at Harvard was real.

I would be black and I would be brilliant and I would be safe. You
would be black and you would be brilliant and you would be safe.We
could live in an ebony tower. Harvard would help and we would do
the rest. Facts not taught at Harvard did not exist. That is the lie that
sustained me.

My bar and my house are both in South Nashville, near Vanderbilt.
Fisk is across town, in North Nashville. More and more these days, I
find myself lost on the Fisk campus. I walk across the lawn in the afternoon
light and stand in front of the statue of W.E.B. Du Bois
erected opposite Jubilee Hall. It"s a sturdy work of art brought into
being by a man who once upon a time cut my husband"s hair. Contemplating
this likeness of Du Bois (created by an artisan who
trained himself to harness volume by shaping the kink on the heads
of future lawyers and doctors, Fisk and Meharry men, the curls on
the heads of plumbers and electricians, and the lamby-wool crowning
the heads of valets and chauffeurs), I am in awe of the artist who
groomed and celebrated every head presented to him. I look at the
sculpture of Du Bois and I feel joy. I remember the stocky presence
of genius undeterred. Du Bois stands alone in his jacket with his
books, striding, presiding over the campus in death as in life.
He is engaged with me.

I have also stood in front of the statue of John Harvard. I have a
picture of my sister, Diana, and me standing there below John Harvard"s
feet. We are smiling, wearing graduation gowns and mortarboards.
John Harvard is above us in a chair. The base of the statue is
tall, taller than the statue itself. The base is of some light stone. It is
rectangularly cut. The word Harvard is simply carved across the
front. Atop this base is a bronze figure of a man in stockings and
breeches, in some kind of waistcoat with some kind of gown, perhaps
his academic gown, open and flowing. On his right knee is an open
book. His left hand looks as if it were about to reach into his pocket,
if he had such a thing. There are marvelous pompoms or bows, large
and frilly, atop each of his shoes. Amid the busyness of the Yard, this
is a statue of John Harvard at rest. His resolute, regular features with
their refined, masculine bone structure are in repose as he looks up
from his book. I have stood at John Harvard"s feet. I have eaten at his
table, slept beneath his roof, and I am grateful for the privilege.
He is distant from me.

I wanted you to go to Harvard, but I wanted you to understand
all this as well. It is as simple and complex as that. When Tupac
screeches "Being black hurts," I know it is true. And I lean toward
those who know it too.

Where it hurts worst is in my mommyness.

This all started twenty-five years ago. I was eighteen, but I would
not abort my son. My mother, Lena, ordered me to get an abortion.
She deposited funds in my checking account. I spent the money on
baby clothes.

I couldn"t do it. I could hear Pushkin calling for my love. My cells
could hear his cells sounding out to me, pounding out to me. And
my soul could hear my body.My mind couldn"t hear one quick measure
of that music. Knew for sure it couldn"t stand this baby. Feared
its genes, feared birthing it, feared carrying it. Feared being disgusted
by it. Feared disgusting myself. Thought for sure I"d gone to
crazy. But that I left till now. Then, his self was calling to my self and
I would not, could not, deny him. It was the first thing I knew about
us. There was a hierarchy of needs, and his came first. I felt my soul
expand.

Don"t hostages fall in love with their kidnappers? Wasn"t I held
hostage by this baby? What a strange back door I walked into love
through. Stockholm syndrome. Whether I was his kidnapper and he
was my hostage, or I was his hostage and he had kidnapped me, or
none of it applied at all, I have yet to get straight. But right after
thinking I couldn"t do it, I decided to have my baby.
I started loving Pushkin, I loved him more than the moon loves
the sun. Why has he betrayed me? Because I play Cordelia to his
Lear, returning silence for question, while he plays Othello to my rival"s
Desdemona, the only way you play Othello, tragically? Who is
it I will not betray? What is it I meant to say?

Nothing. I meant to say nothing. Maybe, baby, silence don"t get
it. Who said that? Somebody from Detroit.

Let me begin again. I live in Nashville, Tennessee. I am a professor
of Afro-Russian literature. I got my doctorate from the University of
London. I am forty-three years old. I have tenure at Vanderbilt and a
son who is twenty-five. Everybody worships my son except me. He"s
a football phenom. They call him "the Phenom." He played in a
Super Bowl before he was twenty-two years old. What can that
mean to me? I wasn"t there. I couldn"t let myself be there. My undergraduate
degree is from Harvard. He and I went to Harvard together.

No, we didn"t. That"s a lie. I so want it to be true, I say it as if
trying out the possibility. But there are no new possibilities in the
past—there"s just a robber-woman named Perkins in Detroit who
took care of my boy when I went to school. Just a place called Motown
where we, each in very different times, once both lived.
Standing where I stand now, I should have kept him with me. I
could have put Pushkin in some kind of backpack or baby carrier,
some Snugli, some sling, some thing, some fucking piece of cloth.
Pay me now or pay me later. How heavy could the baby have been?
Can you keep a three-year-old bound to your back? I don"t know.
I just know that I didn"t. I left him in Detroit. I went back to
Cambridge. Is he punishing me now for abandoning him then? I
don"t know what he did all day. I remember what I did: learn Russian,
read Russian, speak Russian. Articulate a future for us. Seek an
alternative to the English language. Abandon my mother tongue.
Find a new unspoken word for every important thing I wanted to
say. Find a new alphabet for love. Show myself every day I can do
something difficult. Love Pushkin; learn Russian. Twinned improbabilities.
Success at one became my proof of the possibility of success
at the other.

I wish I had kept Pushkin with me. I wish I could have thought of
Harvard as a welfare office. If I had asked this of it, if I had asked, I
might have received. Daddy-Harvard is abundantly treasured. I did
not ask.

And now Pushkin is marrying a white Russian lap dancer and insists
on knowing who his daddy is.

I cannot even tell what upsets me more, the white girl part of this
mess or the daddy part of this mess. If he knew the truth then, maybe
he wouldn"t be making this mistake. After everything white folks
have done to my family, Pushkin wants to give one a ring. If he knew,
he would not do this. Maybe there is time to let him know. Then
again, if he knew all our truths, maybe he would just be a different
dark stereotype—black man behind bars. The first omission was but
a cornerstone to a larger edifice. A mother"s work is never done. He
needs protection.

Why won"t he simply accept the obvious? I was his daddy and his
mama. Why won"t he let it be like that? And if he can"t let his daddy
be me, why can"t he let his daddy beW.E.B. or Pushkin or Malcolm?
If I swallowed his daddy"s sin, why won"t he swallow my lie? Part of
the answer has to be he doesn"t know how much sin and sorrow I had
to swallow to bring him to life. That"s nobody"s fault but my own.
This is not the reprieve I desired. This is not the compensation I required.
I shock myself with my desire for emotional reparations, but
I acknowledge the desire—it is real. I want the man who was my boy
to sustain within his heart the judgment that I am the most beautiful
woman in the world. I want my son to desire a woman who looks like
me. Or, at the very least, looks like the girl I used to be.

He wants Tanya.

"Look what they done to my son," sobs the Mafia don to the undertaker.
And I keep thinking about it. Pushkin is confounded by the
fact that The Godfather is my favorite movie. He expects me to prefer
Dr. Zhivago or Reds. High-tech hoodlums with assault weapons, not
literature professors, watch The Godfather over and over, quoting the
lines like a Bible. It"s part of the way they understand themselves.
"What in the fuck has that got to do with you, Moms?"

I smile and tell him the truth that makes sense to him. I say,
"Anna Karenina is my second favorite movie." He lets that be
enough.

If I answer Pushkin"s question, who will it hurt? If I answer his
question, who will he hurt?

I have never been so glad and never been so sorry that Pushkin
knows so little about Detroit, about Motown, about the outlaw
hoodlums who were and are my people. If he walked around with a
pistol in his waistband, if he walked around like Daddy and the uncles,
I could not begin to think of telling him the truth.

Don Corleone wanted transformation. He wanted things not to
be as they were. You can only want that desperately; it is an audacious
desire.

I want that. I have the audacious desire. I want Push to be Pushkin
again. I want to harvest the seeds I planted. I want my son to be
who he is not and want who he does not. I know this is wrong, but it
is true. And it is nothing I have willed myself to do. It just is.

You just want your daddy.

A hard thing about hearing you call for your daddy is that it
makes me remember calling for mine. The harder thing is knowing
you feel about me the way I felt about my mother when she silenced
my call and cut me off from my daddy. Rage. Rage at the mother for
removing the father. I can"t do anything about that. The only way I
can prove I am right and you are wrong is to answer your question,
tell you who your daddy is and watch the news do its damage. I won"t
do that. I won"t hurt you. That was my only rule. I would get to hear
you say, "Moms, you were right." I feel sure you would say, "I wish I
didn"t know." I would hear that. But I would see my tall man get
shorter, my strong man get weaker. I have seen that happen in my
family before, a big man get chopped down by a small piercing moment,
or a big man who didn"t because a woman kept her mouth
shut. I will feel your rage before any part of me makes any part of you
small.

I turned on my own daddy for you. I cast him out of my mind, because
I knew if he knew it all, he would never accept you. You make
me glad my daddy is dead. If he was alive and he turned his back on
you, I would turn my back on him. If he was alive, he would turn his
back on you. You are making me remember things I don"t want to remember.
Tanya has provoked me into remembering people—not
people that I don"t want to remember, people I am afraid to remember.
I don"t know how to remember who my daddy and his people
are at the same time that I remember who your daddy is without putting
a bullet in my brain. And I won"t have the strength to remember
who your daddy is, and how to love you, if I don"t remember who my
daddy is and who his people were. How is it you don"t fucking understand
that?

I want to shake you and say, "Remember who you are! Remember
who I am!" But you can"t remember what you have never known.
If you insist on the truth of your beginning, how do we get to any
kind of happy ending? I never knew the answer to that, never figured
any answer but to cheat, to lie about the beginning. Now you won"t
let me cheat. You take away the win we have almost achieved and say,
Play the game again with a clean whole deck. I say, There are no
clean whole decks.

I will do what I have always done for you. Take the next step, ignoring
the likelihood of failure. We are deep in the shit of truth.
Maybe the thing for me to do is to try to keep on walking. Like every
other mother who ever lived in the world before me, I am prepared
for the shit of truth by all my baby"s dirty, dirty diapers.

Then again, as we both know, I am not so well prepared. I wasn"t
the one who changed most of your diapers. I made such a good life
for you that that wasn"t supposed to matter. Your father wasn"t supposed
to matter either.

It would not have been better for you, but it would have been better
for me if I had let them wash you down a drain. They say Russian
girls do it all the time. I wonder if she"s done it. I wonder if she"s done
yours, done mine? I wonder if she"s done my grands? Done to me
what I wouldn"t do to you. Not even when I was eighteen years old.
I was bold then, bold and cold. That first week I rocked you in my
arms, crooning, "Baby, baby, don"t get hooked on me." That"s the
kind of crazy baby bitch I was then. But how did you know? How do
you know? How is it that I, who was once bold and cold, am now
only and vaguely old? How is it that I was betrayed, after I turned
you every which way but loose?


Library of Congress subject headings for this publication: African American women college teachers Fiction, Pushkin, Aleksandr Sergeevich, 1799-1837 Appreciation Fiction, African American families Fiction, Parent and adult child Fiction, Interracial dating Fiction, Football players Fiction, Mothers and sons Fiction, Russian teachers Fiction