And Then I Knew He Could Get Away With Murder (excerpt from Plastiline)
See, I opened the door for Sergei to be crazy. Maybe he wouldn't have unchained the monster if I had just controlled myself that night.
But I opened the door, so the monster escaped.
We were on the metro, and we were arguing. We were arguing about something ridiculous. And I infuriated him. My stepdad used to say that when I get mad, I could peel paint at 50 yards; the stuff that comes out of my mouth is that awful. I’m sure I said something mean, and I’m sure he wanted to hit me. But we were in the metro, and even the most hotheaded Russians don’t do that in the metro.
I remember getting off the train and feeling a little superior, feeling that I’d “won” the argument, but that arrogance soon passed. We walked down the center of the platform and a middle-aged man, carrying many bags - probably his grocery bags - accidentally bumped into Sergei. Sergei stopped and grabbed the man’s shoulder and with no warning, punched him square in the nose, breaking it instantly. Blood poured out of the man’s face and onto his clothing. He dropped his bags and tried to fight back, but Sergei was an effective fighter. He grabbed the man and hit him in the face again, then finished up with two body punches. The man was lying on the ground in front of us.
“What did you do??” I screamed at him.
“Now!” he said as he grabbed me and we ran towards the exit. But it was too late. Someone had reported the fight and the police stopped us before we could run away. They took us into the back of the metro station, which was much dirtier and grittier than the pretty marble-lined station. They let us sit together while they talked to the guy with the broken face.
“Why did you do that? Are you going to go to jail?” I pictured him going to jail and leaving me alone. Then I pictured myself getting kicked out of Russia. ”What am I going to do if you go to jail?”
“Don’t worry. I am not going to jail. But we must think up a story because I didn’t hit him, right? You are going to say I didn’t hit him, right?”
I looked at him, trying to think up a story. Of course I wasn’t going to say that, for no reason at all, my boyfriend just broke this guy’s face in at least two places. I looked down and saw that he was wearing his ring on the fist that hit the guy; it was caked with dried blood.
“Don’t say you’re American.”
“Why did you do that?” I asked again, hoping for an answer. But there was no answer.
After sitting a while longer, I had an idea. “Tell them that you pushed him, because he bumped into you. Tell them you thought he was drunk and trying to steal from you and that’s why you thought he bumped into you. And you pushed him a little too hard, so he fell over and his face hit the marble bench. And he hit like this,” I said, my palm up in my face. “It will work,” I said, knowing it would work and knowing that it was wrong. But I didn’t even know the name or phone number of our landlady, and I sure as hell wasn’t going home over this.
The police called me into the other room first and I sat across the desk from this poor stranger with the broken face and I lied. “He didn’t hit him. He fell. He fell, like this,” I said, my palm up in my face. And I lied, knowing that whatever I said to make Sergei mad was the reason this guy was sitting across from me, bleeding down his shirt.
Sergei went in and told the same story, and then we waited. We waited for hours and hours in the hallway behind the metro station. And then a group of military officers, one of them very high-ranking, came and talked to the police, and then we went home.