Once, in Chicago—(when her father played the diplomat and read her El Cantar del Mio Cid as a bedtime story)—someone spray-painted COMMIE in red on their apartment building, like the blood had rushed to McCarthy’s pointed finger and all the oxygenated blood cells lysed at once. Red as a Greek Easter egg; Marita had instinctively crossed herself and muttered ‘Christos anesti,’ though her family’s own incantations were in Catalan. Marita knew better. Marita hated Commies like the rest of them; Marita’s building had a fallout shelter in the basement; Marita’s eagerness to assimilate overcame the alienation of a second-generation immigrant. No one knew what her passport said—besides, she was a dual citizen. Nobody called Marita Covarrubias a Commie and got away with it.
Once, after they left St Petersburg—(which he still calls Petrograd, the passive-aggressive son of nuclear refugees)—Alex spray-painted COMMIE on an apartment building, as if the graffiti would summon the other exiles, pouring forth from Chicago cement speaking Russian, telling him he wasn’t alone. He put too much pomade in his hair from too many mafia movies. He waited. When Marita rounded the corner she saw him, a skinny boy with an insouciant sneer and an aerosol can dangling from one finger. He crooked it in her direction. You’re just like me, devochka. You might as well be a Commie for all this country cares about you. My name is Sasha. What's your name, little girl? Marita ran.
They meet for the second time at a formal dinner in New York, organized around the signing of some minor treaty in Eastern Europe, neither one coerced or corrupted quite yet. Marita makes politicians pronounce her five-syllable surname, and Alex remembers the temerity of the little girl sauntering up to the boy who vandalized her property. Alex is an agent now; he can get more with a fountain pen and a handgun than spray paint and a semi-automatic these days. To the untrained eye, it’s nothing monumental, just a perfunctory greeting, heads bowed, lashes casting a fleeting shade on Marita’s cheek.
A trained eye would notice that Marita Covarrubias’ tongue is cherry-vodka-sour red, licking grenadine lips. Slip of the tongue, teeth and the lips—that she calls him Sasha and he finds this endearing, reading her goosebumps in Cyrillic Braille. It’s Greek Easter and she’s drinking grenadine, Catholic school Latin reminding her that ex ova omnia. Biting color into her lips, biting back Russian epithets and the reflex to genuflect. She shouldn’t have worn stilettos. A trained eye would notice the way his hand slips under the dropped back of her dress, would notice her nails glittering garnet, digging into his arm—
A trained eye would notice that they disappear at slightly staggered times, and though her lipstick is impeccably re-applied, her shoes are conspicuously absent.
A trained ear would have heard them whispering over hors d’ouerves and the clinking of cutlery: hey Commie, I’ll make you come so hard you won’t be able to walk in those fuck-me heels.