In the interview before her operation, the most beautiful woman in the world was asked what drove her to do it.
“Immigrants,” she said, which made everyone a little less sympathetic.
“and Taxi drivers,” she added, which made everyone forget the immigrant comment; she smiled as she said it.
“When are they releasing her?” I ask N, as the video ends. “Tonight at eight-thirty, into the Neva river. Want to go?”
I shrug, with nothing better to do.
So, at eight, we walk. The crowd is rampant. There are police holding back a mass of taxi drivers carrying signs.
“I’m a happily married man!” one sign says.
I can’t understand much of the rest.
She is brought to the embankment in a fish-tank on wheels; a pope mobile of sorts, but cleaner. Her legs have been cut clean off, a tail flits about beneath her. They did a good job. She waves her tail toward the taxi drivers, bubbles sidling out from just behind her ears. Her chest is bare.
She isn’t crying. She is determined. Which sometimes looks a lot like crying.
The crowd, mostly men, line the walls of the Neva. Some women in lab coats step out from the pope-mobile. They crank some cranks and lever some levers. The tank moves forward, mechanically, out over the Neva.
The crowd is getting more aggressive. A few men are crying, a few more, yelling obscenities.
“Stuck up bitch!” someone cries. “Whore!”
N lights a cigarette. “Do you want to get out of here?”
I stare at the tank. “Let’s just wait till they release her.”
N doesn’t look happy, keeping his distance from the mob.
The mermaid is flexing her new tail, her beautiful face screwed up with concentration. Then, the bottom of the tank opens and she plummets into the Neva.
The crowd goes silent. The water settles. Then, a head pops up. The most beautiful head in the world. It smiles. Someone throws a rock, she dodges it, then starts swimming toward the gulf. The crowd becomes the loudest maggot-ridden pile of meat, squirming, crying–incensed.
More objects start flying into the air. Bottles, rocks, garbage; all falling in angry little splashes around the mermaid as she swims, frantically.
A couple of men leap into the canal and try to swim after her. But, the scientists did their job. Her tail is strong, she easily outswims them. She swims so fast and so far that she is soon out of sight. The Neva is littered with refuse. The crowd is moving, following the tip of her trail, like pups after the teat.
The police let their guard down. Everyone has moved on. The embankment is speckled with empty bottles, dropped signs and abandoned taxis.
We head home.