A cry of triumph is loud; it drowns out cries of fear, of pain, of sadness, of anger and of failure. It’s the closest a man can get to the voice of God.
Y and I exit the mall. It is dark, it is wet–an autumn afternoon in St. Petersburg.
A flood of meat and cheap poster-board press us back towards the door. There is excitement in the air. We move aside, around. We head for the subway entrance.
People are angry, holding up soggy red signs.
Three massive caged buses pull up on the street. Three dozen or so Hippopotamus in riot gear trample off into the square.
I turn to Y, “What the hell is going on?”
She looks on, curious. “It’s Putin’s birthday,” she tells me.
The Hippos start to charge, helmets down and batons up. Birdies fly overhead. The young crowd pushes onward, many holding signs, even more holding their phone’s high–camera’s on.
I pull Y into the subway to the sound of cries; cries of what–I can’t quite hear.
On the endless escalator down to the tunnels I wonder at Y, “if this is how people act on his birthday, what is going to happen during the election?”
She shrugs, “same as today–people will get angry, Putin will celebrate.”
I sigh, “oh well.”
“Oh well,” she agrees.
We ride down for another thirty minutes in silence. Y reads her book; The Old Woman and the Sea. I sit and picture my head deep inside a Hippo’s mouth.
When we make it back to my apartment we find N sitting up by the open window, next to the cold dark evening, smoking. It is back to that time of year.
“Hey,” I say, brushing aside some paint chips to sit, lighting a cigarette of my own.
He doesn’t look over, but still looks out.
“You know, if there were more people like that and they looked a bit different than me, I think I’d be racist,” he muses.
I look to where he looks. There is a crowd of twenty-something men gathered around outside the bar across. Two of them have squared off, the rest stand back, phone camera’s on, growling, spitting, jeering. One of the fighters looking as though he might be half troll–half at least–swings.
It only takes one. The crowd erupts as the half-troll cries out into the night, it echoes off the walls, the windows and the damp pavement.
The hoard of onlookers put their phones away, pat the victor on the shoulders and pull him inside.
The man who’d fallen finds his feet and then his way home, red-nosed.
Our cigarettes are dead. N closes the window and sighs.
“Oh well,” he says, and walks off.
I look back out for anything else that might be worth seeing, but it’s a dirty old window and it is already dark.