It is women’s day in Russia. It is early. I walk to get us coffee down the road.
‘It is a feminist holiday,’ the girl at the coffee shop tells me. She rolls her eyes. ‘I hate feminists,’ she says, steaming the milk. It makes a stinging sound. There are flowers on the counter. I pay and head back home. N is awake.
‘It’s women’s day,’ he tells me.
‘Is it a holiday in America?’
I shrug. I light a cigarette and hand him his coffee. ‘Maybe,’ I say.
He shudders. ‘it is not a fun holiday to be a man here.’
He crosses his legs. ‘It is women’s day,’ he says.
I grind my teeth. ‘Mhm, so?’
He looks at me sideways. ‘It is their day to punish.’ He kicks one leg out.
I look at it, then back to his eyes. He nods. I turn, ‘again, so?’
‘oh, you don’t know,’ he leans toward me over the table, ‘on this day women can kick men without any legal ramification or social consequences, right in the—you know?’
I narrow my eyes at him, ‘the you know?’
‘The you know what,’ he nods.
‘Yes. In the, you know.’
‘The you know,’ I repeat, nodding downward.
He nods. ‘Don’t go outside.’
‘I just did! Why didn’t you tell me?’
He lights a cigarette of his own, ‘I was asleep.’
‘Well, I’d think this would be something you should have warned me about yesterday.’
He closes his eyes and leans back. ‘Mmm,’ he says.
The door to the kitchen swings open. Y walks in, hitting the floor hard with her feet as she does in the mornings. I cross my legs and watch her suspiciously as she makes coffee. She turns. She looks over the table, the counter, above the fridge.
‘Where are my flowers?’
I look to N, he hasn’t opened his eyes, his cigarette is half-ash. I look back up at Y.
She steps toward me and I scooch back in my chair to the wall, hands over my crotch. She frowns at me.
‘What?’ she stops.
‘Don’t—don’t kick me.’
She looks at N, then back at me. ‘Why would I kick you?’
‘It’s women’s day,’ I say. N opens one eye.
Y shrugs, ‘yes, so where are my flowers.’
‘I’ll get some.’
I stand up and carefully move around her. It isn’t until I have my shoes on and I’m halfway down the stairs that I realize my own stupidity. I curse N, quicken my step and head out into the cold. A woman is standing there in a black coat smoking a cigarette.
‘Hi,’ I say, pleasantly. She frowns, steps quickly up and kicks me right between the legs.
‘Stupid American,’ I catch her say as she drops her cigarette beside me and walks off.