If I had done that, it would’ve been rape.

A cruel and bitter certainty sliced across the inside of Misha’s stomach like a razor. The unfairness of the world made him want to puke. If Misha had said those words, if he had given that playful shove on the shoulder, if he had assumed half that familiarity… then the girl would be holding back shouts and glaring at him instead of laughing and tossing her hair from side to side.

If that was me, she’d call the cops.

“Oh shut up, Ilya! You are a liar!” said the girl. Then she reached out and touched the bastard. Put her hands practically all over him! Right there in the middle of the store!

Misha watched them from behind the section for American action movies, hidden well in the back of the DVD section, mouth-agape.

How could they be so brazen?

They’re practically fucking in front of everyone.

Did her hand linger on the Ilya’s chest for a moment? Did her whole body pause, like she didn’t want to break contact? Misha thought the answer to both questions was yes, and he hated the girl and the Ilya both. He hated them for their bold rudeness and silly selfish laughter.

Even from the side, Misha could tell the girl was blushing. Her pink-nailed fingers were writhing anxiously as she straightened her tight cotton dress. Whatever had been whispered in her ear, whatever words had left Ilya’s handsome face and silver tongue, Misha was certain would have landed him in jail if their positions had been reversed.

“A liar? You don’t think I know Calculus? Why don’t you come out with me this Saturday and find out? I’ll be happy to help you with your homework,” Ilya asked, with another little shove.

She’d slap. Smack me right in the face for even asking. And what is the difference between us? Not even two dozen years! And to like him just because his face looks like that? How shallow! How unfair!

“What did you have in mind?” she said.

She touched him. Again!

God her skin must be so soft. Like goose-down, silk-sheets, or the pillows in heaven. The thought made Misha shudder with desire despite himself.

In Misha’s mind, he said the words Ilya had said and the girl was not laughing. In this imaginary world, the girl was backing away in disgust, and the other shoppers were already starting to take uncomfortable, almost hostile, stances. Whispering names under their breath. Getting ready to run him off like some kind of village monster. All because he wanted what was fair.

I could treat her as well as him. I’m richer, too. She wants to know Calculus? I’d teach her to program.

“How about dinner at the Emerald Palace, six o’clock? I’ll look up your address in the rental database and pick you up at your place, what do you say?”

She’d call my boss when she got home and demand I be fired. Abuse of company resources. Hell, she might call the police and try to get a restraining order for stalking.

Another peal of laughter. More leaning forward. More whispers exchanged. Her hot breath must be stimulating every pore, every square millimeter of Ilya’s skin, every last nerve cell. As Misha looked closer, he could see the hem of her underwear. It looked like it might be a thong.

Misha gave up any pretense of browsing and stared at the register from behind the American Action section, two or three DVD’s in his hand, whose titles he could not remember. He spared a quick glance from side to side, to make sure no one had noticed him. With a trembling hand he wiped the sweat from his brow and wondered if he might see more.

Unfortunately, when Misha was done checking to see if he had been observed, the girl was already standing in a normal position. Her underwear now obscured, she was writing down her phone number on a scrap piece of paper with one of those cute frilly pink pens they kept in a cup by the register. Something tacky that only nineteen year old girls would like. Something only twenty year old loser cashiers at video rental stores would find attractive. Still… she had very good legs.

I bet she could squeeze a man with those legs until he wanted to die.

Misha waited a good five minutes after she left before he approached the register with his movies, not wanting to be too obvious. Even after so long, the girl’s scent lingered. The air smelled like cherry chap-stick. Misha caught himself murmuring under his breath, opening and closing his mouth to ingest the air like a fish, and could barely remember to stop.

“Is that all today?” Ilya asked with a faint smile, polite but hardly warm, as he picked up the movies Misha had put on the register. A smile for a stranger. As if Misha hadn’t been coming there at least three times a week for the past two years. Stupid fucking kid, all the handsome in his face had pushed the brains out of his ears.

“Got another one on the line, eh Ilya?” Misha asked, half-stuttering. For no reason he could fathom, Misha felt his heart skip a beat. He knew he was only being friendly, that it was Ilya’s fault if he read anything suggestive into his words but… Misha could still smell cherries.

How can they expect to fuck like that in front of everyone and not have people get turned on?

“What’s that?” Ilya asked.

“The girl. Real good looking one, isn’t she?” Misha tried his best not to look threatening. People always took him the wrong way.

“So, can I get you something else?” Ilya asked, as if he hadn’t heard.

Before Misha could stop himself, the words tumbled out of his mouth. Like always.

“No, but I bet you’re going to get some, eh kid?” Misha gave an encouraging punch to Ilya’s shoulder.

Ilya did not return the sentiment.

Such a harsh frown. Such coldness. Maybe Misha had been a bit forward, but he didn’t deserve that kind of response. Why, hadn’t Misha seen men of his age exchange pleasantries like this before? Why should this be so different?

Fuck this kid if he doesn’t want a man to act like a father to him.

“Listen kid, I was just-”

“Four hundred rubles. Three hundred-fifty if you return them by tomorrow. If you have American money we have high-quality dubs in the back.”

“I’m just saying you got yourself a real hottie-”


“Goodbye, Misha.”

So, the kid did remember his name. That’s how it was.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” Misha muttered as he left.

I’ll show him. See how high and mighty he is when I’m fucking his girl.




It wasn’t Misha’s fault there was always pus in his nose when he squeezed it. A man could not be blamed for his biology. Only God could be blamed for such a complexion.

For all that God entered into it, Misha used the facial scrub his doctor prescribed with religious dedication, and if he sometimes ate greasy foods he did not do so more than anyone else. It was not fair that good food should impact him to a greater degree anyone else. Still, the white substance was always ready to spring out of his nose pores like snakes. Misha looked from his red-nosed, slightly bloody, reflection in the now-splattered bathroom mirror back to the white goo spread on his finger and frowned, rubbing it between his fingers…

I would not have to try so hard if God had been fair to me.

“Hey, you going to take a shit or what? Hurry up!”

With embarrassed horror, Misha turned to see an eye peering at him through a slight gap between the bathroom door and the wall. The eye was high up on the door frame, its owner enormous. Misha’s back and legs clenched, like someone had shoved an ice cube up his asshole.

“Go away,” Misha whispered, shutting his eyes tight as if he could wish the other man out of existence.

Who is he to bother me? It’s not his business what I do in here.

“What did you say?” the voice barked, a loud man’s voice, and suddenly the door shook on its hinges.

“Nothing, sorry! I am almost done!”

“That’s right, you piece of shit,” the voice muttered.

Misha splashed some water on his face, wondering how long he’d been staring at his reflection like that. It wouldn’t do. No, it wouldn’t do. He gave one last look to the mirror to make sure he’d wiped away most of the blood and opened the bathroom door. Trying to keep his head down, he made to exit the bathroom.

A giant beast of a man came in, his shoulder pushing Misha to the side and back inside.

“Fucking clean this mirror, creep!” the man barked.

“I have to go meet-”

“You dirtied the mirror! You can clean it up!”

The man growled at him like a wolf. He didn’t look much different from a wolf come to that. Big and broad and covered with hair. After a startled second with his back pressed to the wall, Misha made to take some toilet paper from the dispenser but the man slapped his hand away.

“There’s not enough as it is. Not for what I have coming. Use your sleeve.”

“Hey, I really have to go meet-”

“Do it!”

The man muttered angrily to himself, undid his belt and sat down on the toilet as Misha hastily cleared up the mirror with his shirtsleeve and ran.

Is he taking a shit? Right here? Who does he think he is? I could kill him while he’s sitting down-

“Close the door!”

It was a measure of his horror that Misha paused in his flight and turned back to close the door.

“You’re welcome,” Misha mumbled on instinct.

I should find out of he has a mother or sisters.

“Didn’t know I said thanks,” growled the giant man and the sounds that followed gave enough distraction that Misha was able to run out of the hallway and back to the bar without further interruption.

“Pussy,” Misha whispered to the closed door, soft as a baby’s breath. “Fucking faggot bitch, I’ll kill you.”




Smoke assailed Misha’s nose and eyes and he found himself grateful for the painful distraction. Stepping into the bar was like stepping into another world, separating himself from the humiliation of the bathroom.

It is time to be who I truly am, here. Not what I was in there, when I was caught by surprise-

“Misha? It is you! Veronika, it’s Misha from work! Remember?” a voice called.

Misha turned to the source of the voice, feeling his stomach turning over again. Like he’d been caught. Like someone had announced all of his terrible thoughts aloud and denounced him. Relief came a moment later when recognition set in.

“Oleksandr,” Misha sighed.

“Misha, come sit!”

Pushing himself through the crowd, Misha made his way to the corner booth. On any other day, the sight of Oleksandr would have annoyed him, but now he welcomed the sight of him like a man dying of thirst welcoming water. Or a lone wolf sighting a welcoming pack.

“I have such a story, but I must leave before-” Misha began, but Oleksandr as ever was too excited to leave anyone else time to speak. And too drunk.

Is it not enough I already do all his work? Now I must suffer him in my private life?

“See? Fortune favors me! I am here with my beautiful friend Veronika and my beautiful and single cousin Zlata. And now my friend Misha has come! Fate brings us together again! The best computer programmer in Omsk and my colleague! See? He will tell you as well. We are big time developers. We will become a big company!”

Not if I keep having to tell you how to do your job. Big company? If we were a big company you would hire better prostitutes than these.

Misha spared a glance to either woman. Both of them were far from beautiful, and each of them must have been half a dozen years older than himself and looked it. In any case, seeing Oleksandr had snapped Misha back to the present. Reminded him that he only had a little time before the wolf-man from the bathroom came back.

“I have no time, unfortunately. I have an encounter with a very dangerous man in the bathroom and I must leave before he gets out. I sense he is very dangerous and-”

“What did he do? Threaten to give you a kiss?” Oleksandr laughed, slamming his fat hands down on a table and rattling a dozen small shot glasses.

The women, Zlata and Veronika, exchanged an uncomfortable glance. A look of faint disgust that included Misha. A look of judgment and repulsion. For what? What had he done?

Does this… does this whore think she is better than me?

And more importantly, who did these whores think they were to judge him?

“See!” Oleksandr began, “Misha and I are always joking-”

“I think I will leave you alone with… did you say this was your mother?” Misha waited for the look of hurt, before turning to the other woman, “and this was your grandmother?”

Oleksandr finally stopped laughing.

“Misha, I meant no offense but please do not insult my guests. These are good women. Veronika works in our sales department. Zlata is my cousin. I invited you to come out with us tonight, remember? There is no cause for rudeness.”

One of the women, Zlata, made as if to stand but Oleksandr but a hand on her arm. Gentle and stupid, as was his way, but the woman seemed allayed.

Poor, stupid Oleksandr who thinks a woman is attracted to anything but strength.

“Ah, I thought you must have paid for them. Seeing them, I wondered how it was possible for you to make so much less than me. Even I could afford better. I am glad to find they’re just ugly relatives.”

“Excuse me?” the three said, almost on top of one another.

“I can find better company than you!” Misha shouted. “I am better than a broke obese programmer and two old whores! Do you hear me? If you wanted to suck my dick, you would have to pay me and there isn’t enough money in the world! I deserve the best! It’s my right!”

Huffing and out of breath, Misha paused to realize the whole bar had gone silent. Every eye had turned to him. Including the bar-tender. Including…

She’s seen me!

Misha turned his back to her, praying she would not recognize him from the video store earlier, or that if she did she would think his presence was coincidence. His whole body tensed. If she said something… if she brought up she’d seen him earlier… what then?

Turning his back to her brought Misha face to face with the corner booth. With Oleksandr and the two women. Up close, Oleksandr appeared truly horrified and at a loss for words. The woman from sale’s face was red with embarrassment but it was the cousin who was white-faced and trembling with rage.

“I thought you said he was quiet and no one was nice to him? I thought you said he was a nice guy? Did you know he thought he was too good for everyone?” those words were for Oleksandr, but then she turned back to Misha and he braced himself. “For you? I do not trade insults. I could poke your belly and ask who you are calling obese, but it’s already almost touching my face even though you’re standing all the way over there. Go home and be who you are for the rest of your life. That’s the worst thing I can imagine.”

“Is this guy bothering everyone?” snarled a wolf-like and all too familiar voice. “I’ll take care of it.”

No! He cannot catch me unaware like this again! He cannot make me feel like less than I am again!

Misha felt himself lifted by the back of his shirt. He struggled helplessly as he was carried to the door and could only yelp like a wounded puppy when he was thrown outside in the snow next to all the trash. The landing felt like it broke his arm, but he slide another ten feet, and then it was his head that hurt, sending all the stars into circles and swirls when his skull collided with a dumpster.

“Thank you, Rihard. Right on time,” said a voice.

A man’s face, but beautifully feminine and somehow raven-like, appeared in the sky over Misha’s beaten body.

“Tell me, Monument, is this where you would have raped her if Rihard had not intervened?”

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