It’s like when you’re on the stairs and, for a moment, you lose your place. Is there a sturdy step beneath your descending foot, or nothing? Are you going to fall? Did you miscount? Were you paying attention or did you simply take it on faith that your muscle and instinct would see you down the flight? In that space where your foot is in mid-step and you panic and think, my God, there’s nothing there, and you decide to plant your foot anyway, that’s where I was. That’s how I lived when I ordered you off the Internet.
You told me you were Russian, and that was fine because the Russians were our friends. But in all our exchanges, you never mentioned that you actually lived in China. That was not okay, Katrina, because the Chinese have never been our friends.
I’ll admit that I was surprised when I met you at the airport. I suppose it was poetically just that we both exchanged headshots of people who might be mistaken for us, in poor lighting and from a distance. I took it on faith that a lush Raphaelesque body supported that gaunt face. I was disappointed when I found you at the baggage terminal. You weren’t unattractive but you weren’t what I’d hoped for. You see, Katrina, your muss of short black hair, your stylishly flared black slacks, and your smart black jacket – I found it all incongruent. In honesty, I hoped for a Cossack, a woman with thick warm legs and rolls of back fat – someone I could grip. You were so petite and insubstantial. I doubted that you were the anchor I sought. Truthfully, I could have walked away upon seeing you. I could have gone home and discontinued my email service and repressed your memory altogether. I have a supreme faculty for denial. But, I knew that I could feed you well. You would take shape in short order.
So, I carried your luggage to my car and we drove together down Route One. That’s when the second misgiving struck, when you rolled down your window and put your head out and said, “Whee.” I’ll tell you that that is what Stanley did when I brought him home from the shelter. My thoughts turned to layers of newspaper on the kitchen floor and distemper shots. You might have seen my scowl when I asked you to stop and then rolled up and locked the window. I didn’t mean to give you that look. I knew you wouldn’t pee on my floor. Still, associations are funny, beyond conscious control. My analyst tells me that I should never feel guilty about them.
Even though Stanley did urinate on my floor, I was lonely without him, when he got run over.
When you pulled your head inside the window and said, “I’m so sorry,” I found your Chinese accent shocking, evidence of my less than thorough email inquisition. Then you adjusted the black bumblebee sunglasses on the bridge of your nose and I wondered why you were wearing them at night, like you were hiding more desperate secrets from me. I didn’t feel romance. I felt suspicion and I sought to resume my inquisition.
I asked you what you had for breakfast and you said, “Congee with mushrooms and chicken.” I asked you if all Russians ate congee with mushrooms and chicken for breakfast and you said, “Perhaps.” You were calculatingly oblique and, in my head, I congratulated you for your evasive skill.
At that point, I decided to put all my chips on the table and I asked if you were Russian. You giggled with your hand over mouth and said, “What do you think with a last name of K_________?” I admitted to myself that your name sounded Russian, but with that accent, I expected you to press your hands together before your chest and bow your head. I’d had enough of our cat and mouse game. I intended to expose you while the airport lights were still visible in my rear view mirror.
“Where do you live?” I asked.
“With you now,” you answered. “Boston.”
“No, no.” I said. “Before today. Where did you live?”
I could scarcely believe how wrong I’d been. “India?”
“China.” You covered your mouth with your palm and giggled again.
“I thought you were from Russia,” I fumed.
I had my answer finally, Katrina, and my associative powers drew me to the only logical conclusion. You didn’t come to me for romance. You were a Chinese Russian and that could mean only one thing. You were a KGB brat. The fact that your family never returned home after the dissolution of the old union certainly meant that they had turned and were now spying for the Chinese government. The other guys in the mailroom think I’m slow, but I can put two and two together.
I knew that I would have to double the frequency of appointments with my analyst now that I’d met you personally. But first, it was my civic responsibility to discover the nature of your operation. What was it that you’d hoped to steal from us Katrina?
Remember how tired you were when we got home? You were too tired to rail against the obvious trappings of conspicuous consumption, the evidence of my capitalistic success: my indulgence in rich painted landscapes had for a song at the Holiday Inn, the exotic four-slice toaster on the kitchen counter, the three-ply bath tissue infused with soothing aloe. You probably took note and recoiled discreetly. But, you were tired and asked where you would sleep. I gave you my bed and, I still insist, I did wash the sheets that morning. I don’t know what you thought you smelled.
When you retired, I didn’t go to sleep on the couch as I said I would. Instead, I turned on the computer and visited whitehouse.com as I formulated a plan to foil your mission. After a couple of hours of browsing, and my dear credit card number in their hands, I realized my mistake and went to whitehouse.gov. Then, everything crystallized for me. I visited the CIA, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security. I noted their phone numbers on a pad and programmed them into my mobile phone. I even assigned each department a speed-dial number. I wouldn’t be unprepared in the event you threatened national security. Now, it’s true that I’ve been accused of certain personality shortcomings that have ultimately seen me to my current analyst, but I decided to wait, to uncover your plot, and then alert the authorities.
You showered in the morning before me; you took all the hot water. I thought that was too bold, you really blew your cover in displaying your contempt for me. You tried to cover up, by offering to prepare breakfast. Little did you know of my fattening plan, truly a brilliant subtext to my scheme. We drove through McDonald’s and I ordered two bacon, egg, and cheese biscuits for you. When you peeled back the paper and lifted the crumbling biscuit and curled your lip, I thought, how inept, is this your first mission? Some advice, Katrina: if you’re going to spy, you’ve got to do your best to fit in and embrace the culture, McDonalds included.
I only agreed to take you to work with me, to Mass General, because I didn’t want you alone in my apartment, emailing status updates to your superiors beyond the Great Wall. I thought you’d feel comfortable waiting for me in the cafeteria, eating rations that you might find evocative of the cuisine of your homeland. So, I went to the mailroom, and I’ll tell you, I never more fully felt the awesome power and sanctity of handling United States post. It’s much more than slotting letters and parcels, Katrina. It’s downright patriotic. I worked faster than I ever had and my head swirled with iconographic visions, eagles and flags and the Blue Angels floating over a baseball diamond. I was truly reborn, a fresh patriot ready to defend liberty.
When I met you for lunch and you told me that you made an appointment with the department of oncology for the next morning, my head nearly burst in thoughts of cunning anticipation. What were you after? How could you be so bold in this place where I work? Didn’t you know that I controlled the post in this hospital, that I pushed my cart to every department, that I had confidants on every floor? Your mission was doomed, dear Katrina. I nodded and patiently anticipated your imminent exposure.
You’ll recall that we ate dinner at McDonald’s that evening and that you spent a long time in the bathroom afterward, I was certain, with a miniature satellite phone in your hand. When you came out and took my hand and suggested that I sleep in my own bed that evening, with you, I recognized my duty and agreed. After all, was this not how James Bond frequently uncovered the unsavory details of a nefarious plot? I’m not James Bond, Katrina, and I admit to always succumbing to nerves in the moments preceding intercourse. In this case though, I didn’t. It’s true, I’m a typical white guy, Katrina, with typical equipment. But, you were from China, and I felt confident that I would comparably measure up against your expectations. You shook me though, when you lowered my skivvies and said, “I’m so sorry.” I lost my breath – not at your judgment, but that you were clearly a more skillful spy than I anticipated. With three simple words you distracted me from my surreptitious plans. Then, of course, no amount of your frustrated tugging or stroking or poking could get me back on track. I aborted the mission, and then you said it again. You weren’t the rookie I’d mistaken you for.
This was even more apparent to me the following day at work. I’d spent the morning rolling the cart from department to department considering countermeasures and trying to discern your intentions. That’s when you made your fatal mistake. You allowed me to see you entering a door marked: Nuclear Medicine. I’m neither a scientist, nor a doctor. I’m a simple American with a keen sense of duty. I don’t know what Nuclear Medicine is. I do know that on the fifth day of every month, I deliver a magazine to that department. That magazine, Katrina, is called: Medicinal Isotope Monthly.
Isotopes, Katrina, little theoretical balls of radioactive goodness, small enough to smuggle out of the country in your shoe. I bet you’d have liked to get some of those glowing beauties back to China. That was it, Katrina. Your mission had been compromised by your carelessness.
Oh, how you cried those crocodile tears that evening, how you protested! You did offer a compelling cover story, Katrina, lymphatic cancer, untreatable in China, but cutting edge therapies in the good old US gave you hope. I’m not a hardhearted man, Katrina, but it was your own strategic oversight that saw you to the airport that evening. You simply didn’t look sick. If there is to be a similar mission for you in the future, I’d suggest you explore the application of makeup evocative of your “disease.” You know, dark circles beneath your eyes, carefully applied rouge to further draw your cheeks, perhaps a tinge of yellow suggestive of jaundice.
I’m pleased that I foiled your scheme. I hold little doubt that if I hadn’t, those isotope-powered weapons would be making a beeline for my beloved country even as I write. I want you to know, Katrina, that the FBI, CIA, and, Department of Homeland Security will each receive a copy of my report. As to the dozens of other “Russians” on the importedmates.com website, I’ve begun correspondence with all of them, and I intend to expose them, too. I’m so sorry, Katrina.
[Forever after at http://eyeshot.net/katrina.html]
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