. . . “You’re dancing?” asks an old man sitting across from me, eyeing me over his Kyiv Post; I can read half a headline: “— calls for President Yanukovych’s impeachment.” “Shouldn’t you be out smashing windows with the rest of them, like a good boy?” He laughs.
His Ukrainian is coloured with a Russian accent. I imagine for a moment that he isn’t just an old pervert; that he has a bomb in his briefcase. He’ll leave it on the train when he gets off at the next stop. What would my mother do, if her only son got blown up on his way to the ballet? I feel a twinge of bitterness when I picture her weeping face, when I imagine her saying, ‘He died doing something he loved.’
When I don’t answer him, the man starts to say something else, so I crank up Pussy Riot on my headphones, tuning him out. But when the train goes through a tunnel I see his hungry eyes reflected in the window, leering over his newspaper, lingering on my glutes and thighs while I melt into my passé développé.
Probably just a pervert, then.
My gaze drifts back to Uliana: small, flawless head, long legs, feet in the ten-and-two position. She balances without holding the handrail, surrounded by motion yet motionless; yet even motionless, she is a dancer. Perfect.
A few nights ago, when I was coming home from rehearsal, I watched the rioters pull down a towering marble statue of Lenin in the maidan with ropes and a pickup truck. When the monolith toppled to the ground their cheers rose in a deafening roar up towards the sky with the ascending clouds of dust. The sound was so loud that I felt it in my knees, in my forehead; I could feel it pressing through the glass of the train window, trying to burst in, to infect my body like rampant disease looking for a host. Through the dust I saw a flash of white, a pale figure darting down the street with unmistakeable grace. I wasn’t sure, but I thought I’d seen Uliana amongst the rioters’ corps. . . .