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The Woman Warrior God says you are strong valiant fearless enough poster
“Don’t be. It’s never wrong to practice other languages. A very good idea, actually.” He rose, and then after a hesitation patted her on the head. “Perhaps I’ll see you later.”
She took a small step, deftly rejecting his touch. “When?” “I don’t know. Perhaps next year. Or the next.”
Julia settled on him a hard look. “You won’t come. We will never see each other again.”
They sat across from each other now, in a room in the back of a mechanical parts warehouse owned by the SPB. The space was unofficially Leo’s—no one else from the department liked to use it, because it was far away, in Mitino. Over the years he’d rearranged the decor: he’d kept a campaign photo of the current president, in case he ever were to visit, which he wouldn’t; the Gorbachev junk he’d removed, though he’d left up a single poster, of a cartoon alco- holic mistakenly chugging silver polish. Evil for your body and soul was printed on the bottom, which Leo would occasionally chant as he poured for himself and Vera. Glug glug glug.
“Do you remember meeting me?” He shifted, and his chair made an ugly noise against the floor. “It was a long time ago.”
“Yes,” Julia said, and Leo took the moment to study her up close. Unfortunately, Julia was not one of those plain children who grew into their features (though from Leo’s experience it was never the perfect tens who worked hardest, anyway). She wore a red wool dress with a dirndl collar, as a younger girl might, and had brought along with her a paper sack of food, from which Leo could discern the smell of hot bread and cheese. Sloykas, he guessed. His stomach rumbled.
“When we first met, you said you did not know your parents.” “Yes.”
“Is that still the case?” Though he knew the answer, as by now—a week after the graduation—he had assembled her complete file.
“Yes. I do not know them. Or think of them.”
“And you understand what the SPB does.” Watching her care- fully, as here was where some of his potentials flamed out. Though they were initially drawn by the excitement, something about hear- ing the actual name, the initials, seemed to move them to recon- sider. As if by not working for the SPB they might exist farther from its eye, their sins unrecorded.
Julia shrugged. “As much as anyone else.”