Matthew Powers King

Posted on April 9, 2012


A Strange Fall

“Drop him, you bitch!” they yelled. I spit through my teeth and felt the muscles pull tight at my temples as I hit the mother fucker again. He fell to the ground. Nobody moved for a short time. The wind picked up and blew through the alley. Some gopniks squatted around him and went through his pockets. They stood up, looked at me strangely, and then walked away. My hand was sore and I was ashamed. Sonya stood by my side. I couldn’t see her face but I could feel her standing there. I don’t know where she was looking.

After a while his legs started to move. Sonya took me by the hand and we left. We were alone now and we walked through the corridors between the crooked apartments. I didn’t know what time it was. It was dark. Everything I did now felt awkward. I stopped to kiss Sonya but she wouldn’t let me, turning her head just slightly away, staring away at nothing. Everything was cold.

“What?” I said.


I opened my mouth to say something, but didn’t.

“I don’t want to go home,” she said.

“Let’s walk, then.”

“Ok, let’s.”

We walked for a long time without talking. We came out from the maze of dark corridors to walk along the canals. There were street lamps and we walked in their light and I felt differently. I kept my hands in the pockets of my coat. We stopped at a bridge and Sonya took a pastry out of a plastic wrapper and we fed the night ducks. I saw my hands in the light. I brushed and rolled off the loose skin at my knuckles and suddenly they looked as they always did.

“Do you want to drink?” I asked her.


I took a flask out of my pocket and gave it to her.

“Oh,” she said. Then after she made a face.

“Let me.”

She handed it over. It didn’t burn. I felt I could drink it like water.

“Don’t take it all,” she said.

I wanted to.

“Hey,” she said, and for the first time her mouth smiled at the corners and her eyes flashed.

I handed it back to her. She drank with her eyes closed.

“I love you,” I said, watching her.

“Can we go away?” she asked.

“Of course.”

“Then let’s.”


We finished the cognac and started off to the train station. When we got to Nevsky prospect we saw that there were less night people and the beginning of people going to work. I felt absolutely normal now. Sonya took my hand and leaned her cheek against my shoulder as we walked.

At the train station someone was handing out free news papers in English. I asked Sonya to take one so she could read it to me on the train. I bought two tickets to Kiev and in two hours we left. The sun had still not risen. We fell asleep holding each other. Her head was tucked just under my chin and I smelled her hair all the time. It was like flowers.

I dreamed of the countryside. It was not pleasant. I wanted to go away from everything. I saw my mother and she watched me from the shore as I swam in a cold lake. I was very hungry and it woke me. Sonya still slept and I looked out the window and saw the afternoon. Golden fields and timber passed fast by. I greatly desired artificial food.

We arrived in the evening the next day. Sonya forgot the newspaper on the train. We ate at a small cafe before finding some lodging. I had bliny with sour cream and borsch and Sonya had a beet salad with bread. It was delicious and I was disappointed. I told Sonya that I would feel better if I were sick, and she said I was stupid.

We found a small cottage hotel that was for tourists. Sonya made the booking. She asked for a single bed room in Ukrainian, and the administrator answered in Russian. We paid in euros. There was a television in the room and I said I wanted to watch football. Sonya said if I did she would scream. We took a shower together and then got into bed and passed several hours making love before falling asleep. There were strange night birds that sang outside of our window in the cedars. I woke in the night and listed to them and after a while Sonya did, too. She went to the bathroom and then came back.

“I think I am pregnant,” she said.


“Do you love me?”

“Yes. I love you.”

“Say it again.”

“I love you.”

“OK,” she said, and it was settled.

In the morning we took a small bus outside of the city and met my Uncle. He was big, swollen and hard from time, his face red and merry, and he was not normal. He drove us to his farm and we met with his wife and told them about our marriage. They had a yellow Labrador named Daisy who loved me and I pet her the whole time we talked. Dogs can’t understand, but maybe they do. I wish she knew where I went. It was sadder than anything I knew that she loved me and that I left and she didn’t know where I was.

“Her teeth are so clean,” I remarked, looking up from the dog.

“She stopped drinking black tea,” my Uncle said, and everyone laughed.

After my Uncle and I got very drunk and sang songs. Sonya and his wife went to bed, and in the night we decided to go hunting. Daisy didn’t want to come. We used automatic rifles that my Uncle said were from Israel. There was a moon and we followed it into the dark forest. The autumn leaves were all across the path and made a great noise as we walked through them. My Uncle talked all the time. He told me that with a beauty like Sonya I should learn quickly to forget all at the same time about drinking and other women and to always remember that I’m no good but if I can pretend to be good for long enough and to hold it all without breaking inside eventually I will die and it will be true, and I will have been worthy. He was very specific and dire and stressed about how I might feel in the final moments before I die, and what I might feel then. The moon came in beams through the tree tops.


Matthew Powers King is a writer and English teacher living and working in St. Petersburg, Russia. He was born in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, but when he was five his parents found work in Indiana, so they went there. His parents are psychologists, and there certainly is no better place to be found for people whose vocation is the study of insane people than Middle America. Stay there long enough and you’ll go crazy, too. It is certainly dull enough. The devout following of network television, eating too much, and manufacturing methamphetamine are quite popular pastimes. Matthew was educated at DePaul and Indiana Universities in Music and Psychology, respectively. He decided to come to Russia because the best teacher he ever had told him to do so. It has worked out beautifully, really, whether you want to believe it or not. He loves teaching, whether it be adults who are seeking better employment or children, who are seeking always new ways to torment adults. As of right now, his plan for the next few years in Petersburg is to teach and to write a novel. There is very little portrayed in the West about Russia that is not only false but ridiculous. Matthew is not quite sure that he knows how to do anything that is not a little bit ridiculous, but thinks he can write something that at the very least is done so truly.