He turns off the TV. Impossible—he still feels empty. He finds himself after midnight in a restaurant gulping down oysters, alone, the husband of the World Championships' bronze medalist. A few hours later he races from his bed to the bathroom, then does it again. Wait a minute. He's sitting on a toilet purging his guts out, then wobbling into a hospital, being lashed to an IV and told he has food poisoning, while she.... How can this be?
Of course, it's just a foul oyster that makes Viktor expel everything that enters him that night. Only those who believe in the metaphysical, in hidden chutes between the unseen and material worlds, could possibly see it as metaphor. Tatiana's flying. Viktor never jumps.
He tries to lower his head and live happily in the sunken side of the cocoon. He helps clean the house and makes gangbuster salads. He sits quietly in the back while she strides to the podium, waits patiently on the fringe while reporters ask her one more question. He holds up the foil to reflect more light on her face for a camera crew, reaches out lovingly to remove the poppy seed from her lip before she goes on the air.
None of this seems strange to her. Her mother, the dealmaker, always takes charge at home, while her father, who repairs machines at a jewelry factory, sits in the background, gentle as a whisper. She shows Viktor her appreciation by making him three-course candlelit dinners. She tries to include him in everything, even has him there at ringside when she leaps on a trampoline, stark naked, in front of a stranger and a camera for hours—the only athlete who consents to frontal nudity in Australia's Black + White magazine. For her, it's a chance to unfold another hidden self. "She's the most comfortable female athlete I've ever shot nude," says the photographer, James Houston. "She has the least fears. She just goes for it."
Viktor's so proud that he lays the pictures out in front of their agent, Rick Carter, and demands, "Isn't she beautiful?"
"Viktor, you don't go around showing blokes pictures of your wife like that!" Carter protests.
"You don't like to look?" asks Viktor.
"Of course I do, but—"
"Well, then," Viktor cries. "Look!"
But all along, beneath his pride, beneath all the flexibility his marriage has brought out in him, there's a dark voice he keeps trying to push away. Who's to say if it's more the brittleness of his ego or more the transformation of Tatiana? Her no grows more stubborn when they disagree, feels more to him like treason. The dark voice says: She has put herself above you.