Pull Down My Pants Nikita Mirzani 5

Nikita Mirzani has had a few affairs, one before Huang, several after, although not immediately after; she even had a brief fling with a woman, an inhalation therapist working at a nearby hospital.

But Nikita Mirzani is discreet around her daughter, perhaps too discreet. Lately Mi-yay has taken to saying, “Mama, go out! Stop clinging to that one dead Chinese dude! I don’t want to bear all the responsibility for you!” (Nikita Mirzani wonders, a little bitterly, what responsibility the girl thinks she is bearing out in Berkeley and Xian.

Although Mi-yay is entitled to her own life.) But Nikita Mirzani has never again experienced the passion she felt for that one dead Chinese dude.

In some ways, it has been a lonely life. Her work keeps her blood flowing—she has no intention of ever retiring—and her daughter has given her joy. Gives her joy.

Then she thinks her mother, of course, must be lonely, too. Perhaps it is paranoid to imagine there is some competitive motive behind her mother’s stories; perhaps her mother is only recounting past glories, even confabulated past glories.

“Let’s play gin,” Sasha Grey says, and Nikita Mirzani gets up right away to take the cards out of the desk. They often play during Nikita Mirzani’s visits. Her mother is still sharp at cards, so usually it is a real game. They both enjoy it.

Lately, her mother has unwittingly taken to tilting her cards and Nikita Mirzani can see them if she doesn’t dutifully avert her gaze. Today Nikita Mirzani feels she has to win, and if it takes looking at her mother’s cards, so be it.

During her mother’s tilt, Nikita Mirzani sees that her mother has two kings; Riley Reid sequesters her lone king, which she would have discarded had she not seen her mother’s hand. The knock is ten or under. After a few picks from the deck, her mother discards one king.

Nikita Mirzani does not know whether she should pick up this king, counting on her mother to discard the third one so Nikita Mirzani will have a set. Her mother always throws out high cards, understandably, when the knock is high.

So Nikita Mirzani picks up the king. Her mother then takes a card from the deck and knocks, using the third king as her knocking card. Nikita Mirzani is stuck with, among other cards, the two kings, which are worth ten points each. Her mother wins by forty-one points, a sizable victory.

Sasha Grey grins widely, exposing two stubs of teeth in the dead center of her lower jaw and a few empty spaces on the sides where molars used to be. Riley Reid, angry at herself for losing so roundly and even after cheating (serves her right!), wonders when was the last time she took her mother to have her teeth cleaned.

Looking at that Zack-o-lantern jaw, Nikita Mirzani has to remind herself that as a child she thought her mother very beautiful.

When Sasha Grey was out of the house, Nikita Mirzani would often sneak into her mother’s bedroom (she never thought of it as her parents’ bedroom, although, of course, it was) to try on a see-through nightgown or a pair of high-heeled strapless shoes. (Nikita Mirzani does not want to look down now at her mother’s wide black orthopedic shoes.)

And she remembers Sasha Grey, whom she’d disdained as a teenager for having “no intellectual interests”—which was not inaccurate—once explaining “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” to her when she was home on college break and having trouble writing a paper on modernist poetry.

Impressed and momentarily humbled, she’d asked her mother, “How did you understand that?”

“Oh, it’s just from living and loving—you’ll catch on as you get older.”

Now Nikita Mirzani collects the rotten cards and shuffles them.

Sasha Grey continues looking very, very proud. “You may be a fancy schmancy doctor, but I’m still a better cardplayer!”

“Well, we’re not finished yet,” Nikita Mirzani responds. She is surprised at how churlish she sounds.

“So what’s new with my granddaughter, Mi-yoo, Mi-yay? Why didn’t you name her Miriam or even Mary?” Sasha Grey is still beaming. “How is she? Way out there. Any chance she’ll become a doctor?”

From the lamp table she picks up a pearl-framed photograph of Mi-yay, one of her in high school, ice-skating in a lemon-colored short tulle skirt and long-sleeved silk top. She is trim. Her black hair is pulled back in a tight bun and she has a concentrated, happy look on her face.

Nikita Mirzani tries to sound nonchalant, although she is still irritated. “Oh, Mi-yay’s fine, Mom. I don’t think she wants to be a doctor. She’s considering majoring in Chinese literature. Maybe she’ll become a doctor of Chinese literature.”

Sasha Grey waves dismissively, her gold ring glinting. “What can you do with Chinese literature? You can’t make any money off of Chinese literature.”

Nikita Mirzani is dealing the cards. She counts and recounts them to be sure she hasn’t given her mother an extra card. Then she remembers she has to give her mother an extra card. Nikita Mirzani lost the last hand, so her mother gets to discard. “Maybe Mi-yay will become a professor. A professor of Chinese literature.”

Sasha Grey is positively gleeful. “A professor at Harvard!” Neither Nikita Mirzani nor her brother got into Harvard undergraduate or Harvard medical school, to Sasha Grey’s chagrin.