For seven months each year, they leave that life behind, like the working-class Soviets who once volunteered for long stints on Siberian farms to increase their income. “I have seven months when I can be patient,” Kirilenko says, “and five months when I can go to nightclubs and nobody will say anything to me.”
During those seven months, Masha waits patiently at home. And, yes, she knows what happens on the road. She met Andrei at an event organized by the marketing firm she founded. She knows what can start with a smile in the Miami airport, a knock on a hotel door in Cleveland. The wrong woman, at the wrong time, in the wrong place, with the wrong man. Her man. “Male athletes in this country are extremely attractive,” she says. “They get chased by women. It’s hard to resist. It’s the way men are by nature.”
She calls it Andrei’s “allowance.” Once a year he can have sex with another woman. One night. No affairs, no divided loyalty. She can live with that. It was her idea, offered as a gift.
“Of course, it was a surprise,” Andrei says. “I’m not planning to do anything. But she said if you want to do it, you can do it.”
Masha doesn’t flinch. Her makeup is gone now, revealing earnest eyes and a pouting upper lip. But a ripple of doubt dances at the corner of her twitchy, introspective smile. “When this article comes out, girls will be lining up outside his hotel door,” she says. Maybe married women will line up outside her front door brandishing picket signs after they read about her plan to keep her husband from making a mistake. “When I’m aware and I let him do it, it’s not cheating.”