On Wednesday, October 30, at 10:15 a.m., I received the new issue of The Classical Magazine (issue six) in my inbox (as a PDF because the only iDevice I own is an iPod so old that it can sing along with most of the music on it). The premise of this issue is econo, short pieces of prose and poetry and the things between, and it is full of work by writers I enjoy and admire. But I haven’t read any of it yet.
I have work in this issue, too, a short nonfiction piece called “First Star,” my first published hockey-writing, a piece woven around Sidney Crosby’s broken jaw, a Predators-Avalanche game I went to last season, and Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. A piece hinging, in many ways, on Semyon Varlamov and his play with both Colorado and Yaroslavl. I wrote the piece in the first third of October, about events from last season.
On Wednesday night, I was having a Twitter conversation about Varlamov, his kickass season so far, his apparently affable nature. Half an hour after that, the news broke that Varlamov had turned himself in to Denver police and was arrested on domestic violence and kidnapping charges. I turned my attention to the Penguins’ game in-progress, I circled social media warily, I tried to focus on new writing tasks. Mostly, I felt sick to my stomach. Mostly, I didn’t want to read anything, anywhere, at all.
It’s been a few days since then. I don’t want to think he’s guilty, but I also refuse to assume he’s not because already the crows are calling the alleged victim a liar. (Women are just like that, lying about terrifying and humiliating things for money and attention.) Already the heads are shaking and saying that it’s just not possible that Varlamov could do such a thing. (Everyone knows nice guys don’t do bad things.) Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy gave Varlamov the start last night in Dallas because he didn’t see any reason not to. Varlamov has yet to be officially charged with any crime; he posted his bail; he is, legally, quite free to play. The slow unfurling of legal procedures proceeds apace, and it’s unfair of me to assume guilt or innocence in any direction until that process is completed if I believe in this legal system.
I do. And I don’t.
As someone who wants everyone, under all circumstances, to have the right to real due process, not just torches and pitchforks, I must believe in this legal system. As a general optimist and person who attaches affection easily to people, places, and things, I cling to that benefit of the doubt. I want this goalie whose play I appreciate and whose career took a path I found conveniently symbolic to be innocent. And I mean squeaky-clean, photographic-and-eye-witness-evidence-plus-retinal-scan-that-the-accused-was-instead-volunteering-at-a-trick-or-treating-event-for-at-risk-youth-at-the-time-of-the-events, evil-impostor-committing-crimes-in-my-stead innocent. Except not exactly that either because I also do not want, at any time, for anyone to be guilty of domestic violence. Of violent crime of any kind. Because I don’t want people to commit acts of violence. Ever.
I want desperately for the system to work, too. If he’s guilty, I want every possible book thrown at him, preferably by Aroldis Chapman (metaphorically, of course: the weight of guilt should feel like that fastball in the unprotected ribs).
As a human being who’s walking around this world with eyes open, too, I know that the system often doesn’t work. I know that many cases like this (domestic violence cases, cases involving high-profile, wealthy persons) don’t reach trial stage. They can be settled out of court, charges can be dropped (and not because they were invented but because of a host of larger, frightening reasons), and the very idea of the system can be collapsed before one even gets to the part I think of as that proper due process. I know that due process doesn’t necessarily lead to justice, either, and that more people want to believe that the victim is lying than to deal with the wages of a culture that excuses and masks violence.
I want an impossibility: I want Semyon Varlamov to be innocent and I want Evgenia Vavinyuk to be telling the truth.
This post was never anything I ever wanted to write, but I also couldn’t say nothing, even if no one even noticed the connection: “Hey, you wrote that thing praising that guy who might have assaulted his girlfriend.” It’s most of what I’ve been thinking about since Wednesday, and even as it strikes me as egotistical that I am in fact thinking what about my writing? in this context, we are inextricably tied to our work. Better to acknowledge that than not.
I loved writing “First Star.” I loved that Predators/Avalanche game I went to. How I feel about that piece of writing now–I don’t know. Rereading it doesn’t make it more clear. What is clear is this: I don’t know how the rest of this story plays out, and I know that it will absolutely matter to me when it does. I also don’t know how to compartmentalize–hockey here, humanity there. There are enough talented and skillful people in this world that I don’t think it’s too much to ask that we be good at what we do and also simply good. Decent.
And if I’m feeling uncomfortable about my own work in the new issue, there’s no reason that I should feel that way about the rest of Issue Six. So I’m going to go read that, and enjoy it, and wait.