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Not me, her

In 1987, I found myself trying to write about a high school girlfriend that had been molested by her father when she was a child. I was 19 years old, struggling to find my way through a screenwriting assignment about delivering character. The idea was to describe messy young love between two Sid and Nancy want-to-be's. But that failed, as I could not stomach oversimplifying her complicated past, events that shaped her life as a 16 year old with a mohawk, a smart mouth, a lingering stare. I understood that I had to start at the very beginning.

No one wanted to hear the story. When it was my turn to read in class, it even came to be that some of the other students asked to stand in the hallway before they heard another description of what happened in that lonely little house in the middle of nowhere. I was trying, and failing, and trying again to get things right, to explain how this happened, how it could happen to this girl, how this man found his way to acts of selfishness and d…

leading the donkey into the metro

My child has a fever, and sleeps next to me wrapped in blankets. Her face twists in on itself, and she is kicking free of them. I carry her around the dark apartment in slow circles, coax snot from her tiny nose, and make soup that she does not eat. It’s almost 4AM, and the sky is growing bright at the edges.

She only sleeps when I carry her.

Now dreaming, she kicks against me – wrestling with things I cannot imagine.

More than a year ago, I took on the unknown. I did not fail, although I don’t think I succeeded either. I’d like to say I’m wiser now, but that’s a stretch. Now, I feel like it was a sort of waking dream- especially the last days.

There was a clock over the office door that did not work. It always said it was 11:30. I noticed this every time I entered, often thinking my watch had stopped. There was a dangerous metro station I used, that had a very long tunnel leading into it. The floor was dirt, and there were troughs along the walls that stank of urine and beer. I saw a man with a donkey, leading it into the station late one night – the 19th century slamming headfirst into the 21st century, as I bought a new ticket good for 10 rides.

There was a family of white mice in a small cage in the accountant’s office. No one fed them on the weekends, and I could her them scratching as I worked alone on Saturdays and Sundays. There was a lock on every door, and a drawer with the keys to all of them except the accountant’s office.

A man who rarely told me the truth had broken glasses that sat crooked on his face. He did not fix them. His wife had two outfits, and one of them was a lime-green pantsuit. They both drove very expensive cars. A very young translator only wore purple, and was constantly depressed. I found out that she had gone through a bad breakup six months earlier. She told me only chocolate and coffee made her feel better, along with the occasional cigarette. She also wrote a blog about these details.

I listened to the same album every day on my way to and from work, as a sort of constant in my life while everything came to pieces, while the walls began falling down. There was a first snow, and I packed everything in the boxes I never go rid of. We moved everything out on a Saturday in Georgi’s old sedan and our Mini. My hands were shaking.

The snow came down hard that night, and I stood in front of the balcony window watching it. The orange streetlight and the leafless trees were perfectly still – just the snow turning slow cartwheels and the bottle of wine I drank in silence. No job. No work. No idea what to do next. This was taking on the unknown, one painful step at a time.

It was the same time as tonight, and I see my daughter kicking into the darkness.

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