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cold nostalgia

There is a note, stuck to the front entrance of our building. The hot water will be turned off for ten days. This is something that happens every summer, although it snowed a week ago and children wander the playgrounds in ski hats these days. At night it can be 40 degrees fahrenheit.  The hot water is always turned off like this, at some point during June or July. It is a long-standing Soviet tradition, and people begrudgingly accept it here. But the baby, V does not. She wants to stand in a hot bath before she goes to sleep, to splash and pour water all around her, and N. She wants to stand and wiggle her tiny hands under the spout, as she grows pink and clean, as she howls and shouts for us to see what new trick she has improvised. There is no explanation for her, why the hot water is off today, and will be tomorrow. She is angry, furious even.

I used to buy the story that this offered a chance for the water department to fix pipes, to take care of routine maintenance. Hot water c…

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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