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the long way around

The living room is a forest of mic stands and cables. A cup of coffee, a large glass of water and a shallow shot of whiskey sit on the tiny white table. I alternate between them, making sure the guitar is in tune, trying to understand if the chair will creak when I lean my head back on the second chorus.  There is a hush in the room. I can hear my own heartbeat. The lyrics are printed out on a fresh piece of paper, large and thick so I can read them easily even though I sing with my eyes closed and will surely forget a handful of words no matter what I do.

The guitar sounds dry, perfect - even honest. I can play a simple D chord with a long strum, or the side of my thumb and it sounds so different. I record a few takes, barefoot in the bright room. I am going too fast in some parts, and my fingers are already sore from the chord changes.

And then all at once, I am thinking of a show I played in an old factory in Brooklyn, way back when I had just started writing songs almost twenty y…

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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