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every other man

The light outside the main entrance to our building has gone out again. The heavy metal door swings wide as I pull a hat down over my ears. In the darkness there are maybe twenty teenagers standing still. My boot scrapes across the ground, slowing down. Their hands in pockets, shoulders hunched, I look for a space to pass between them. A voice appears, saying hello in English, with an obvious accent. I am all instinct, sayingpivyet as I pass, not looking back, wondering who said this. There was a boy that was an extra in Blackbetty that lives in our building, but he is too young, too short for it to have been him.

I look back, navigating the puddles in the street. It does not make any sense.

N is with V, making their way home. I meet them, pulling V into my arms as she chatters about her day, about dry leaves and princesses, about her grandmother's apartment and what she ate there. We are going back home, and I try to explain the odd collection that stands outside. As we pass th…

сорок один (forty one)

Raining, then not raining we pulled on jeans and went downstairs to buy bread and butter, to make French toast. E jumped in a puddle, splashing me and scaring the pigeons.

We played for hours, me on guitar, her on her microphone, harmonica, dancing with the kittens. She gave me a piece of paper with 41 pairs of lips on it, each more interesting than the next. We counted them a few times, first in Russian, the in English. Definitely 41.

Outside again, we made our way to рынок (the outside market) and sat in a makeshift Uzbek cafe. She tore into the flat bread they brought us, and we shared lamb shashlik. I drank a dark cup of tea with lemon as the rain came back, splattering the windows. People were singing on the tv in the corner, some kind of European competition. The tables were full of men eating soup, smoking cigarettes, sipping the same fragrant tea. Women in blue smocks wrapped dishes in aluminum foil, as taxi drivers stepped inside, paying and taking their packages, sometimes lifting a corner and smelling their heady lunch.

E fell asleep on my shoulder, and I walked across the river, past Arbat and the vacant casinos, past Lenin’s library, past Teatralnaya square, to the fountains outside the Kremlin. She woke up slowly, seeing the giant horse sculptures, the tourists, feeling the cool spray from the fountains that found their way to her face. She laughed a little. We heard music playing, a perfect Soviet waltz. Here, a military orchestra played under an archway. The wind came up and blew the music from their stands, and they kept playing. Old women danced with old women, both leading, it seemed. An old man in a uniform leaned against his cane, leaning so far forward, maybe to hear the band better I thought.

There were red roses, pink ones, yellow ones. There were beautiful pools of green water, and statues of characters from great fairy tales. One fountain spewed water across a footpath, and we ran underneath it’s deafening sound. E laughing and shouting at me, that we had gone under the ocean.

The West entrance to Red Square was littered with tourists and kite sellers. We stood our time in the group that circled a bronze star set into the cobblestones. People jumped forward, waiting to have their picture taken as they threw rubles over their shoulder. This is the zero point, where all roads begin, from the very center of Moscow. In Russian, “null kilometer”. We found our moment, and jumped together.

“Ras, dva, tri!” E shouted at everyone, and we threw our coins.

It was my only birthday present this year.

Later, we shared some French fries from McDonalds. It seemed oddly appropriate.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Amazing prose, M. I'm just catching up, starting at the bottom and working my way up your blog, but you truly have a gift.

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