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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…

a late birthday in New York

I am back in New York for a few days, speaking clean English, eating real pizza, blowing out birthday candles on a late, delicious cake.

The city smells like laundry soap, and those cornucopia steam tables – of watermelon and sesame chicken. It reeks of cigarettes and stale beer as I travel beneath a midday sun. It is coffee and bacon from Eisenbergs.

Everyone is checking everyone out, sizing each other up like we’re about to fight, or pitch a pathetic one-liner, or get asked out on a date.

I walk up and down the city, catching bits of conversations in French, and German. I hear someone speaking Russian and my ears perk up like a terrier. I turn and follow these strangers down Church Street until I know what they are doing here.

People stop me and ask for directions to the World Trade Center, to the Brooklyn Bridge.

Guys are leaning out of cars, calling to girls in short skirts. Children are running under sprinklers on a playground.

The city smells like a clean shirt.

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