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that smell (Moscow)

The old elevator rattles and the doors lurch open. Inside our apartment I somehow feel taller. There is a smell of formaldehyde, like cutting those frogs open in tenth grade Biology class. The rooms feel dead, not like a tender museum of our things but empty, as if the only life in these rooms is born from us and in our absence they simply did not exist. I yank the door to the balcony open, thinking that smell will go away but it lingers deep in the pillows on the couch and the drapes. Sour, sad and chemical.

I think of random conversations I had in Ureki, mostly with taxi drivers who asked where I was from. I spoke to them in broken Russian, and they all said the same thing - Moscow, a cold place with cold people. Nothing seems to happen here, or change here. Sure, there may be a new sidewalk, a new supermarket, a fresh coat of paint on a crooked fence but the sense that this entire place is dead as well, a sort of sprawling, residential graveyard is hard to shake off. There is a sl…

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