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Not me, her

In 1987, I found myself trying to write about a high school girlfriend that had been molested by her father when she was a child. I was 19 years old, struggling to find my way through a screenwriting assignment about delivering character. The idea was to describe messy young love between two Sid and Nancy want-to-be's. But that failed, as I could not stomach oversimplifying her complicated past, events that shaped her life as a 16 year old with a mohawk, a smart mouth, a lingering stare. I understood that I had to start at the very beginning.

No one wanted to hear the story. When it was my turn to read in class, it even came to be that some of the other students asked to stand in the hallway before they heard another description of what happened in that lonely little house in the middle of nowhere. I was trying, and failing, and trying again to get things right, to explain how this happened, how it could happen to this girl, how this man found his way to acts of selfishness and d…

perfect water

Today carries a certain perfection in the Russian calendar. In truth, all water is considered holy on this day. People make their way to churches, empty bottles tucked under their arms, or knocking against each other in strong bags from Ikea. I am one of them.

I enter the monastery that blooms so random and wild in the summer. Now, an ice sculpture stands in front of the church - a crudely carved angel, her head bowed in grace. Inside, the rooms are lit only by candles and the patches of sunlight that make their way to the icons that cover the walls. Incense remains heavy in the air, familiar and comforting. I buy two candles and light them in front of my favorite one. I do not need to pay anything for them, but do all the same. One for E and one for me.

We came here yesterday as I had mistaken the day of perfect water. It was during a service. Her eyes wide, she stood completely silent and still for some time. People stood (as there are no pews in Russian Orthodox churches). They stood in their winter coats with warm hats shoved in their pockets. They stood in awkward poses as this is what you do when you stand for a long time.

Now, I am in line and see giant silver vats full of sacred water. Old women dispense them, carefully placing funnels and little white pans on the floor so not a drop is wasted. They say the water is chemically perfect on this day, and that you may drink from this bottle during the year when you are sick. They say you may put a bit of this water on the walls and floor of your apartment to make it a good home.

Sometimes I drink it in the morning - -just a splash at the bottom of a little cup. I drink it at truly difficult moments, after I look at the sky or my hands through it. It tastes wonderful, like the well water I drank as a boy on the farm.





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