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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…

the red cup

The sky is not fully dark at seven now. Hard clouds are coughing from double smokestacks past the river. The cat tries to knock me over, starving in the cold morning air. E is asleep in a perfect cocoon of cartoon sheets, clutching a stuffed dog named Katya.

I make coffee without turning the kitchen light on. The cat eats noisily as I wait for the familiar, hoarse voice of the little moka. I put sugar at the bottom of the cup, and don't mind it's not clean.

I splash milk in, and sit on the window's edge, looking down at the covered fountain in the center of the courtyard. As I drink from the cup, I smell something unfamiliar. I touch my fingers to my nose for a moment - and realize this cup was used on Saturday for our little dinner party. New friends had visited, with a daughter to play with E, and fresh pastries, with a bottle of red wine and the bread I had forgotten to buy, with an unattached woman.

It was her perfume on my red coffee cup, a sort of gift she had left behind. I closed my eyes, imagining her hands resting on the table, how she hid behind her hair, her chin pinned to her chest.

Breathing in her perfume, I drank in the morning light and the sweet coffee and smiled to myself.

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