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you are not there

We are taking the little one for a ride on her new sled. It is bright orange, with a fuzzy black and white seat cover to keep her extra warm. Her tiny hands in tiny gloves hold the sides as tight as she can. I pull her down a path, shouting "woohooo" and then she replies "woohoo". N's turn is next, pulling her more schoolgirl than mother for a few minutes. There are other parents with children on sleds passing us. Their eyes straight forward, faces completely blank they slip by in silence. I flash a smile to them, and they do not even look at me. I am not there, just another tree leaning towards the stream that runs below.

There are ducks still, flapping around the brackish water and we throw pieces of stale bread to them. I start to think, not about the complete absence of smiles in this culture. I stopped asking about that long ago, told over and again that smiles are reserved for home, behind closed doors. But I wonder, for the children -  these wiggling bu…

landscape of a man

Rehearsal went well, in Will's living room - new songs about being in the right place, about playing solitaire on a hotel bed, about a girl with big brown eyes who leaves all of her things on the floor. My harmonicas spread across the sofa, scribbling notes on lyrics - I so rarely get to make music like this. Intimate, quiet, tender, angry sounds with Jenny and Will.

I knock my juice over on the floor.

Later, a taxi home and the driver asks me if I'm Italian, or maybe Arab before I can say anything. "New York mix." I say definitively, and go upstairs to the empty apartment and some 1AM leftovers.

Saturday morning I play with E and an avalanche of new toys. And then the house is suddenly quiet again. I walk from room to room, unsure. And then, sitting with my Gretsch the second half of an unfinished song comes together. It's about a man, a pirate who knows he is drowning. Well, maybe a bit more than that. About black on black girls, about how you can't cross an ocean standing on dry land.

And now N is here, and she's fixed my favorite pair of boots with some Armenian heels. We cook crab cakes together with homemade mayonnaise and hold each other and end up naked and share pillow talk for hours, and then cook some more and she falls asleep on my shoulder watching some old comedy that's not funny for some reason tonight. And we make love again with the windows open, the sound of traffic filtering in. The cat is going crazy under the bed, knocking things off the kitchen table.

Sleeping in, then her in one of my shirts as a robe - - sitting on the windowsill drinking a giant coffee. We sit in silence, our hands on each other's knees. And then she is going, and I shower and get dressed and there is a short rehearsal and we're at the club, trying to get a soundcheck and I'm hungry but just drink cold beers. The night unravels with N and her friends sitting next to me in the back. And then, it's time to climb onto the tiny stage and I've lost my setlist and the guitar pick in my pocket flies away. But we play and sing, and Will is making great soft sounds like the ocean and Jenny is a kind of bird flying around above the melody. I close my eyes and everything just tumbles out of me, the past and the present. The love for this woman, the love for this little girl. The love of sound itself.

At the end, I stand and sing at the top of my voice, the song about the man that is drowning. Feverish music to end with, wheezing into the harmonica, a tiny storm of sound on a tiny stage. The pain has become a sort of tidal wave that crashes and subsides and I feel like the naked beach as the lights come on and the audience goes home and N is smiling at me with those big eyes, holding me close, whispering to me.

The next morning I wear the same clothes, savoring the same feelings. Walking across the river I hear sirens and watch a horde of ambulances whipping by. Smolenskaya is a flurry of police cars and traffic. N calls me. There was a terrorist attack, explosions in train stations. A black pit in my stomach grows, and I am back on East 1st Street with that same guitar just after I bought it. I am back looking at the skyline and the missing tooth of the World Trade Center that I woke up to every day. I hear the sirens, see the soot covered firetrucks on Houston, the black cloud that blocked out the sun for two weeks. I smell the scorched metal and the flesh and the dirt that came in the windows and never ever went away. I remember walking down the avenues, empty of cars as we all bought things like takeout Chinese or some toilet paper, sharing glances with no idea what to say, maybe just nod. And then back alone in that apartment with nothing but the guitar and the TV that needed to be off, not on.

The phone rings today - random people making sure I am alive.

"I am."


AND I am glad.
Just checking on my favorite bloggers..Making sure you are fine.
thanks for sharing!!
Annie said…
Have to say, I wondered too. Was so glad to see you'd posted....but then, I thought, we'd have HEARD about an American casualty.

In midst of life, death. Your life is very rich; thank you for sharing it so richly.

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