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every other man

The light outside the main entrance to our building has gone out again. The heavy metal door swings wide as I pull a hat down over my ears. In the darkness there are maybe twenty teenagers standing still. My boot scrapes across the ground, slowing down. Their hands in pockets, shoulders hunched, I look for a space to pass between them. A voice appears, saying hello in English, with an obvious accent. I am all instinct, sayingpivyet as I pass, not looking back, wondering who said this. There was a boy that was an extra in Blackbetty that lives in our building, but he is too young, too short for it to have been him.

I look back, navigating the puddles in the street. It does not make any sense.

N is with V, making their way home. I meet them, pulling V into my arms as she chatters about her day, about dry leaves and princesses, about her grandmother's apartment and what she ate there. We are going back home, and I try to explain the odd collection that stands outside. As we pass th…

Sunday morning


And you were there in giant movie star sunglasses, the planes whipping above our heads. Nervous, suddenly shy as I cram my luggage into the back seat. You tripping over your tiny shoes, me in a clean purple shirt. We sit quietly in traffic listening to the CD I made for you before I left. Everything has already been said, whispered over the phone late at night.

And turning into my home, I realize this is the first time in three years I am happy to return to Moscow. That familiar taste of old pennies in my mouth, of dread - - it's gone somehow. Kutuzovsky is where I hold you now, in the afternoon with the bright pale light pushing into the room. This is where I live in the landscape of your body, burying my nose in your elbows, the arch of your neck, the invisible curve of your hips.

And later, the ocean of the bath. Washing each other with watermelon soap.

You are very late for work.

In two hours I take E from detskie sad where she runs across the icy courtyard, jumping into my arms, her dolls banging against the back of my head. We jump and laugh and sing like cartoon versions of ourselves in the street. We open boxes and boxes of presents from New York, from Grandma and Grandpa, from aunts and old friends. The living room is a jungle of glittery paper and keepsakes. The cat is hiding somewhere in there making a lot of noise. And then, she sleeps in a new Tinkerbell nightgown her hands curled perfectly to her cheek.

My little girl will be five soon.

I used to measure my sadness with her age. One year of mistaken guilt and sheer madness. Two years of bloodfights and glasses smashing against the walls, knives pulled from drawers. Three years of waking to screaming before the sun came up. Doors slamming off of their hinges before I could even make coffee. Four years of sleeping on the couch, and then eventually the floor. Five years of complete insanity that became so normal I lost all hope in life itself, thinking survival was all I could wish for. Five years with just the love for this this little girl with giant eyes and galaxies of questions. Five years of carrying her when she got sick, when she needed to fall asleep, when she just needed to be held.

Now I can play my guitar for a beautiful woman late on a Saturday night. A woman with great thoughts and kind hands. I can cook her crab dumplings and shrimp in black bean sauce. I can watch her slurping lemon honey sorbet from a great white bowl, as it melts in a pool of pomegranate juice. Her eyes in the darkness, taking all I have to offer.

And then on Sunday morning, she looks out my kitchen window and I feel like I have always been with her.

Comments

just wow.
glad you are beginning to measure life in tinkerbell nighties, and smiles.
brenda said…
You are the stuff dreams, nightmares, and true poets are made of, M. What a lucky woman.
Annie said…
This is one of the most beautiful things I've ever read.
Anonymous said…
Achingly beautiful.
Anonymous said…
Achingly beautiful.

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