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there is always something (why I shoot film)

There are maybe ten shots left on the roll. Outside the metro, a collection of pigeons sit on minuscule ledges above two old men. They talk as all old men do, with operatic waves of their hands, sour expressions, belly laughs, eventually scratching their chins as they stare off at nothing in particular. I am pretending to take pictures of something near them, then swing across when they are not looking to shoot a few frames. At one point I surrender to the afternoon and move on.

And now, the courtyard that leads to the film lab. A great old building rests here, a school of architecture where students mill around dressed in black sucking on cigarettes with giant portfolios tucked under their arms. A young man approaches me. I am ready to tell him I have no idea what he is saying, but he wants to know where the film lab is. I jut my chin, telling him the door is just beyond a few bushes. He nods his thanks.

There are screens set up in a jagged line, sheathed in filthy white plastic to …

the bittersweet return

Being away for a week seemed like it would be such a short piece of time. Just enough to buy a few gifts, renew my visa and share a handful of drinks with old friends. I did not realize how much would happen and how deeply I would be missed.

I spoke to E almost every day, as she reminded me to buy big shoes and a princess Jasmine doll. (I tend to buy shoes too small for her, convinced she can't have grown so much.) Now I carry a paper cut-out, a tracing of her feet to be sure. But when I got back, E explained to me that her mother told her every day I was away that I would not be coming back - that I was lying about buying shoes and toys for her. E processed all of this, calling her mother terrible things. I understand there was a lot of yelling in that house while I was away. So of course when I turned the corner of the detskie sad and E saw me, she laughed and cried a little and told me everything.

"I knew you were coming back for me." She said, her chin on my shoulder, her face pressed against my neck.

We went home, and cooked chinese food together, the kitchen soon full of wrapping paper and new toys.

N missed me more than she expected to. As I spoke to her each day I was away, she was quiet and calm. We spoke about funny little things. Little jokes and goodnights. But after I was gone for five days, she came out and told me she missed me. There was such pain in her voice.

It was raining when I left New York.

Back in Moscow, we spent a quiet afternoon together after the airport. We spoke about our relationship, more than pillow talk. The pieces were all falling back into place. There was chaos still, problems still. There is time still. There are giant wounds that must heal somehow. There are bills to pay. A massive collection of emails and phone calls and faxes to sort through.

But there is love now. A deep, concrete love.

On Sunday N took us to a music festival in an estate outside of the city. Within the forest sat a kind of castle - maybe more like a mansion. Thousands of people sat on the grass and listened to music of all kinds, blowing bubbles, sleeping in strange poses, drinking beer, playing with children, licking ice cream cones, staring at the balloons that floated off into the clouds.

The last band we saw played a perfect country and blues, in Russian. We danced, kicking up dust. E pumped her fists in the air, shouting out spontaneous lyrics. N stood close, her head on my shoulder. They played blues after blues. We shook our heads slowly, nodding and bending one leg in rhythm. At least for an hour, we were all together.


shawn said…
what can anyone say?
Karin said…
Such a hard week for your girls-how wonderful to see you all together again.
E seems to be able to keep her head above the water at all times. That is because of the island you are for her, and she knows in her bones that this is true regardless of what her mother tells her. Lovely, smart, strong little girl.
Peace and joy to you Marco.
willwilisovsky said…
and was there a Les Paul still?
it must be tough to have to prove yourself to a child who already beleives in you...Bless her heart! And yours!!
Love the pics. You all look happy!
(and I have a question about how you get your visa sooo quick.)
Can I email you??
Annie said…
It is fun to see the photos....Your daughter is adorable, and N breathtaking. (As though anyone needs to tell you.)

I feel sorry for E's mother. My guess is that she feels very abandoned herself. It must ravage her to feel that her daughter is loved by you more than she is. When you described her, somehow I could see my Anastasia turning into E's mother. So, I'm sensing that she may act in the chaotic way she does because she already feels, at heart, unlovable. I worry about you all.

Life is so sad sometimes. And maybe that is what is so gorgeous about your writing. The color, and sound and smells and joy is described so eloquently, but there is always the fullness of life, with all its pain, behind it.

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