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the list

It was a simple request, but it took me months to solve it. Soon we will have guests in the house for V's birthday, and the cascading piles of notes and camera parts, the lopsided villages of books, the forgotten bowls of loose change - they all had to find homes. I even bought a collection of clear, stackable boxes just after Christmas, but they sat like empty open mouths gathering bits of fluff and dust in them until today. With little flakes of fresh snow dancing against the windows, I began at one end of the room.

The problem with cleaning is that you constantly find lost treasures, windows into your past lives. Here, a set of notes from a film I was writing some seven years ago. Here, the warranty for a watch I bought for N (that I still need to register). And next, a Soviet ruble that I bought in Tbilisi at the dry bridge market, the location of the lost wonders of the world. Next to a broken saxophone and an old rug, I remember noticing a handful of old coins that I bought…

the truth about wild strawberries

There was an entire day listening to screaming across the phone, eventually yelling myself. The raw hard facts once more. I am a powerless tourist here, protected by no one. And my daughter is the same. The threats and vicious ultimatums had gotten especially bizarre and just plain crazy in the last few days. With the slightest capricious inspiration her mother can draw blood from both of us, changing and rearranging visitation, sleeping arrangements, money arrangements and really seeing each other at all. Each day I leave my daughter at school or at her mother’s house could be the last time I ever see her.

Thursday night left me feeling particularly helpless. I worked late, trying to find a way to combine exhaustion and hunger that might lead directly to sleep. But 11PM found me wide awake. No appetite with the sun still hanging in the sky. Drinking sweet, cheap wine, the empty sounds of the city drifted up through the open windows. Her toys scattered across the floor, drawings half-done. Some proof that she had really been here yesterday. A pale white light etched the room in perfect detail. I cried for some time, something I have not done in more than a year. Staring at the ceiling, the blankets twirled around me, tears rolled into my ears I almost did not hear the phone – N calling to check on me.

She arrived a few minutes later, curling next to me. We lay like this for some time.

“I failed.” I whispered to her. “I can’t protect my daughter.”
N ran a hand across my mouth.
“No, it’s true. She suffers. She cries herself to sleep when she is not here.” I said. “She is not fed, washed, or cared for and I can’t do anything to stop it.”

Later, N smoked a cigarette in the kitchen. It was almost 3.
“I need a miracle.” I said in the darkness.

The next morning we woke, sipping coffee in silence. I drank some church water from a tiny glass, and propped a new fatherly-looking hat on my head. N kissed me once on the cheek.

On the way to a meeting that afternoon I ate a Stardog from a street vendor close to my office. I had not eaten one in months, but they remembered E and asked where she was. I tried to explain, and whatever I did succeed in expressing in Russian made their faces drop.

Passing Gorky Park and the Lenin Statue on Oktoberskaya I wondered how E was feeling now, wondering who would take her from school today.  Wondering if she would ever see me again.

Back in the office, a phone call came from her mother, mumbling under her breath.  Some kind of madness, and the fact that I would take E from school today.

I ran through the streets, holding the hat to my head. E launching into my arms in the schoolyard. The old woman with gold teeth that sells us nectarines and apricots – today a plastic cup of wild strawberries. There is a giant hole in E’s Hello Kitty tights, and she is jumping in water puddles. The soft wet earth smells like a dog.

We arrive at the playground, suddenly starving and eating the fruit. The wild strawberries are exotic, fragile. In Russian zemlyanika, “little things from the earth”. I used to believe it meant “tiny earth” but now I learned from N you must crawl in the dirt to find them, you must get very close to the earth to find them.

The woman who told me they are “tiny earths” is long gone. A clever act that ended many, many years ago.


Annie said…
Very heart-rending....and yet....I feel I know this woman because I have experienced her in my foster child and occasionally in my own daughter.

The best approach is (hard as it is) to remember that she acts the way she does because she is afraid. Think of how ugly and dangerous and threatening a frightened cat can be...hunkered in the corner, fangs bared, saliva dripping, hair raised...and yet - you conscious mind tells you that it is the cat who should be scared, not you. Be a cat whisperer.

Hard thing is that she must be afraid of not being loved. Likely as a baby she was not loved. She has no faith in being lovable. She feels threatened by everyone.

Whisper. For your little girl's sake.
You have to get an attorney!
Many who read your blog are adoptive moms, and we are afraid that authorities could step in before you do it legally.
Man, I wish I could help you somehow. Just thinking of you and your tiny gal...
Annie said…
The thing you have on your side is that she would love your help. She doesn't want the responsibility of having the full care of a child.

I have seen this phenomenon a few times....If you can try not to hurt her, perhaps the child will not be so valuable as a way to hurt you, and sheer laziness will win out, leaving you in full posession.

A friend now has care of her granddaughter. In the end the pleasure the mom got from withholding the child was not as great as the relief she got from not having to care for her.
Rabbit blogger said…
annie - -i just sent you an email to your private acct. i really appreciate your comments, but the situation far more complex and dark than what i dare write about

Karin said…
Hang in there Marco.
I am thinking about you .

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