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the first

The yarmarka (farmer's market) is about to close. Some of the people are already packing up, offering their last bruised tomatoes at half-price to anyone walking past them.  I am wandering, staring at bunches of herbs, at the same old options - cabbage, pepper, potato, garlic, apple, cucumber. But then I see a pile of peas. The season must have come early this year. I buy a kilo, and some mint. I know what is for dinner. We have not had it in eleven months.

At home, I rip the bag open, showing them to V. She stands by the kitchen table, eyes wide. I crack one open, showing her the little rounds inside. She plucks one out, her pinky pointing to the ceiling.
"Try it." I tell her.
She does, but she does not like it.

I pull out a bowl for them. She jumps up and down a few times. V always wants to help in the kitchen. I pull her to my lap, and we begin pulling them out from the shells. She learns quickly, tossing them with a flourish into the bowl, a few cascading to the flo…

agrodolce

Lost in the fairy tale of familiar streets, we zigzagged across the city. Magnificent plates of pasta, secret views, the floral smell of dim sum steaming the windows, of sewer gas, of tiny cups of perfect coffee. We ate like Kings every night - rolling into bed, our stomachs swollen, the taste of almonds on our lips. I slept next to her in a strange yet delicious bed.

I took early morning walks, alone in the cool air, my hands shoved into my pockets like someone in a Cassavetes film. Coffees knocked from my hands by the wind, I buy a second round, carefully toting them back to her, naked, asleep. I crack the lids open, shrug my pants to the floor and crawl in with her.

This is a vacation.








And in the rain, we walked through Central Park. Me desperate to see those polar bears flop into the dirty water. She talked to the squirrels and gathered a handful of leaves.

We ate lunch in an Italian restaurant. She had the tortellini, I had the duck special - agrodolce. I ate the whole thing like I was going to fight in a war the next day, slugging down cold white wine, mopping things up with fresh focaccia. She stared at me with giant eyes.

I showed her my old block, where they called me Mayor.






It was a week that let me forget my troubles. I called E every morning, explaining how each day I was buying one more toy for her. She chirped into the phone like a little bird, asking me a series of odd questions. We counted the days out together.



I dreamt things I could remember when I woke up. Something about a cup of tea, with the bag left in it. Bitter, brewed for too long, a slick of oil on its surface. They call it "prison tea" in Russia. Even the wardens drink it that way, from what I am told.




And today we returned. Moscow stood before us, sparkling, frosty and clear. The air hung in giant clouds around our mouths as we waited for the taxi. E began calling me, asking what hour I would take her. The traffic consumed us, stinking of diesel and cigarettes. She called every ten minutes, asking me to make the traffic go faster. And then somehow home, dropping the bags and N makes a cup of tea for herself. I steal two gulps, burning my mouth and set off into the street. All too familiar, and I feel like I never left, that those perfect cups of coffee, those surprise fish tacos and sushi plates for two are evaporating into the dark sky above me. They are selling flowers, even at this hour in the frozen air. I will buy some tomorrow.

Now, I will cook pasta for E.

Comments

Omgrrrl said…
Most people leave a place and then come home. You came home twice.

Once to NY and once to E.

I'd call that a good week.
The first picture is so disturbingly real - I'm looking at it and it's like I'm right there, spying on someone else's life, and know that I shouldn't be... I'd say I like the feeling it provokes, interesting. And I adore this picture of E too - she looks totally precious.
Annie said…
Brilliant essay. You are right about the photos. I do see what you mean.

But, now this one breaks my heart.
Annie said…
BTW, somehow you aren't coming up in my "list"; I thought all this time you were not posting.

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