There are memories stored in all of the objects in my office. I throw most of them away, reducing everything to the bare essentials one more time. There is a new pile of E's drawings, some watersplashed with distorted faces, some half-finished. A testimony to how many long nights she spent with me here, eventually falling asleep on the sofa.
There is dust, and the smell of stale bread crumbs. There are boxes here that have lived full lifetimes. Still kicking, still holding together, with ancient tape crusting the corners. These boxes have crossed oceans, and could they ever have imagined they will live behind a Soviet hotel?
All at once the room is empty. The floor is littered with dustballs and clumps of E's colored clay, some broken broken crayons, a handful of discarded business cards.
I remove the sign outside the door and shove it in my bag.
The burly truck driver is sweating like mad, swabbing his short grey hair. I must pay him extra to help me with the couch. I give him half a bottle of whiskey as a gift.
There is the exhilaration of quickly saying goodbye to this room, and giving the key to the guard. This room where fights thundered through the walls, where chairs were broken to bits.
And then, suddenly swinging into the passenger side of the truck. We are high on the road, looking down at well-dressed ladies in fur-collared sweaters, at guys behind black windows opening them a crack to flick a cigarette butt into the street. I remember riding with Fred so many mornings in Redhook, when Brooklyn was still the Brooklyn of my fantasies, populated by wise-cracking old men, bubble gum popping prostitutes and mythical pizza parlors. We carted scenery to all kinds of places, sometimes a fancy showroom on 57th Street, where we ogled the office girls in their perfect white pantyhose and slit skirts as we cued up for the freight elevator. In that truck we argued about the correct way to grill a steak, and agreed on the best chili powder (ancho, followed by pasilla). In that truck we lived lifetimes in bridge traffic.
And now somehow, in Moscow I ride high on the road again, thinking pinch me - I am Alice. I have to get the Tajiks from downstairs to help me, bargaining with them to carry the sofa up nine flights for $30 and to take the rest up the elevator for $10. I hide the cat in the bathroom and she scratches on the door as the apartment fills with a choatic array of drawers and well-taped boxes, a glass tabletop, a damn good espresso machine.
I pay them, they do not shake my hand but offer their forearm, some strange custom I try to act unsurprised by. And then the place is quiet beyond quiet. I let the cat out. She climbs and sniffs everything. I sit on the sofa, missing the pillows - they are somewhere. I look out at the pale sky, the low hanging clouds. I will take E from school in a little while, I will call N now and tell her everything went fine.
I place the sign on the windowsill, and pull the rabbit doll from my bag. This is where the magic will happen now.