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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 old wound

The old wound reopens. The dread I feel single every time E is supposed to be dropped off, or when I should pick her up - it is true this time. A thousand promises broken now, and I am still caught off guard. Her mother is playing the usual bait-and-switch, the screaming manipulation, the violent ultimatum, the turning off of the phones, me left furious staring out a window at the black sky, already late for the party, half-dressed suddenly disgusted, thinking to just stay home instead. There is a war of text messages. She tells me I am making my daughter cry. She tells me I will soon get cancer as a God's punishment for my behavior.

I call N, talk the situation through, examine the implications, explore angles. It is not going to happen today, but it will buy us something for tomorrow. E is sitting in that lonely apartment now, her nose bubbling with snot, her tears dripping in splotches on her tshirt. She knows that I am making the right choice, a strategic one. She wants to go to the party of course. She just wants out of there as early as possible.

At one point, E gets a phone turned on and I catch her. I know her mother has put it on speaker and is listening to every word I say. E is there now, just breathing loud, then asking me "are we going?". I tell her what has happened, simplify things. I ask her what she would do if she was me. "I don't know." She replies, her voice trailing off.

I will take her at the normal time the next day. The schedule will remain. No special exceptions. No generosity. No trade-offs. No party for E to go to, where there are two beautiful dogs, a roomful of kind foreigners, exotic dishes to sample. No, she will sit in that lonely place but know I am coming tomorrow even though I negotiated all of this days ago.

I try to call her later, to tell her the names of the dogs, to wish her good night but the phone is turned off again.

Standing in the hallway, counting the old tiles one more time as I wait for the sound of the door unlocking and in a breath her arms are around my neck and she is squeezing me like a tiny python in a big furry coat. She kisses my cheek, making a face from the stubble there. All at once we are outside, buying fragrant yellow turnips and a box of blueberries. I have two extra johnny cakes from breakfast that I wrapped in plastic. She eats them in the street, crumbs collecting in her scarf, giving me a big thumbs-up, her mouth full and smiling.

We are at rinock, waiting in line to buy one of those fabulous chickens, then coffee beans and some chocolates. Fresh bread from the oven, a chunk of goat's cheese, then the smokey air from the Uzbek restaurant by the entrance. The air cold, the sky hard and blue, the clouds moving fast we laugh and run, my giant bag sliding off my shoulder. Now bags of onions and green feijoa that are so sour and smooth. Now turning the keys and home, as she tells me she is hungry again, so we make little balls from leftover pumpkin risotto and roll them in flour, saute them in olive oil and eat them right there our fingers yellow as we lick the last bits from them.

She will stand with her eyes squeezed closed as I trim her bangs, get her to take a bath, practice some guitar. All at once she is tired, telling me a story and falling asleep mid-sentence. I surround her with animals to squeeze in the middle of the night. I turn off the light.

Yes, the old wound reopened. The pain and embarrassment never fade. The fresh taste of blood inside my mouth is there, the flush of humiliation, then the healing.


liv said…
It just strikes me that you need an advocate. Someone to do the speaking for you.

This level of anger and resentment from your ex sounds like a deep attachment. And someone, an advocate of some sort needs to help her pry her claws out of your flesh. Emphasis on the word help, as although I know she is inflicting pain - she needs HELP, for E's sake.

Who/how/where/when, I don't know. But this little soul, E, can not take 10 more years of this.

Is there nothing in the system there that can aide you?

So sorry for your pain Marco - for the pain of ALL who are involved.

Sending Love and a ray of Light. L
I agree with Liv.
There has to be someone in the legal field that can step in. You are the parent and should have some rights?
As a teacher I know that one parent cannot undo what the other parent is doing to hurt...
I feel for you Marco..Hoping you can find an advocate!
Marco North said…
Liv, Jojo - Russia is not like the West or even Europe when it comes to children's rights. There is no advocate for us that can do anything. The system here was created in the 50's and has not changed. The only advocates here are deceptive, money-grabbing deceivers who promise the impossible take your money and accomplish nothing.
Ella said…
You have a beautiful girl, and she has a tragic life. I am originally from Russia and I know that there is nothing you can do. And I am not surprised.I am so sorry, Marco. When you and E.,in the future,leave that hellhole you'll do everything you can so she heals her wounds. I am sure.
SHAR said…
Hi Marco......will be in touch later....just trying to figure out this commenting....
Toybox said…
Hi Marco, thank you for your link this evening. Here is a link to mine for you too. I just added myself as a follower to your page just now. My blog is

Looking forward to corresponding with you. Best wishes :-)

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