A car is stopped in the middle of the road. The trolley buses can't move. Three of them stand, packed against each other honking wildly.
Behind the dark windows I can see a man and woman, their faces buried in each other's coats. She could be his mother. She could be his wife. She could be his sister. I cross the street, staring into the windshield. This odd moment of tenderness stands out to me. I cannot remember seeing an act so public and sincere for a long time.
Yes, there are always people with tongues down each other's throats on the street corners or in front of the train station. This is different. This is a private moment.
The feral stench of fresh paint blows towards us. Ancient cans of enamel - jade green and China blue stand in the dirt. One man paints as seven watch, hands on hips, cigarettes loose on the sides of their faces. Paint on paint, on dirt on paint on paint.
Pockmarked fences, like a teenager's acne now bright green, wet and sticky in the afternoon sun.
The parking lot is full of taxis and people are weaving their way around dirty puddles. Bricks are being torn up to bury some forgotten pipes under the sidewalk.
An old woman who looks more like a battleship than a person seems to glide across the pavement, her tiny feet moving, everything else remaining still.
"Strawberries! Strawberries!" She shouts. "100 rubles."
I see they are shiny, huge and going soft.
"Strawberries! Strawberries!" She shouts.
You sleep on your stomach, a pillow under one arm. I come back from taking E to kindergarden, and your back is above the covers, that soft white light from the river painting your skin. I rest my hand there, warm from my pockets. I see you smile a little.
I will start breakfast and bang some pans around in the kitchen to wake you up. You will creep in, wearing that tiny robe, your hair a bird's nest as you sip some black tea I have made for you.
E tells me everything on Sundays, as we walk home. The trips to the fake doctor, the lies, the manipulations all tumble out of her as I lead us along quiet streets. She has a constant fear, that I will leave here and she will be alone. She has drawn a picture of my grave and shows it to me, her arm jutting towards me. Ugly, crude ballpoint scratches.
I squeeze her hand. I listen.
When she is empty, and has just started to cry a soft rain begins to fall. I bring us to a bench. I sit with her, telling her to close to her eyes. I do the same. We tip our heads back, seeing if raindrops will fall in our mouths. We try to taste them. We compare notes - maybe one is salty, another sweet.
"I'm not going anywhere." I tell her. "Not without you."
She nods once, staring at me.