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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…

I'm going to watch with my eyes closed (the book of life)

"Hey Pop. You know, the blue in the sky that is like ink and it comes every morning? It has a big brain so it knows when to come, and at night the blue stuff goes away and then you could see the space." She says, after being quiet the entire walk home. 
"The clouds cover the planets in the day." She adds.
Her face is puffy, shoulders slack. 
I take her every day at the same time, just after lunch and before the children take naps in a darkened room crammed with yellow beds. Lunch ended early today for some reason, and they went early. She thought I was not coming for her. Not even late, just not coming. I was actually right on time, but she was already a tangle of hair and hot tears, her body sloping into the shape of a wounded animal. 

She dresses in silence, thrusting a hand out to me as we go down the stairs and outside.

She will make worlds for the rest of the day, pausing at times to explain to me who lives where, who sleeps where, who owns what car, what room the kitchen is, the bathroom, the laundry. She will pull a handful of clean white paper from next to my desk and draw in silence, pictures of princesses and evil mothers, of a grey cat on a leash, of a castle. 

She will wake up crying late that night, standing in silhouette in the doorway and knocking lightly until I wake up. She is terrified of losing me, or being separated. She is scared of her mother, of harsh children, of being stuck here forever. 
"I just want to go to Brooklyn." She whispers to me as I carry her back to bed and tuck her in.
I kiss her cheek, and smooth the hair from her face. 
She stares at me for some time.
"We'll get there." I tell her. 
She nods once.
I put an old film on, the original Charlotte's Web. Sitting next her, I hold her tiny hand. I think of when I was about her age, and how I wrote a letter to E.B. White with a drawing I had made of a pig, or maybe a horse. I remember the letter that arrived months later, the paper translucent and almost pink. It was typed, thanking me for the drawing and saying how nice it was to hear from me. It was signed in tall loose letters. I remember carrying it around with me, ready to prove it existed.

"I'm gonna watch with my eyes closed." E tells me, and her face slumps against the pillow.
I sit there for some time, until her breathing shifts. 
Her hand goes loose and I slide my fingers from hers. 

The next morning, there is a film crew downstairs. We watch them from the kitchen window as a cold wind whips the trees around. A woman stands in a dress as lights are adjusted, as cameras roll back and forth on a set of silver track.
"What does illustrated mean?" She asks me, standing on a chair to see what is happening.
"It is when you draw something, to show what it is." I say.
She nods once, satisfied.
"You know." She says. "If there was a film of us it would be called Project of Life."
"OK." I say.
"Or maybe, Book of Life." She adds. "But then, we would have to make it."


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expatlogue said…
Gorgeous writing - you have a new follower.
liv said…
What? Sad to see that someone would leave a comment that needed to be deleted.

As always your writing is soul-deep. Love the vividness of your verbal images.

Wish I could scope you all up and put you on a Brooklyn!!
Marco North said…
Liv - yes, a comment was left from a new reader that had a non-functioning email address. the tone of the comment was a bit confusing, so I deleted it. It is hard to know why some things get said, without the ability to discuss with them. so, yes I deleted.
Nan Waldman said…
Your writing moves me like music. You give me glimpses through your heart into a foreign place which you describe to the grain, like the black and white film in your Leica.
Nan Waldman said…
Your writing moves me like music. You give me glimpses through your heart into a foreign place which you describe to the grain, like the black and white film in your Leica.

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