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I believe in artichokes

Italy did ruin me. After that first trip I came back disgusted by bodega coffee, which now smelled of old socks. Before, it was just fine. I rolled my eyes at red sauce joints, detouring old standbys like a stranger. If eating can be seen as a religious or spiritual experience I had been to the mountain. In time I would return on pilgrimages, always holding the simple pleasures in my thoughts.  An artichoke, methodically fried in good olive oil, with some salt. Black truffles, good butter and fresh pasta twisting around the back of a fork. A very cold and tiny glass of porto bianco sipped in a Genoa bar, with my friend Federico. A man cleaning sardines on a block of wood in the street. A woman selling green figs that she wraps into a newspaper cone. I have thousands of these memories, these artifacts. But I live in Moscow, where there has been an embargo for years now, and there is no population that expects perfect mounds of fresh cheese. They ship powdered palm oil here, that gets …

I love you, baby

Late in the afternoon I ask N if she wants to take a walk. She looks up at me, staring for a moment.
"Ok." She answers.
E skips into the kitchen.
"Get dressed." I tell her.
"Why?" She asks.
"We're going to get an ice cream." I tell her.
She bursts into the living room to change, pulling on red leggings and tall socks, a white skirt. She looks like an odd doll. 

We walk in the street, E holding one of my hands, N's arm curled in my other. The city is quiet. Handfuls of men stand in circles on the sidewalk, boasting, drinking from plastic cups, smoking cigarettes. We cross the bridge that stretches across the river. It is littered with broken glass. 

At a perehod (underpass) the florescent lights are flickering as we go down the stairs. A young man and woman wear sunglasses in the darkness, speaking in loud voices with their hands draped over each other's shoulders. As we get closer to them I see she is crying. He speaks in loud bursts. I cannot follow  the words. E looks up at me and I pull her hand to walk closer.
As we reach the bright end of the passage, I hear the girl call out in English, over-pronouncing the words with a thick sarcasm.
"I love you, baybbeeeeeeeeee." She calls to him.
Back in the street and the half-sun I ask N what they were talking about.
"She was telling him that she is pregnant and he was angry." She explains, loud enough for me to hear but so that E will not. "He said she did not protect her stomach." 


There is a line out the door and we wait. E cranes her neck, deciding what flavor she will get. A man approaches us, almost stepping on my toes. He is drunk, unwashed, unshaved, asking for money. I look into his bloodshot eyes as I shake my head no.
The line inches forwards.
Somehow we find a table, and E spoons into her masterpiece. N makes a steady series of perfect bites.
A woman in a long overcoat wanders in and goes from table to table. She says she has a sick child and that she needs money.
No one gives her anything.
A man and woman make their way to the table next to us. They have giant backpacks they rest on the chairs. His has an object strapped to the side, wrapped in layers of yellow plastic and then with tape. I see it is a gun, something automatic. I turn to N. She shrugs her shoulders.
"It could be a paint gun." She says. "For those games."
I think for  a moment, wondering how this could be possible, but the longer I look at it the more I think it is real. At the same time, E drops her spoon in the cup and surrenders.
"I can't eat any more." She mumbles to us.
We dress quickly and I sense the gun wrapped in plastic just inches from us, even as I am throwing the half-full cup in the trashcan.

On the way home the wind picks up a little. I still walk in the middle, holding their hands keeping our fingers warm.






Comments

Thanks for the images Marcos.
Guiche
Ah yes,the guns. One went off in her womb and the other sits menacing in plastic. We have people here who want to wear them in public like badges. They think they will have old west style shootouts for glory and rightness. Women and children will be hurt. Men will be killed.

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