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no invitation

We are at a 3 year old's birthday party in the back room of a cafe. Music is pumping from a tiny speaker. Balloon animals are popping, and waving in the air. A man in a yellow dinosaur costume dances wildly. Parents snap pictures with satisfied smiles on their faces.

A little girl approaches gingerly and stands in the doorway, straying from her parents somewhere inside the restaurant. She cannot be more than three. It must be hard to ignore all of the noise coming from this room packed with celebration. There is a perfect little pony tail at the back of her head. She hesitates, as one foot poises in the air and then rests back down. How to understand that she was not invited. How to understand the laughter, the loose jumping bodies, the presents piled high on the window. None of this connects to her. There is a little plate of food waiting for her back there, in the quiet restaurant. Maybe a warm bowl of soup, thick with noodles. I watch her for some time.

That night, her empty e…

no smoking (quiet exceptions)

Walking across the glass-encased bridge looking down at the muddy river water, N's hand in mine we make our way down the stairs her heels wobbling as she leans against me. There is dust in the street, white puffy seeds in the air, the roar of passing traffic. 
"It is still better to walk than to drive." I say at one point.
"You aren't in heels." She answers, as we navigate around some abandoned construction barriers and a gaping hole in the sidewalk.
The restaurant is quiet until the live music returns, blaring Sade covers so loud we cannot speak across the table. The fish is good. The wine is passable. The pomegranate sauce is not too sweet. 
She smiles at me, instead of trying to speak above the keyboards and the singers overpronouncing the lyrics like their mouths are full of cold marbles.

I see two men lighting cigarettes at another table. Today is the first day of the smoking ban in restaurants and cafes as well as places like schools and hospitals. The ashtrays are still on the tables. It is not surprising. Maybe it is the bass player noodling around, but my thoughts leap to a winter day when I was fifteen when the drinking age changed from seventeen to nineteen and how I sat in a bar called Red's Filling Station after playing two sets of English Beat and REM covers, sipping on complimentary drinks feeling smug, laughing in the face of new law. We were called Margaret and the Informers, a name lifted from a French mystery novel none of us had actually read. There was no girl in the band to be mistaken as Margaret, just some college-town musicians and me the kid in high school. In that moment, sucking on a frothy Miller draft at a table carved with names and lopsided hearts I began to understand that there are exceptions to rules, especially quiet ones.

The band stalks off to very light applause. People are toting babies in their arms, sliding into banquettes, ordering pitchers of tarkhun, an emerald green drink made with tarragon that cuts against the salt and fat of the grilled meat that swings past us on giant platters.

The owner sits alone at a party table in the back. He was some kind of celebrity in his day. A singer, now a man in baggy jeans and t-shirt, stalking up and down the narrow half-empty room, eventually sitting at that back table with a drink in front of him, his glasses sliding down his nose. The sun is still hanging behind the clouds, even after ten the river water turning blue and purple as the party boats glide past us.

Leggy girls stroll in, clutching tiny purses, flirting with the waiter and then finding a table they can agree on. He lights their cigarettes as they flip their bangs away from their eyes. He does not seem to blink, forcing his smile wider and wider until he trots back to the kitchen. I shove our table away from me a little, crossing to sit next to N. She rests her head on my shoulder and we watch the sun blinking behind the factories in the distance. I still have most of a glass of wine to savor, and we have eaten too much. We are not ready to walk back just yet.

The hookah boy approaches the next table, reserved and precise with his tiny ballet. The one hot coal he drops with tongs into the silver cup, his head bowed looking at the floor not at the woman in a strapless dress at the table. Eyes lowered, eventually the plume of sweet smoke is offered.

That baby at the next table is laughing and wiggling around. Our waiter is nowhere to be found.


Smoking in restaurants and cafes is allowed until the 1th of June 2014 actually...) Unfortunately...
Best wishes!
Marco North said…
I have a lot of conflicting news sources that lead me to believe the ban included cafes as of June 1, 2013 - even a lot of Russians I know here thought the same. Understanding the details of the various new laws here is mind-boggling at times. I am very curious to see if the police who smoke themselves, will be arresting people who are smoking...
MilesN said…
Smoking ban is esabilished by federal law 15-FZ of 21 Feb 2013 @On protecting citizens' health from tobacco smoke and consequences of tobacco consumption". Section 1 of article 12 of this law lists places where smoking is prohibited as follows:

1. On territories and inside buildings used for educational or sports services, occupied by cultural instutions or by institutions, subordinated to authorities, dealing with youth policy.
2. On territories and inside buildings used for medical, rehabilitational services or occupied by sanatoruiums.
*3) Aboard long-distance trains or long-range sea vessels during passenger transportation.
4) Aboard aircrafts, aboard all types of public transport both suburban and intacity (including river vessels, engaged in passenger transportation on suburban or intacity routes), on open air - closer than 15 meters to entrance into railway stations, bus stations, sea or river ports, metro station as well as inside said structures if it is used for passenger transportation.
*5) Inside building used for providing housing services, hotel services, or services of temporary residence.
*6) inside building used for providing domestic services, shopping services, catering services, inside buildings of marketplaces or inside non-stationary shopping points
7). Inside building occupied by social services.
8) Inside buildings occupied by state or municipal authorities.
9) On workplaces or inside work zones.
10) Inside elevators or in common-use spaces of multi-flat houses.
11) On playground and inside territories, designated as beacheas.
*12) On passenger platforms used exclusevely for passengers' boarding and disembarkation of commuter trains on suburban routes.
13)At gas stations.

Parts of this list marked with asterisk will come into effect on June 1st of 2014, as section 3 of article 25 stipulates.

Just my few cents)))
Angelina said…
I don't really care much about the smoking ban--I just must say that the photos are GORGEOUS. This looks like such a pleasurable evening...

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