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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…

three years

There have always been fortresses, steep walls that protect jewels and royal blood, important papers and swords. I used to think the world кремль or Kremlin meant "wall", red brick upon red brick and nothing more. In the same breath, the Kremlin means power and ultimate rule, decisions handed down for everyone to follow without question. There is something completely closed, absolutely epic about this. It allows for no messy surprises, no air to sweep through windows that blows papers from desks, no random accomplishments. Behind these walls everything is known and nothing changes. To those inside, nothing exists beyond those great doors, just shadows and light, earth and water, sky and cloud.

I have seen the believers and walked among them, those that want their lives decided for them. I have seen them far beyond the filthy streets of Moscow. I have watched them laugh and drink, growing fat and sunburned and proud in the summer sun. They may be some of the happiest people I know. They take naps in the afternoon and wake to the sound of children playing, the sun now low, plates set out on the table for a family meal.

I have known people that forget what they see as it happens, retelling stories to themselves that paint more forgiving pictures. The truth is fragile at best, and it surrenders to wish and ambition, to regret and fear like breadcrumbs swept under a rug. I think they sleep well, having ironed out the wrinkles, pressing them away with steam and hot steel.

But honestly, I do not know.

The bricks remain, the fortress intact. Children wiggle in the grass. The sky is full of clouds. The beer is foamy and cold. It smells of soap and wet leaves.

N took us to a jazz festival outside of the city three years ago, a day of sunshine and blankets, of music burping from speakers and the quiet ride home with E fast asleep in the back seat. It was one of the first times she and E were together for more than a few minutes, since the first night we all met. There was a moment when E asked N to take her to a playground that was there, not me and I laughed with surprise and then said of course. I can remember sitting there, feet folded under me on the blanket as people stood and danced with a cup dangling loose in one hand. I remember closing my eyes and leaning back, seeing orange balloons loose in the sky.

I remember E playing with a black plastic dragon I had bought her in New York, with wings that flapped. She was very proud of that toy and still has it close to her bed. She ran around us for hours as she made it fly.

Yesterday, we went to the same festival. This time there were children for her to play with, a soccer ball to scramble over, a boy and a girl who would all run back to us with sweat on their faces as they asked for some cherries or to buy them an ice cream. At one point we opened the umbrellas and they played under them, out of the sun for a little while. As the boxes of food we had prepared were investigated by some ants, we ate and found friends, resting on elbows talking about vacations and what band was on next. I wore my favorite hat, because it was Father's Day.

A lot can happen in three years.


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That picture of E made a man smile 55oo miles away. Delightful Joy. Precious.
ABSOLUTELY brilliant piece, Marco. A joy to come home to. I mean it.

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