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every other man

The light outside the main entrance to our building has gone out again. The heavy metal door swings wide as I pull a hat down over my ears. In the darkness there are maybe twenty teenagers standing still. My boot scrapes across the ground, slowing down. Their hands in pockets, shoulders hunched, I look for a space to pass between them. A voice appears, saying hello in English, with an obvious accent. I am all instinct, sayingpivyet as I pass, not looking back, wondering who said this. There was a boy that was an extra in Blackbetty that lives in our building, but he is too young, too short for it to have been him.

I look back, navigating the puddles in the street. It does not make any sense.

N is with V, making their way home. I meet them, pulling V into my arms as she chatters about her day, about dry leaves and princesses, about her grandmother's apartment and what she ate there. We are going back home, and I try to explain the odd collection that stands outside. As we pass th…

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.





Comments

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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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