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Not me, her

In 1987, I found myself trying to write about a high school girlfriend that had been molested by her father when she was a child. I was 19 years old, struggling to find my way through a screenwriting assignment about delivering character. The idea was to describe messy young love between two Sid and Nancy want-to-be's. But that failed, as I could not stomach oversimplifying her complicated past, events that shaped her life as a 16 year old with a mohawk, a smart mouth, a lingering stare. I understood that I had to start at the very beginning.

No one wanted to hear the story. When it was my turn to read in class, it even came to be that some of the other students asked to stand in the hallway before they heard another description of what happened in that lonely little house in the middle of nowhere. I was trying, and failing, and trying again to get things right, to explain how this happened, how it could happen to this girl, how this man found his way to acts of selfishness and d…

tiny epic

They float upwards, drifting past the windows in splotches of afternoon sunlight. For a moment, it can make you feel like everything outside is upside-down, or that a snow globe has replaced the sky. I feel a half-dizzy vertigo if I watch them too long as they drift to the gutter, seeping in the kitchen windows to paint the bottoms of frying pans, the corners of cabinets. These poplar seeds will fly for about three weeks, the result of an ill-conceived attempt to make Moscow greener when Stalin made the country's decisions. 

The romantics and the newcomers think they are magical pronouncing them in shallow irony "to be just like snow, even though winter just went away". As the seeds collect in filthy drifts on dry earth, the rest of us try to ignore them while our noses itch. In truth, most of the pukh (seeds) are females and in a more perfect irony, there are very few males to go around. Each year I am reminded of this, while the women with bare shoulders and stilettos stalk the sidewalks, while hair is flipped from eyes, while asses  twitch, while faces grow long, while men sit in odd groups leering and smoking and spitting on the earth in stained t-shirts and broken sandals. The party boats plow along the river, half-empty with men shouting on microphones to get up and dance. 

This is how summer comes.

E occupies herself with a series of projects, skipping from room to room to visit me, to ask for a bowl of cold cherries, to tell me the names of new characters she is drawing, to rest her head on my shoulder for a minute or two. We are planning to make a little film together, called Picture Day.

I see her face changing, as she grows more confident. We buy her a special pan and spatula that she will learn to make her own eggs with.
"But you will light the stove." She always reminds me.

I have taught her to hold the salt grinder far above her food, so that it spreads a thin, even mist across her entire plate.
She holds it high above her head, stopping to see if I am watching before she cranks it.


There is something inherently epic about living here that I never felt in New York. Maybe it is because I am not from here, but every day brings a series of events that are somehow unsurprising and overwhelming at the same time. I don't know how we ended up with clean white drapes to block out the late sun, or money in the bank, or a history of drawings on the fridge. I don't know how I found a woman to love, who found the same in me. I don't know how E grew out of that pair of jeans, or if the sky will fill with black smoke tomorrow.


liv said…
I always wonder that too. How....did he do that? How.....does he do that?

It must always feel a bit like you are awake and yet dreaming at the same time.

And on the one hand I am so curious and enthralled to see E as she grows and is ever "becoming", but as well, I wish she would stay just like this forever - squeezethebreathoutofyourheart sweet.

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