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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…

smoke


Fumbling to make her sandwich in the dim light I shiver once, then again. It is time to nudge her slowly until her eyes open, remind her to brush her teeth and make sure the school bag has the right books in it. We move around each other in one of our many choreographed silences, hairbands offered, phones tucked into pockets, scarves pulled once, the click of a light going on, the turning of the lock, the elevator jangling down. Tiny dogs are barking in the early morning air as we go outside.

The yarmarka (outdoor market) that stood in two neat rows for weeks, is suddenly gone now. Without warning the tents and boxes of fruits are nowhere to be seen. People are smoking cigarettes in the wet air, shoulders bowed against the wind off the river. Sometimes it feels like everyone is smoking here, hacking and spitting on the sidewalks and the walls, tossing lit butts in garbage cans that then smoke and catch fire. Most mornings are punctuated with the smell of burning plastic.

"Are you still with a fever?" She asks me at one point.
"I think it is gone now." I answer. "I just feel like crap."
"Okay." She says, drawing the word out.
People are tiptoeing around a giant puddle, their feet sticking in the mud.
"You should still have soup for lunch." She reminds me.
"Alright." I tell her.
"You know, I like to skip." She says. "Even if I don't feel good I like to skip."



Comments

liv said…
Funny, the coincidences even when we are all thousands of miles away. I too went to the Farmers Market on Sunday, knowing it would be the last of the season. Well, maybe there will be one more, but only pumpkins and squash available.

Spent the week in fever and tossing pain from a kidney stone, not pleasant. Hope you are fully recovered soon. I have a ways to go.

But I will think of that little one skipping, ahhh, that makes me feel better already.

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