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cold nostalgia

There is a note, stuck to the front entrance of our building. The hot water will be turned off for ten days. This is something that happens every summer, although it snowed a week ago and children wander the playgrounds in ski hats these days. At night it can be 40 degrees fahrenheit.  The hot water is always turned off like this, at some point during June or July. It is a long-standing Soviet tradition, and people begrudgingly accept it here. But the baby, V does not. She wants to stand in a hot bath before she goes to sleep, to splash and pour water all around her, and N. She wants to stand and wiggle her tiny hands under the spout, as she grows pink and clean, as she howls and shouts for us to see what new trick she has improvised. There is no explanation for her, why the hot water is off today, and will be tomorrow. She is angry, furious even.

I used to buy the story that this offered a chance for the water department to fix pipes, to take care of routine maintenance. Hot water c…

proof and blankets


She pads to the bedroom door, waiting in silence.
"I can't." E says, tears rolling down her cheeks. "I tried but I can't."
I hold her, then stand with her face burrowed into my shoulder. She slumps against me, and the sounds do come.
I walk the L-shaped hallway, turning in the kitchen, stepping once into the living room to see the moon hanging low outside the windows then back.
"You didn't have a dream?" I ask her quietly.
Her head shakes no.
"I just can't sleep." She mutters, then lets out a sigh.

I sit on the couch, wrap a blanket around both of us and rest her face on my shoulder.
In the silence, I hear her breathing, the rabbit speed of her heart.


It was in autumn, on those first cold nights. The fighting had swollen into all-day affairs. The screaming would overlap cooking dinner, me getting E to sleep, to stomping around in pajamas. The neighbors must have been so tired of this, waiting to see if it would be another night of threats and accusations, of venom and bile.
This is when I stopped sleeping on the couch and graduated to the back seat of the Mini Cooper. I would wrap myself in that giant green blanket and wedge my feet into the space between the front seats. It was cold, my breath hanging in the air. As the sun came up I would sneak back inside to be sure E saw me when she woke, on the couch as if I had been there all night.



When we picked up E on the way back from the airport last week she looked taller to me. Perched in the middle of the back seat she spoke in giant sentences, about a new story she was working on about a girl called Emily Tundlekind. She froze then, realizing she had left the notebook upstairs and would not be able to get it for a few days.

In the living room she danced around my bags, as I pulled out new clothes for her - party dresses and jeans, sweaters and polka dot shirts, scarves and mittens, cartoon underwear and shiny blue boots. 

In the kitchen I produced a giant bag of fresh bagels, slicing two and lighting the oven with a match. 
E held one up close to her face, examining it, sniffing once then again. 
"Smells good." She said, satisfied.
"Smells like home." I added.



We take a walk, to buy groceries.
E is yanking at my arm.
"Pop, look." She says, pointing up.
I look at the sky, expecting to see the moon is still out.
"A birdhouse." She announces.
A laugh jumps out of my mouth. We have lived in this apartment for four years and I never noticed it.

Later, I go into the closets and throw old clothing to the floor. A pile grows, jackets sliding off of jeans, t-shirts and old boots. They will all go downstairs in a bag and someone will take them all within a few minutes.
I want to prove I can let go of things.







Comments

liv said…
That brought a gasp - the picture of E on the escalator. She is changing, growing up. Such a beauty.

Glad you are back safe and sound.

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