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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…


The metro is thick with people pressed against each other taking taking penguin size steps towards the escalators that chug slowly down. Men smell like piles of sliced onions left out on counters, of aluminum and ozone. Women smell of cigarettes and rose sweet perfume.
I keep E just in front of me, hands on her shoulders.

There is a row of ads hanging from the curved ceiling. We have an ongoing game, describing them to each other.
"Lady in a bikini." She announces.
"Cheap computer." I add.
"A lot of chocolate." She says.
"Words about insurance." I say.
"Dolphin." She says.
We pass one spot where the ad has been removed, or has fallen down.
"Invisible." She says, cracking herself up.

All at once she is yanked against the wall of the escalator. I grab her, and pull her away. She is eyeing me, too scared to say anything. I see the zipper from her pocket is bent. There are holes in the wall, and she must have leaned against one of them and got her zipper stuck in it. I am furious, adrenaline pressing through my forehead. The person behind us says nothing. I keep E in the middle of the escalator until we reach the bottom.

As we make our way to our platform, she squeezes my hand. She is already forgetting what happened. I am turning it over, wondering if every single escalator in every metro is like this one. There are old women in uniforms at the foot of each one, in tiny glassed-in booths with surveillance cameras. Most of the time they look like they are sleeping.

There are places I never thought existed when I lived in New York.
There are people beyond my narrow imagination.

I watch E's face, as we shuttle towards our stop. She is still innocent, already accepting the scrape with danger. We all want to be trusting and naive, I remind myself. No one really wants to know everything that they know.

I think of Dick Rogers, cracking jokes at me when I was in film school studying critical theory on the side. He would spot me far down the hall, and raise an arm in the air shouting "Foucault! Foucault! Foucault!". It was a joke, a jab at my fascinations. He studied the same books and we spoke about them sometimes in low voices.

"You know, we can't all wear white." He told me during one of my critiques. "At least not all of the time."
He understood that even as a young man I did not ever want to be betrayed, to never know disappointment.


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