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you are not there

We are taking the little one for a ride on her new sled. It is bright orange, with a fuzzy black and white seat cover to keep her extra warm. Her tiny hands in tiny gloves hold the sides as tight as she can. I pull her down a path, shouting "woohooo" and then she replies "woohoo". N's turn is next, pulling her more schoolgirl than mother for a few minutes. There are other parents with children on sleds passing us. Their eyes straight forward, faces completely blank they slip by in silence. I flash a smile to them, and they do not even look at me. I am not there, just another tree leaning towards the stream that runs below.

There are ducks still, flapping around the brackish water and we throw pieces of stale bread to them. I start to think, not about the complete absence of smiles in this culture. I stopped asking about that long ago, told over and again that smiles are reserved for home, behind closed doors. But I wonder, for the children -  these wiggling bu…

white



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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