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the empty

The fat girl as they call her, came to school with a hypodermic needle in her backpack. It may have been to defend herself, it may have been to instigate something. She comes from a broken home and this is her second or third school. E steers clear of her, and the bullies she tangles with. It was never understood  - how things began, who threw the first insult, the first punch, the first grabbed book but the end is a chronic cycle of violence. At one point, the girl's mother got the police involved and this was seen as offensive, a step too far. The police did not resolve anything so it was all just a lot of saber rattling. That is the most common sound here. The empty threat.

Last week, there was a sobrani, sort of a cross between a parent-teacher conference and a school meeting. I was busy, so E went by herself and took notes. Five minutes in she messaged me, that I was wise not to be there. Nothing about this girl was going to be resolved.
"Boys will be boys" was all …

the rose seller's screams

The oldest woman is screaming, her bent cart toppled to one side as roses splay across the dirty parking lot. She is huge. In her long thick coat she is as grey and monstrous as a battleship. One of the younger rose sellers is her daughter, but I do not see her. I walk quickly, not turning or lingering to find out what the fight is about. I hear her voice, loud, fierce, fingering into the quiet, wet morning. It swells to that pitch that touches on pain and desperation and anger and gives me goosebumps. I know that sound all too well.

My eyes are wet, and I am wiping my face as I pass E's teacher who says a quick good morning without slowing down. I must look like I burst into tears after I drop her off, and I want to laugh once at myself. I blame it on the wind whipping up from the river.

Downstairs in the produkte I am waiting to buy milk, in an early morning line behind a collection of men that smell of vodka and cigarettes. They dig into their pockets for loose change, counting out rubles on the glass countertop to buy tiny packets of mayonnaise, and cheap sausages, short vodka bottles and miniature loaves of black bread. It is quiet in here, the women in blue aprons behind the counters, faces blank then ducking in back to smoke cigarettes and make everyone wait. I guess these men are security guards, men at front desks who ask for documents and write passport numbers down in notebooks and then wave you inside.

The nice lady who sells potatoes and frozen cherries is not here, but even her alternate recognizes me. She nods once as I leave, her round face bobbing behind the counter.

There is something about the lives they are leading, I tell myself as I enter the elevator. My face stares back at me, cheeks red and wet. It is like bone grinding against bone.


Comments

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