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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…

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

ArchEcoTech said…
Hello,
Really liked this post. I blog from Kazan about Russia myself. I hope you don't mind that I've done a pingback to your blog. The reason I did was I created on my blog what I call Mirror Reflections. It's a way to show those around the world just how much we are all alike. If you are interested come take a look at: hague6185.wordpress.com

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