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every other man

The light outside the main entrance to our building has gone out again. The heavy metal door swings wide as I pull a hat down over my ears. In the darkness there are maybe twenty teenagers standing still. My boot scrapes across the ground, slowing down. Their hands in pockets, shoulders hunched, I look for a space to pass between them. A voice appears, saying hello in English, with an obvious accent. I am all instinct, sayingpivyet as I pass, not looking back, wondering who said this. There was a boy that was an extra in Blackbetty that lives in our building, but he is too young, too short for it to have been him.

I look back, navigating the puddles in the street. It does not make any sense.

N is with V, making their way home. I meet them, pulling V into my arms as she chatters about her day, about dry leaves and princesses, about her grandmother's apartment and what she ate there. We are going back home, and I try to explain the odd collection that stands outside. As we pass th…

the street of flowers

Two weeks ago, I spied those splotches of blood against the white concrete, the roses scattered across the sidewalk. I imagined it was a fist fight or a knifing at most. There are clusters of men here at any given hour, men in cheap leather jackets, chain-smoking and waving roses in the faces of everyone that passes. Rosa, ne nada? They ask, what no roses? This is how Russian grammar works, in the negative form. It is not, "do you want roses?". 

Each day, I make an excuse to pass on this side of the shopping center, to see if the blood and roses are gone. They remain for almost a week, a defiant mess. And then, they are abruptly missing. It is like nothing happened here. 

On the next day a collection of bouquets rest where the sidewalk meets the wall. There are a few candles that have burned down to nubs and gone out. The flowers pile up, yellow ribbons flapping the wind. I wonder who he was, convinced it was a man. Maybe he was one of the many illegal immigrants, and he got into something with the police. There are always men with thick black hair being stopped, hard faces asking for documents, heads being shoved down as they are pressed into the back seats of police cars or even packs of them lead into busses. 

The faces on the sidewalk here are the same, tea sipped from clear plastic cups, the short rows of bright fluorescent lights, the cold rooms stacked with carnations, tulips and those grotesque roses.

The smell of lilies comes up from the men passing, mixing with sweat and smoke. 

Yes. A man died here.



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