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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 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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