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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 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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