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cold nostalgia

There is a note, stuck to the front entrance of our building. The hot water will be turned off for ten days. This is something that happens every summer, although it snowed a week ago and children wander the playgrounds in ski hats these days. At night it can be 40 degrees fahrenheit.  The hot water is always turned off like this, at some point during June or July. It is a long-standing Soviet tradition, and people begrudgingly accept it here. But the baby, V does not. She wants to stand in a hot bath before she goes to sleep, to splash and pour water all around her, and N. She wants to stand and wiggle her tiny hands under the spout, as she grows pink and clean, as she howls and shouts for us to see what new trick she has improvised. There is no explanation for her, why the hot water is off today, and will be tomorrow. She is angry, furious even.

I used to buy the story that this offered a chance for the water department to fix pipes, to take care of routine maintenance. Hot water c…

Love and fists



On a quiet back street, a woman approaches us. She is short, her long coat like a frayed purple tube around her stout body. There is a giant gap between her front teeth. All at once I recognize her. It is Lubov (literally "Love") E's old kindergarten teacher. She is all smiles, coughing that thick smoker's cough as she leans forward to touch E on the shoulder.

We have that common conversation, about how E is bigger, about her good grades, about how Lubov misses her. It could be the same talk I have with an old teacher from the farm days in a supermarket parking lot.

E's chin digs into her chest. She does not want to say much.

I remember dragging her to school, her clinging to me, not wanting to go in. One morning I brought her late and Lubov met us downstairs. E was in tears. Lubov kneeled down to her, and wiggled the fingers of her hand in the air.
"This is you." She told E, folding her thumb  into her palm.
"This is your Papa." She said, folding another.
"This is me." She said, another on top then wrapping her fingers into a tight fist. "We are all together."
E was nodding.
Lubov shook her fist in the air, driving the point home. E was four then, maybe five at the most. She was ripe to believe.
I kissed the top of her head and left her with the other children.
I can remember walking around in the snow, restless, imagining her a crying mess hoping I was wrong.









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