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Breathing the right air

Nothing brings more comfort than a bag of good things to cook, swinging under your arm as you make your way home. Somehow it blots out the rest of the world. In these moments, the entire universe consists of a late afternoon sun, a stray dog and a clump of flowers growing strange and wild in a yard. A hit of basil jumps from my elbows with each swing of the bag, a gift from one of the ladies I buy from the most. I visit markets without intention, just eyes open ready to discover fresh peas, or the first corn. Knowing that these products will disappear as quickly as they present themselves creates a certain form of excitement. Each season offers up this rhythm and without it I might become completely lost.

I think of when we were in Tuscany a month ago, feeling like such a tourist until I wandered out along the highway and found the local vegetable stand. I shoved squash blossoms and tiny tomatoes into a bag, rushing back to our room like I had robbed a bank. I made pasta with them th…

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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