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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…

old farts and accordions

I pull E's hair into a fresh ponytail, realizing I have forgotten a comb. The room is cold. Other children sit with their hands folded in their laps, guitars propped up against the backs of chairs. The door swings open and Roman stomps into the room, waving his hands. 

We make our way through the dark hallway with the flickering florescent light and then into the miniature concert hall. An old man sits in a chair in front of the stage, a haphazard collection of medals dangling from his blue suit jacket. His eyes are wet. A woman takes flash photographs of him as he looks half asleep then suddenly waves one giant, rough hand in the air until an old woman joins him. There are a few more pictures.

Everyone sits. The man and the old woman are right in front of us. I stare at her thin silver hair, wetted down and pulled across the back of her head. The pink skin of her scalp shines beneath it. He leans to one side and produces a long, quiet fart. E turns to look at me, half annoyed, half amused.

A girl plays piano first. There is light applause as she finishes.

Next, a boy with a giant red accordion. He plays methodically, chin nodding in tempo. At one point he gets lost, and replays a section, then stops. He starts again, fighting the clicking keys. He stops once more, a long pause. The old man whispers something to the old woman. He repeats it, louder. The boy tries once more and erupts in tears, leaping from the stage with the accordion thumping against his chest. He goes straight out the door. Everyone claps, making sweet noises, sympathetic words jumping from mouths but he is already gone.
"They were clapping a lot to make him feel better." E whispers to me.
I nod.
"But maybe he thought they were clapping to be mean." She adds.
"Then he is very silly." I whisper back.
She nods, wrinkling her nose up and pointing at the old man.
I roll my eyes and she tries not to laugh too loud.

A boy plays the flute and then it is E's turn.

She plays fine, not as loud as she could, hesitating just once. She bows with her chin to her chest and skips back to her seat.

The old man is whispering louder and louder. I think the old woman cannot hear him, even when his mouth is right next to her ear. The fidgeting room disintegrates into people talking on phones in low voices.






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