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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…

Wednesdays


"I don't like Wednesdays." E announces to me outside of her school.
I am swinging her backpack onto my shoulders as we head to guitar class.
"Why Wednesdays?" I ask her.
"No reason." She explains after a few leaden footsteps.
I take in the details of the street, the sidewalk, the driveways, the dry cleaners that became a Ferrari showroom, the restaurant set back from the sidewalk that changes its name every few months. The sun is banging into our eyes and E holds my hand and looks down, waiting to be lead to the courtyard we turn into.

There are cockroaches on the floor when we enter and another walking up the wall of the room where we hang our coats. There are teenagers crammed into the tiny space, enjoying their weekly stand-off with us, when I try to rest her backpack and lunchbox on the windowsill, weaving around them as they smack gum on their lips and laugh. They never stand in the entry room, where there are benches and space. No, they cram in here and make it so the little ones like E do not have a chair to sit on when they change their shoes. It is a weekly dose of petty madness.

We decide to wait outside of the classroom instead of the entrance, once I shove her jacket into a makeshift space in the racks far from the cockroaches.


After class,  I shake our coats well, making sure no insects have decided to hide in them.

At home, she does her homework at the kitchen table while I make dinner. Her face looks long to me.
I stir the ragu and offer her the spoon. She knows I am asking if it needs salt without saying it.
She blows on it, takes one nibble, then again.
I see her face going through motions, as if she is acting like she is really thinking.
"Good." She says, with one nod of her head.
"So, tell me why you don't like Wednesdays." I ask her.
She stares at her pens.
"Maybe Wednesdays remind me that we live here." She says quietly.
"You mean by the river?" I ask her.
She shakes her head no.
She draws the word R-U-S-S-I-A on a corner of a page and then crosses it out.
"Yes we do." I say under my breath. "Yes we do."

I go back to the pot, adding a twist of black pepper. This pot that I used to boil rice on East 1st Street, when the thought of a daughter was impossible, much less a life stuck together with glue and twine halfway across the world.





Comments

liv said…
Oh, look at those long fingers. The hands of an artist. She is looking so grown up there.

Stuck - god, that's the word isn't it?

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