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the empty

The fat girl as they call her, came to school with a hypodermic needle in her backpack. It may have been to defend herself, it may have been to instigate something. She comes from a broken home and this is her second or third school. E steers clear of her, and the bullies she tangles with. It was never understood  - how things began, who threw the first insult, the first punch, the first grabbed book but the end is a chronic cycle of violence. At one point, the girl's mother got the police involved and this was seen as offensive, a step too far. The police did not resolve anything so it was all just a lot of saber rattling. That is the most common sound here. The empty threat.

Last week, there was a sobrani, sort of a cross between a parent-teacher conference and a school meeting. I was busy, so E went by herself and took notes. Five minutes in she messaged me, that I was wise not to be there. Nothing about this girl was going to be resolved.
"Boys will be boys" was all …

the props make the character

We do not need to change trains. The one next to our apartment takes us all the way to Partizanskaya. E rests a hand on my elbow, her head against my shoulder. It is not so early, but it is Saturday all the same. I know she would rather be in her pajamas, with a plate of French toast next to her. 

Outside, it is warming up already. 

I pay ten rubles to enter. She is free. 

I lead her through the first aisles, the rows of matroshkas and t-shirts, the shiny drinking flasks, the tables full of knives. We are going up and to the left, to the people with piles of junk, the strewn bits of nostalgia on wobbly card tables. Here I will find a typewriter with cyrillic keys and another one with English keys, not more than forty dollars each. I have been offered the same for two hundred dollars here. 

She is bored, as I pull her through the crowds, as I yank my neck ogling a collection of German harmonicas. I buy an old wind-up clock that ticks incredibly loud.  

We are not just shopping. I am making a world, a real world from these objects. I am finding the details of daily life for characters in them. That sound of that clock, it will go on the soundtrack now - something I never imagined when I wrote the script but of course it makes perfect sense, ticking in the kitchen just after breakfast with the dirty dishes sitting right there. This metamorphosis of the imagined, as it becomes concrete, as it becomes something honest on the screen, that is the work for today. 




I buy a metal comb for fifty rubles.

E is more involved now, curious about some things on the tables. I tell her we are almost done. There are wind-up phonograph players everywhere. It seems you can get a working one for 6,000 rubles or less. The sound coming from them is amazing, like pulling a wet cat across a hundred cellos.

As we leave I ask her if she would ever come back.
"It is not really my kind of place." She tells me.
I nod.
"Ok." I answer. "I mostly just wanted to give you a real-life lesson in writing."
"What do you mean?" She asks me.
"If you are going to write about something, you really need to understand it. You need to spend time with it, learn about all of the tiny little details." I explain. "I was not trying to get you to go to the flea market today. I was trying to show you how I make this film I am working on - how I find the lives of the characters in little things in their lives."
"Like the comb." She interrupts.
"Exactly." I tell her. "And then the actors get to use these very interesting little things, and it helps their imagination."
She nods, smiling up at me.

There are crowds of people clumped in the street.
A woman is selling hot tea and pastries filled with potato.

"I love you Pop." E says, after a moment.



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