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I believe in artichokes

Italy did ruin me. After that first trip I came back disgusted by bodega coffee, which now smelled of old socks. Before, it was just fine. I rolled my eyes at red sauce joints, detouring old standbys like a stranger. If eating can be seen as a religious or spiritual experience I had been to the mountain. In time I would return on pilgrimages, always holding the simple pleasures in my thoughts.  An artichoke, methodically fried in good olive oil, with some salt. Black truffles, good butter and fresh pasta twisting around the back of a fork. A very cold and tiny glass of porto bianco sipped in a Genoa bar, with my friend Federico. A man cleaning sardines on a block of wood in the street. A woman selling green figs that she wraps into a newspaper cone. I have thousands of these memories, these artifacts. But I live in Moscow, where there has been an embargo for years now, and there is no population that expects perfect mounds of fresh cheese. They ship powdered palm oil here, that gets …

under the skin

There is a splinter in my thumb, but I cannot find it. As the skin touches a coffee cup, I know something is there. Digging into the skin with the point of a pin I find nothing. It is a phantom, still there. I make E's sandwich, slicing it on the diagonal, almost forgetting a box of juice.

The lunchbox in her hands, she stares up at me in the elevator.
"Pop, my throat has a bad taste." She whispers.
I nod.
"Let's see if it goes away." I tell her as we go outside.
Living here has brought me to doubt everything.

Later she calls me. I need to come and get her, she is actually getting sick.

Downstairs, the sun is fierce on my shoulders and I wrap my jacket into a ball and shove it into her backpack that I carry. Her tights are sagging, as if she lost weight since I brought her this morning. At home, she pulls on her pajamas and wraps the red blanket around herself. I take her temperature, bring the big bowl if she has to throw up. I survey the cabinets, the fridge. We have everything we need.

37.5 but I know it will go up from there.
She falls asleep.



The routine is a familiar one, the first night sleeping very lightly coming back to check on her after she does throw up once. The morning, seeing if her eyes are bright or if she is still under that little gray cloud. By afternoon she is on the mend, but I know this is deceiving. If we take a walk outside, she will get sick again.

I do run to the store, for turnips and garlic and ginger ale if they have it.

Outside, I realize how foreign things still feel here, even after seven years. The pointy black shoes, the slang, the flower sellers, the militia with their machine guns slung across their chests. Inside the house, it is like we are not here. There is no tv, no radio just the sound of English, our music, pens, pencils, computers, guitars. Inside we have a familiar little universe.

I call her, tell her I am already on the way back.
The splinter is still there in my thumb. I remind myself to dig for it again when I get home. At the same time, it feels good, some kind of reminder.







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