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you are not there

We are taking the little one for a ride on her new sled. It is bright orange, with a fuzzy black and white seat cover to keep her extra warm. Her tiny hands in tiny gloves hold the sides as tight as she can. I pull her down a path, shouting "woohooo" and then she replies "woohoo". N's turn is next, pulling her more schoolgirl than mother for a few minutes. There are other parents with children on sleds passing us. Their eyes straight forward, faces completely blank they slip by in silence. I flash a smile to them, and they do not even look at me. I am not there, just another tree leaning towards the stream that runs below.

There are ducks still, flapping around the brackish water and we throw pieces of stale bread to them. I start to think, not about the complete absence of smiles in this culture. I stopped asking about that long ago, told over and again that smiles are reserved for home, behind closed doors. But I wonder, for the children -  these wiggling bu…

manhattan (and a jasmine sazerac)

It is difficult to understand that you have been poisoned, if it happens drop by drop. 

Life trickles past windows. You take your child to school in the cold air. You make lunches. You pay bills. Money is made, and wasted. The transmission is grinding. A dry burnt electric smell hovers in the air. Everything needs oil. Everyone needs rest.

The neighbors have their tv on loud, all night long.
It sounds like an argument.





E is crazy about mortadella sandwiches, with grainy mustard. We make up a song about them and sing it in the street and on the metro.
"Morrrrrrtadellaaaa." She croons. "More than just a fellaaaaaaa."
"Especially in the rain." I add. "Under an umbrellaaaaa."
I wonder if she knows this is what saves me.
"Hey pop." She says.
I look at her.
"If we have mortadella and we have hope." She explains. "Then, we have mope."
I laugh, full and loud.





There are leaks in the walls. There are stains on ceilings. A wet, moldy smell drifts around the stairwells. The elevator stops working two or three times a day. The sky is low, heavy.
I don't know how we live here. I don't know if life would feel different anyplace else. I miss the random smiling faces on third avenue when I went to the post office. I miss the dive bar that used to be on the corner. I miss the pastrami sandwiches from across the street. I miss friends calling me, saying they are playing a last minute show a few blocks from the apartment. I miss takeout matzoh ball soup when I felt sick.

The wind whips up, bending the trees. They say it comes from the arctic, that there will be days when it is -30C this winter, that there may be snow in a week.




We are driving on a Saturday night, with no idea what to do. N's new winter coat rests on the back seat. I have Tones on Tail playing, realizing how the songs do not sound thirty years old.
There will be a dinner at a good place, without a reservation. They give us the same table we have eaten at before.
I order a manhattan.
The drink arrives, with three cherries and a twist of orange.
I sip once.
I close my eyes.
I listen to everything.
N is quiet, thoughtful as ever. I watch her hands turning in corkscrew shapes until I hold them.
"Everything will be fine." I tell her.
I realize how I have come to say this phrase as habit, and how foolish the words feel in my mouth, but at the same time, they are always right.
She looks at me with her big brown eyes.
I imagine the drops of poison leaving me, evaporating from the top of my head.
I sip the cocktail, cold and warm at the same time.
Food arrives.
We make plans.
The duck is rare, just as I asked.
The place is filling up. There are women in tight skirts and impossible heels. There are short men with beards and little black leather man purses.
I order a jasmine sazerac. The waitress apologizes, and tells me they have changed the drink for autumn and now is is a salted maple sazerac. I am sure it may taste lovely, but my face falls. She scurries to the bar.
"They will make you one." She tells me quietly, as if she does not want anyone to hear us.
I lean back, staring at the ceiling.
The plates are cleared.
The drink arrives. I can smell it long before the glass reaches my lips.
It tastes like the clouds that rain on New Orleans.





Comments

Dear Marco,
I diligently check in every Monday afternoon of Tuesday morning, CAT, because I find your writing incredibly moving. Your minute observations about the world you are forcibly immersed in are both jarring and heartbreaking sometimes...

And sometimes you totally surprise me with a turn of phrase: "It tastes like the clouds that rain on New Orleans."

Don't let the criticism get to you too much. You give hope to somebody like me, who lives in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Marlette
Dear Marco,
I diligently check in every Monday afternoon of Tuesday morning, CAT, because I find your writing incredibly moving. Your minute observations about the world you are forcibly immersed in are both jarring and heartbreaking sometimes...

And sometimes you totally surprise me with a turn of phrase: "It tastes like the clouds that rain on New Orleans."

Don't let the criticism get to you too much. You give hope to somebody like me, who lives in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Marlette

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