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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 …

(how to finish) The Year of the Horse

The living room is still a forest of boxes, their tops ripped halfway off with socks and t-shirts and documents peeking from inside. The kitchen is empty now, just the little white table is there, the table I used to write on in the old bedroom. Now, it is for dinner, for coffee when people visit, for E to do her homework on. A week here, and somehow it still feels unreal. 

Whenever we pass the old place a sort of phantom shiver passes across my gut. I look out at the river instead. 

This is our home now, and there are avocados ripening on the windowsill. Here is the wobbly door I need to fix soon. Here is the drawer where we decided to keep the needles and thread. Here is a mark on the counter that was already there when we moved in.



I brought a guitar to the kitchen one night, playing under just the light from over the stove my fingers finding the notes in half-darkness. I wonder, and then correct myself. I know there will be new stories written on this white table, new music recorded in the living room with E asleep in the next room. But right now, it all feels suspended, all still lost in those boxes. 

Winter is coming. The days dip into frozen air. The ground is turning hard. I try to imagine warm nights looking down at the treetops, a quiet Sunday morning when everyone is sleeping and I finish that last story in the book, the story that sits near-finished for months now. It is an ending set in New York, a man who does not realize he will soon be on a plane. I need to get him there, but looking out at an empty golf course halfway across the world does not help me. It doesn't stop me either. It is like an empty green piece of paper that will soon be white, then grey, then muddy. 

A great teacher once told me I should finish my books in Spring. He meant it as a vote of confidence, some poetic encouragement as it was Fall when I last saw him. In truth,  I found myself losing faith in other seasons, marking suspicious time until things melted and the crocus bloomed, when the windows could be flung open and I would write long into the middle of the night with my notebooks propped on the radiator like I used to on East First Street. There would be a bottle of Laphroag, or maybe Lagavulin as a reward for at least five pages. 

Now, I have a tall bottle of 25 year old Adego Veha from Portugal on the counter next to the salt and pepper as a daily reminder of the reward I have in store. Paul will find his way uptown somehow, buzzing that door, being ushered into that dark hallway, learning the truth about the woman with the young child. 






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