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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 …

rotten eggs (the bad father)

The news came late, more than a day after the accident. We had been breathing air two, maybe three, maybe thirty times more hazardous than we should. Every news source told a different story. Some said it was sulfur dioxide, some said it was styrene, others said it was just smoke. Parts of the city were blanketed in white, blotting out the sun. Other parts looked completely normal and smelled the same as always. We were told, "If you smell something like rotten eggs, close your doors and windows and wear a mask". I want to laugh at the fairy tale help a paper mask will do in moments like this. It is a placebo, a pathetic gesture to make a person think they are better off.

The officials place blame with strong words and empty promises. We all know nothing will happen. This is the charade, the keeping up of appearances while pregnant mothers take walks, grandmothers push strollers, children play on swings with no idea the air is part poison. 



I have had headaches for a week now, walking E to school my nose like a rabbit's, smelling everything I typically ignore. The train station is always heavy with diesel and smoke. The health clinic has an oddly sweet smell, like turpentine and vanilla. Maybe they are refinishing the floors. The hallways of the building smell of fresh spray paint.

E asks me if she can go outside to play in the afternoon and I tell her not for a few days. She nods, not doubting, convinced staying inside will keep her safe.

It has become a dance I know all to well, the steps as familiar as a simple waltz. Listen to the bizarre event, find out if there is anything smart to do and then sit and wait for the sky to clear. There is never anything smart to do, unless we somehow stop needing to breathe. There is just the stink of betrayal, not from Gazprom but a government that offers no compassion for the average person.

These are not good fathers and mothers, these leaders. They do not make sacrifices. They do not put our needs first, or second, or at all. In moments like this, there is nothing good to say but I am still hounded by patriots at every turn, "Stop saying bad things about Russia, you have no right to do that".








Comments

CMP said…
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CMP said…
It's been more than a year now since I've been following your blog, and I think this is the first time I have really sensed your frustration, vexation and exasperation with Russia's corrupt politics and the neo-fascist Nationalism that has become all too ubiquitous throughout Russia of late.

I can only hope and that you, N and little E are safe and well and that you are spared a long miserable winter. I wish you a speedy Spring and I hope your headaches have finally dissipated.

Take care,
C

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