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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 …

the darkest day

I pull the hat down over my face, and try to lean against the window. It is clammy with the sweat of morning coating the inside of the little bus. I wait for it to lurch into gear, wobbling towards home. Someone nudges my shoulder and I assume it is just another jacket or purse swiping against me, as people shove their way down the narrow aisle. No, it is a man asking for change for a 500 ruble bill. I shake my head, pull the hat down to my chin. 

The darkest day is over. Soon the little edge of light in the distance will be bigger by the time I get back, hoping the elevator is working, pulling kasha from the shelf, chopping some onion, fishing an egg out of the fridge, dancing on cold feet and waiting for the water to boil for tea. The crows are still making noise downstairs in the playground. It sounds more like a cartoon graveyard.



The bus rounds the turn onto the road that runs along the river. There is the old place. They did not change the windows yet. I can remember the sound of the ones on the balcony swatting around in the wind or slamming shut all by themselves.

It is about to be eight years here. Eight years of cold stares and outstretched hands. Eight years of bargaining for potatoes, for an extra piece of fruit. Eight years of mud puddles and cars that drive on sidewalks, of quiet nights, of giant cups of sweet black tea at kitchen tables, birthdays, anniversaries, forgotten bottles of wine. It all compresses, packs down to nothing, just a messy pile of papers at the corner of my desk. Eight years turned as thin as twenty pages of paper.

E's hair is long. I brush it each morning, pulling out the knots and twisting it into a ponytail. We walk, wordless in the darkness between the streetlights each morning. She takes my hand when we cross icy spots and leans against me while we wait for the bus.





Comments

liv said…
I hope there is some cheer for you in these few christmas days. I know there is.

I am sending Love to all three of you. Sweet dreams, good food, enough wine and the warmth of three hands holding.

Liv

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