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the list

It was a simple request, but it took me months to solve it. Soon we will have guests in the house for V's birthday, and the cascading piles of notes and camera parts, the lopsided villages of books, the forgotten bowls of loose change - they all had to find homes. I even bought a collection of clear, stackable boxes just after Christmas, but they sat like empty open mouths gathering bits of fluff and dust in them until today. With little flakes of fresh snow dancing against the windows, I began at one end of the room.

The problem with cleaning is that you constantly find lost treasures, windows into your past lives. Here, a set of notes from a film I was writing some seven years ago. Here, the warranty for a watch I bought for N (that I still need to register). And next, a Soviet ruble that I bought in Tbilisi at the dry bridge market, the location of the lost wonders of the world. Next to a broken saxophone and an old rug, I remember noticing a handful of old coins that I bought…

of fireworks and sheep

Someone shovels downstairs in the darkness. The low scrape of metal against asphalt finds its way to us as we roll the sheets around, as we twist and drape arms and wrap ourselves tight for the next hour until I am hungry for breakfast. I grasp at coffee cups in the black kitchen, reading messages from last night. Everything happens from a distance when you are an expat. It feels like we are the only people in the city, while everyone else is on a beach or a mountain or taking a picture of a bridge. 

There are a few of N's cookies left from New Year's Eve. I crave them, with their giant black raisins, the soft crunch of sugar and flour and ground walnuts. There is work to be done and dishes to wash, things I promised to place on shelves, papers to be put in safe places where they will not be forgotten. E sits on the couch, her feet tucked under her. She reads the copy of Maus I bought her in New York. She stops sometimes, makes notes, asks me if Aushwitz was a real place, always asking me if the story is a real one. She is not doubtful, just making sure. 

With the holidays over, distractions are swept back into drawers punctuated by the slow blink of the Christmas tree lights. Wet boots stand by the front door. The wind howls against the windows. I smell cigarette smoke from the neighbors when we open them, and the stale burnt remnants of fireworks. They pop and bloom long into the night, sometimes in the afternoon as if they are forgotten, or on some broken time-delay mechanism. I wonder if anyone sees them. Fireworks never feel like celebrations to me, more like a reminder of war, of violent thumps that rattle glass, the sky lurid, thrown naked for a moment, exposed. 

The week is absorbed by reheated leftovers, of walks in the afternoon when the air is warmer, of short trips to buy a bag of beets, visits to relatives with more drinking and toasting and sitting around tables talking about the year ahead of us. This is the year of the blue and green sheep (or ram, depending on what information you use). I believe that the sheep brings peace, but maybe that is just a messy result of some creative license. 

I did decide to be less motivated by fear, not exactly during New Year's Eve but sometime in December. So many actions, so many decisions about avoiding, about laying low, about existing secretly, under the radar. Conflict will always find us, no matter where we hide. The truth will always surface, so I have decided to stop placing it under rocks. I wear my ring everywhere now, and no one says anything. At least to my face. 


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