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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 …

sometimes I feel like a motherless child

Sometimes she throws her arms wide, like Atlas. She carries nothing in her hands but the air between us, her eyes growing brighter each day as they change. In these moments, her face a locked stare, hands stretched all the way to those minuscule fingertips, I think of everything that weighs on me, everything that turns me in my sleep. I remember the lesson (not sure where it was learned) to be bigger then the events of the day, to wrap my arms around the pain, the sadness and disappointment, to be bigger than everything that washes across my little family. 




E has been especially kind to me lately. In my dark afternoons she rests a hand on my shoulder, or a cheek against my arm. 
"Don't worry, Pop." She says in a low voice. 
I feel suddenly weak, when she witnesses anger, when she sees me yelling at cars that nearly run us over as I jab fingers in the air at the crossing sign they ignored, as I swear a hairy rope of Brooklyn curses on their shiny black sedans as I wave once again at the crosswalk sign, the lines painted across the tiny road and then suddenly the face behind the windshield relenting, hands in the air apologizing, even a thumbs up for some bizarre reason. I am shaking, as we walk off towards the playground and home. E looks up at me. She worries about me, I know it. 

People like to pretend Moscow is a safe place, that it is a normal city. I have been told by so many that I should love Moscow like a good Mother and everything will go easily for me. But this relationship never unfolds, even when I open my arms to it. Not every mother wants her child, I would tell them. 

I have fallen for many cities besides New York. New Orleans, Rome, Lisbon, Bologna all hold places in my heart. There people asked me directions in the street, as if I had lived there my whole life. I turned corners on secret bakeries, on wobbly tables and good wine, on an osteria that mended a young broken heart with homemade bresaola. There was a bench with a cat painted on it there, a loyal pet that may have lived once and remains familiar this way. 

I think of that black cat sometimes when I sit down to write, as if it watches me, curious about what is on the fresh set of pages, what notes are scribbled in various notebooks, what will happen to the young boy who walked off into the woods, and what will happen to the man in the city who doesn't want to go home to an empty apartment, and what will happen to the old divorced man who sets fires in his backyard, and what will happen to the woman passed out in the grass covered in vomit. 





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