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no invitation

We are at a 3 year old's birthday party in the back room of a cafe. Music is pumping from a tiny speaker. Balloon animals are popping, and waving in the air. A man in a yellow dinosaur costume dances wildly. Parents snap pictures with satisfied smiles on their faces.

A little girl approaches gingerly and stands in the doorway, straying from her parents somewhere inside the restaurant. She cannot be more than three. It must be hard to ignore all of the noise coming from this room packed with celebration. There is a perfect little pony tail at the back of her head. She hesitates, as one foot poises in the air and then rests back down. How to understand that she was not invited. How to understand the laughter, the loose jumping bodies, the presents piled high on the window. None of this connects to her. There is a little plate of food waiting for her back there, in the quiet restaurant. Maybe a warm bowl of soup, thick with noodles. I watch her for some time.

That night, her empty e…

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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