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every other man

The light outside the main entrance to our building has gone out again. The heavy metal door swings wide as I pull a hat down over my ears. In the darkness there are maybe twenty teenagers standing still. My boot scrapes across the ground, slowing down. Their hands in pockets, shoulders hunched, I look for a space to pass between them. A voice appears, saying hello in English, with an obvious accent. I am all instinct, sayingpivyet as I pass, not looking back, wondering who said this. There was a boy that was an extra in Blackbetty that lives in our building, but he is too young, too short for it to have been him.

I look back, navigating the puddles in the street. It does not make any sense.

N is with V, making their way home. I meet them, pulling V into my arms as she chatters about her day, about dry leaves and princesses, about her grandmother's apartment and what she ate there. We are going back home, and I try to explain the odd collection that stands outside. As we pass th…

directions


When someone in the street asks for directions I gauge them quickly. When they ask with open, desperate faces I want to believe they want to know which way to go. But, there are some people that use this as a test to see if you are kind, open, if you are trusting. They use this as the first step. There are times when I do not stop, just shaking my head and feeling terrible for judging them but at the same time I have a family and cannot be a fool.

Two times this week people asked me for directions, like most of the weeks in my entire life. In Italy, in New York, in Moscow I seem to bear an invisible badge that suggests I know where places are, and can explain how to find them. So often, this is beyond me but the situation presents itself like a fast moving clock, banging away on every hour.

The first was a woman on a side street close to our apartment, her hands held out as she spoke asking how to get to the metro which is not close. I was with E, and she looked up at me as she always does when I tell people how to get somewhere, with this combination of laughter at my bad Russian and a strange calm as I told them about landmarks, about the simplest way to find the place not using rights and lefts but numbers of buses.

"Just stand here and wait for #20, or walk that way and cross the big street and wait for #11."

The second was a man asking how to get to Park Pobeda on a Sunday afternoon. I asked to make sure this was where he wanted to go because it was quite far from the center. We were less than a kilometer from the White House and could see it from where we stood if the air was not full of mist and snowflakes. I explained to him it was far, and how he should go back towards the big metro behind us. He stared at me with a blank look on his face, like a doctor with test results he does not want to share. I wondered, maybe he did not understand me. I tried to explain things a different way, taking out my phone to show him how to get there on an actual map.

"No, no thank you." The man said, resting a hand on my shoulder in one gentle act. "I'll take a taxi."

He walks away, in front of me because we are both going in the same direction on the same street. I drag my feet under me to create some space. He is not poor. He wears a European man purse snapped to his belt that slaps against him as he makes his way. I think he can afford a taxi. He walks in front of me for some time and at least he is going in the right direction I tell myself.

Comments

liv said…
His brain was probably saying "what? what? what?" I am close to that.
I would be the woman looking lost and on the verge of tears ... no, not really, but I would think you were very approachable...because of E. Hoping you would both say "maybe we should invite her home for tea?"
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