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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 …

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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