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cold nostalgia

There is a note, stuck to the front entrance of our building. The hot water will be turned off for ten days. This is something that happens every summer, although it snowed a week ago and children wander the playgrounds in ski hats these days. At night it can be 40 degrees fahrenheit.  The hot water is always turned off like this, at some point during June or July. It is a long-standing Soviet tradition, and people begrudgingly accept it here. But the baby, V does not. She wants to stand in a hot bath before she goes to sleep, to splash and pour water all around her, and N. She wants to stand and wiggle her tiny hands under the spout, as she grows pink and clean, as she howls and shouts for us to see what new trick she has improvised. There is no explanation for her, why the hot water is off today, and will be tomorrow. She is angry, furious even.

I used to buy the story that this offered a chance for the water department to fix pipes, to take care of routine maintenance. Hot water c…

coming and going


The street is a single sheet of black ice. We move forwards in small, sliding steps her hand in mine as E almost falls then steadies herself every ten feet. It is dark still, the sun will not come up for at least two hours. Our breath hangs in small clouds in front of our faces. We make our way slowly, my hands waving wildly every once in a while as I start sliding too.

The masks are pulled from our pockets and I make sure hers is closed well across the bridge of her nose. There is an epidemic in Moscow - a form of swine flu that leads to pneumonia. Eight people have died from it, thousands sick. We wash our hands more than often, wear masks, and stand far from anyone sneezing or coughing. I bought these masks for a film I am making, props for scenes about bombings as people crawl under tables. I meant to show how pointless it is to wear them, except for the psychological benefit. You feel like you are doing something, instead of being completely helpless. That is the lesson here, taught over and again. There are huge problems looming over everyone - the ongoing fall of the ruble that is not too far from defaulting, not too far from a day when you cannot buy food because money is just useless paper. And then this ice, it trumps that, it is more immediate, more urgent. How will we get to school?

Somehow, we do. Slumped into seats on the bus, breathing hot moist air into our masks we close our eyes. E leans against me. The announcements interrupt our sleep. The little bus lurches and slides in the messy street. But we do get to school, across a little lake, not even lifting our feet just sliding with the smallest movement, arms out wide for balance. Inside, E yanks her books to her shoulder.
"Be careful going home, Pop." She tells me, climbing the stairs.

On the way home I stand at an intersection where the traffic light has stopped working. There are six lanes of cars whipping past us but no one steps into the street. There are giant screens on the shopping center across from us, all playing a loop of Victoria's Secret models. The smiles and thighs cascade across the dark sky, all color and sizzle and strut. Not just men are staring at them, but old women and children, the narcotic jiggle of bouncing breasts stopping them dead in their tracks.

I wait for an old man to venture into the cross walk, as the cars randomly begin to stop and let us cross. I did not want to be the first.





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