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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…

not just then but before, and slowly after


E turned to me and asked if she could get a haircut. I did not hesitate and told her it was her hair, and she could do whatever she wanted. For her entire life she has never gotten a haircut beyond the random trimming seasons I perform, with her sitting patiently on the edge of the bathtub as I squint, snipping until I think things look alright.
"How short?" I asked her.
Her face twisted around, unsure.
Later, she showed me a picture of Jennifer Lawrence and said "something like this". There were other pictures, all of tough, independent, young women. I did not smile or even joke around with her. I just made a plan, found the right salon and printed out some pictures of what she wanted so we would not leave anything to chance. Ten years old, and her first haircut outside of the house. We tromped through the snow, just on time for our appointment.

They let me sit in an empty chair not far from them. I had the Leica with me but the woman cutting her hair was shy and said please no pictures. She wore Uggs covered in gold sequins, and a sweater dress that hugged her thick frame. Her eyes were kind enough, and she treated E like a young woman not a little girl.

The hair fell in chunks. E held that long stare we all do into barber shop mirrors, seeing herself not just then but before, and slowly after.

It was all over before we knew it. The blow dryer yawned on, making the air smell hot and a little bit burnt.

"I needed a change." She told me, once we were outside.

I leaned my head back, looking at the bright sky, the haze that hid the stars but drew the edges of a collection of clouds.

There was nothing operatic about it, this simple act of getting a haircut but a realization crept along the back of my neck as we made our way home in the darkness. This was just one step that would soon be followed by other ones, the steps of a young woman, not a child.









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