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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 …

where (part 2)



It is raining, the sky a green, gray marshmallow. E has been on vacation for a week. I finish work early, and tell her to get dressed. The cameras are tucked into my bag. Extra film and a light meter all find their places. E slings her camera across her shoulder, bringing it with her. 

Outside, the street is shiny. We pull our collars close to our necks. I point towards the main road with a glance and she nods. There is a bus stop, and I take pictures of the people behind the milky windows of the trolley bus for that moment when the doors slosh open and then thwack shut. We start downhill, towards the river. Sometimes I stop, waiting for the right old woman to creep past us. Sometimes E stops, fascinated with a railing on a bridge, or a view that swings wide as we pass some dead trees. There are no words, just nods and looks, but I cannot help but smile at her.

We are under the bridge, dark and heavy as it reaches across the green water. 

There is the aftermath of a car accident, a very common sight here where people treat the road and other drivers like fantasies until they smack into a railing or a bumper, or a person. A man is running across the six lane street, and I get one frame of him with the crumpled white Range Rover in the background. Maybe that is something, I tell myself.

We have walked almost 2 miles, and tuck into a Georgian place for lunch. We order khinkali, giant dumplings stuffed with beef and pork and chili and black pepper. They are full of a sort of broth they create, so eating them is a balancing act, a dance between slurps and guesses and then forcing the remainder into your mouth. E eats them with the unrushed grace of an old man, not a drop on the plate. 

Later, she will show me the pictures she takes. One is of me in my long, dark coat under the bridge. That is how she sees me, I realize. My cheeks flush. 

We will bring the film to the lab the next day, and pick it up a few days later. 

She hovers behind me as I scan them. She nods, saying "yes, I know. I was there" with no more than her chin on my shoulder. 







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