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I believe in artichokes

Italy did ruin me. After that first trip I came back disgusted by bodega coffee, which now smelled of old socks. Before, it was just fine. I rolled my eyes at red sauce joints, detouring old standbys like a stranger. If eating can be seen as a religious or spiritual experience I had been to the mountain. In time I would return on pilgrimages, always holding the simple pleasures in my thoughts.  An artichoke, methodically fried in good olive oil, with some salt. Black truffles, good butter and fresh pasta twisting around the back of a fork. A very cold and tiny glass of porto bianco sipped in a Genoa bar, with my friend Federico. A man cleaning sardines on a block of wood in the street. A woman selling green figs that she wraps into a newspaper cone. I have thousands of these memories, these artifacts. But I live in Moscow, where there has been an embargo for years now, and there is no population that expects perfect mounds of fresh cheese. They ship powdered palm oil here, that gets …

steps


The moment arrives, me on my knees with my hands stretched towards her. She leans back against N, her face caught in surprise. I can see the ideas turning over in her, yes, no, yes, no. She stares at me.
I clap my hands together once and then again.
"Come on, come on." I say, laughing, trying to make this into a game.
She looks up at N, her chin all the way to the sky.
N tells her it is ok.
In one movement, her foot lurches forward and then the next. Her hands are waving like she wants to fly not walk. She steps quickly, her face smashing into my chest as she arrives. I am whooping and crowing and she is shouting. I wonder what the neighbors think we are doing in here.
N's face is serene, glowing. She drinks it all in with quiet grace.

V will go back and forth between us, steps growing longer. Her face lights up each time, her little bottom wiggling back and forth. E is watching, leaning on a doorway, lost in thought. I wonder if she is trying to remember her first steps, what she must have been like so many years ago.

I sigh. I breathe in deep, my knees starting to hurt from the hardwood floor. V wants to do it one more time before dinner.





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