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every other man

The light outside the main entrance to our building has gone out again. The heavy metal door swings wide as I pull a hat down over my ears. In the darkness there are maybe twenty teenagers standing still. My boot scrapes across the ground, slowing down. Their hands in pockets, shoulders hunched, I look for a space to pass between them. A voice appears, saying hello in English, with an obvious accent. I am all instinct, sayingpivyet as I pass, not looking back, wondering who said this. There was a boy that was an extra in Blackbetty that lives in our building, but he is too young, too short for it to have been him.

I look back, navigating the puddles in the street. It does not make any sense.

N is with V, making their way home. I meet them, pulling V into my arms as she chatters about her day, about dry leaves and princesses, about her grandmother's apartment and what she ate there. We are going back home, and I try to explain the odd collection that stands outside. As we pass th…

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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