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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…

Ouroboros


The city feels like a windowsill full of dead flies. Yes, the sun still pushes through the trees and long into rooms, fingering the edges of tables and piles of dusty books. The trolley buses lurch up and down the empty streets, all clanging metal and thick layers of paint that fall off like shingles. I used to take pictures of makeshift ashtrays left in the corridors, typically a certain can of peas painted with grey ash. The elevator doors bang open, empty. There are low voices in the stairwell, and the shuffling of feet in slippers. The snake is eating its own tail, day after day here. But does it really reinvent itself each time? Does it change at all after dying and being reborn? 

A man sleeps on a bench. The Leica is hanging loose by my side and I decide I will take one more picture of a drunk, his red cheeks dappled by the leaves moving in the breeze. A giant truck rumbles past, spraying water on the street. They do this here randomly, even spraying water when it is raining. I do not pretend to understand anything about this place any more. The man does not flinch, even as some of the spray reaches his sweaty hair. I move behind him, seeing his black hat perched on the corner, hovering above his cane. I take a few more, hearing the quiet sound of my own breath, noticing how I hold it at the moment I click, an old habit I learned to be more steady. And then the camera hides in my bag as someone is approaching. I step high over the fence, and disappear down a side street. 

There is construction going on here, great piles of dirt and orange plastic are stretched across things in a zig-zagging makeshift fence. The machines stand still, forgotten yellow beasts crusted with mud. They will sit like this all weekend, I think or maybe longer.  







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