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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…

the road to the parade

They rehearsed the night before, with loudspeakers so big I could hear everything perfectly even with the windows closed, over a mile away. It must be deafening, up close. I imagined old war heroes with medals strewn across their chests would be there the next day, celebrating the city's birthday. There could be toddlers with little flags waving in their hands. Maybe a few drunk uncles, their cheeks red, voices hoarse from cheering. 

I put both Leica bodies in my bag, color film, black and white film. Downstairs, I called N and told her not to worry, that I would be careful, that I had all of my documents with me. I headed into the little forest along the path that would lead to the celebration, a path I had never travelled on. The music from those giant speakers wobbled into the trees, bad wedding party music with pumping beats and swooning oohs and aaaahs. I followed a handful of young people now, as they approached some railroad tracks and crawled through the space between two freight cars. I looked back, then both ways. No one was around. I followed them, from a distance and then climbed a steep hill. There were police men waiting at the top of it, behind white plastic tape that stretched from tree to tree. 
"It's a tourniquet." 
I think that's what one of them said, as they turned back and trotted back down the hill raising dust around their ankles. 

I saw a man walking along the top of the ridge, with some purpose in his stride, so I followed him. Tree limbs soon swatted at my face. There was a sort of short cliff, and a steep face of rocks below it. I saw him jump down, grabbing at roots and bushes to slow his fall. I looked back, and thought of those old generals showing up. Pulling the bag close to my back I followed him. Dirt clogged my fingernails. I smelled rust and mud, and the ozone of an electric train. The man had climbed a fence and was scrambling up a gravel hill. 

I stopped. 

It would be no good for me to get found here, with documents or not, hopping a fence like him. I kept going, imagining there was a left turn that would open up. And then I found myself in a grassy hollow, looking up at wires and hearing a train rumbling close. Yes, I was about to walk along the tracks into a station, which would surely be a problem. I could imagine the look on the security guards' faces. No, time to turn back and somehow get back up that cliff. 

I scrambled back up, sweating, arms itching from dirt and bark scrapes. I headed back to that first point and kept going past the guards.

I came to a stairway and more police. They stared at me. I asked if the entrance was closed and they said no. But how to get across? They told me to climb over the railing. My bags were checked. I walked through a metal detector. I stood with my arms out, as they waved one of those airport wands around. And then I went in. It could have been so simple, if I had not followed that man, or those kids. 

Inside, the music blared and voices shouted over and over again, Moscow Moscow hurrah hurrah. But I could not approach the crowds because only students could go past the barricades, and they all had ID tags hanging from their necks. There were no war heroes, just fat ladies on benches licking their ice cream cones. There were clumps of young soldiers, their suits awkward, too big for them. 

I wandered off, taking a few random pictures. A man sitting at a tent where no one was competing for the string of stuffed animals that swung in the wind. An old couple walking past a giant monument of St. George cutting the head off a dragon. 





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