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Not me, her

In 1987, I found myself trying to write about a high school girlfriend that had been molested by her father when she was a child. I was 19 years old, struggling to find my way through a screenwriting assignment about delivering character. The idea was to describe messy young love between two Sid and Nancy want-to-be's. But that failed, as I could not stomach oversimplifying her complicated past, events that shaped her life as a 16 year old with a mohawk, a smart mouth, a lingering stare. I understood that I had to start at the very beginning.

No one wanted to hear the story. When it was my turn to read in class, it even came to be that some of the other students asked to stand in the hallway before they heard another description of what happened in that lonely little house in the middle of nowhere. I was trying, and failing, and trying again to get things right, to explain how this happened, how it could happen to this girl, how this man found his way to acts of selfishness and d…

Their dogs must be barking



The news comes, and I am not here. I am not bleary eyed in Moscow, my legs sluggish beneath me. No, I am back home. I am looking at faces in the street, eyes hanging longer than normal looking for some nibble of recognition. The taxis are still barreling down Broadway. The steam still rises from giant orange candy cane vents on 14th street. There is a low wind, and I pull by collar tight against it. There is a smell in the air, of wet leaves and cherry pipe tobacco. 

In the bathroom, my ragged face looks back. I make coffee. My feet are cold on the tile floor. 

I know that exact spot on 23rd street. There is a whole building where blind people live there. They have group activities on the first floor, and little rooms where they can meet with people and do things like dictate letters for them to send, or have their mail read to them. There is a bowling alley for the blind in the basement. I remember the thunderous sound of balls and pins and laughter from the last time I was down there, over 20 years ago. It was suggested to me to make a little documentary about the place, and I felt overwhelmed. I visited a few times a week, looking for an in, a way to tell something noble and kind without devices. Everything felt cheap, easy. I never did anything but visit, and talk to people but maybe that is all I was capable of at the time. 

Their dogs must be barking, I think. They must be asking questions, hands whipping in the air. There must be a terrible chemical smell coming up from the street. 

In Moscow, I can just read the news. I can just sit at the kitchen table until the baby wakes up and then play with her, sitting on my belly as we make faces at each other while I try to blot out everything else.



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