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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…

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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