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the empty

The fat girl as they call her, came to school with a hypodermic needle in her backpack. It may have been to defend herself, it may have been to instigate something. She comes from a broken home and this is her second or third school. E steers clear of her, and the bullies she tangles with. It was never understood  - how things began, who threw the first insult, the first punch, the first grabbed book but the end is a chronic cycle of violence. At one point, the girl's mother got the police involved and this was seen as offensive, a step too far. The police did not resolve anything so it was all just a lot of saber rattling. That is the most common sound here. The empty threat.

Last week, there was a sobrani, sort of a cross between a parent-teacher conference and a school meeting. I was busy, so E went by herself and took notes. Five minutes in she messaged me, that I was wise not to be there. Nothing about this girl was going to be resolved.
"Boys will be boys" was all …

coney island baby (licorice and Hershey bars)




E's favorite was Coney Island. We took the D train, and when it lurched from the underground tunnel and began rattling over the buildings, she stared at everything. Miles of graffiti, stretches of forgotten furniture, signs for tire fix places. This was a scene for Blackbetty, which I had hoped for but was ready to surrender if she could not travel. I had seen her face, chin resting on the cold glass so long ago. The sun is out today and giant flares dance around the lens as we splash in and out of shadow.

And then, the ocean stands in front of us and her walk becomes a run. She dances, arms flapping like one of the gulls and she is right on the water's edge. Feet soaking wet, the waves surging around her she turns and smiles at me. I cannot remember her this happy.

Shells and bits of ocean glass are studied and collected.
"Look Pop, part of a crab!" She shouts at me, pointing at a stray blue claw.

The wind whips up, blowing sand into out eyes.

My film falls together, like some sort of prophecy coming to fruition.


The next days churn into one, and we are already on that cab ride to the airport, weighed down with strawberry licorice and Hershey bars. We sleep the whole way home.

Moscow is cold, great drifts of snow already turning grey and brown from truck exhaust.

Her head leans against my shoulder.



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