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no invitation

We are at a 3 year old's birthday party in the back room of a cafe. Music is pumping from a tiny speaker. Balloon animals are popping, and waving in the air. A man in a yellow dinosaur costume dances wildly. Parents snap pictures with satisfied smiles on their faces.

A little girl approaches gingerly and stands in the doorway, straying from her parents somewhere inside the restaurant. She cannot be more than three. It must be hard to ignore all of the noise coming from this room packed with celebration. There is a perfect little pony tail at the back of her head. She hesitates, as one foot poises in the air and then rests back down. How to understand that she was not invited. How to understand the laughter, the loose jumping bodies, the presents piled high on the window. None of this connects to her. There is a little plate of food waiting for her back there, in the quiet restaurant. Maybe a warm bowl of soup, thick with noodles. I watch her for some time.

That night, her empty e…

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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