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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…

Moscow in winter


I have started to ignore the Russian winter entirely. The ground has been thick with snow since early October. I slide on wet ice. I stomp the muck and slush from my boots in front of doorways. The snow falls with measured grace from time to time, but mostly in the middle of night when no one can see it swirling around the street lamps. I forget to draw smiles on the hood of N's car. None of this is real. It is simply outside, and I want to stay in.

When the coat is pulled on, I forget. Hat found behind a door, gloves shoved into the back of a closet, I go out to buy chicken, and milk. In the early darkness, people plod along, many with a cigarette dangling from their fingers. I navigate the hovering parked cars, exhaust choking from their tailpipes. The stores are muddy, desperate, the faces tired and confused. The aisles are re-arranged in one, but there is nothing new on the shelves, just the same dented boxes of juice.

This is Moscow in winter.


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