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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 …

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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