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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…

after post truth

I pulled the white table from the balcony. It was covered with greasy soot, the stuff that drifts in the windows every day here. After a few soapy passes, it gleamed wet in the afternoon light. My favorite pen, an almost-empty notebook, a cup of good coffee, they rested there. I sat down to write something new on the first day of the year.

The plan was to write a piece of non-fiction, to take an event from my life, a terrifying one, the kind that breeds nightmares and get it down on paper. But these thoughts kept creeping up my arms as I worked. There is no difference between a truth and a lie these days. There are truths and then there are alternate truths. Narratives are controlled. And these narratives - they all pretend to be the truth.

My pen rests on the page. It has grown dark and I decide to light a plate full of these cheap candles from Ikea. Corny, romantic, and they smell of sweet cinnamon but I light them all the same. I cannot stop thinking that our world has fallen apart and we are all in denial. It ruptured some time ago, and we could not embrace that. Our old ideas of war and peace, they mean nothing now. In our age, we can be at war without soldiers on the ground. We can tell ourselves that our little corner of the world is at peace as long as we watch the screens, pat ourselves on the back and say "whew, we dodged those bullets" and breathe sighs of relief, when in fact we have been bleeding for a long time, hemorrhaging for years. Who will stand up, and admit something? I do not mean defeat, just coming clean.



There was a moment almost thirty years ago in documentary class, when our beloved professor went around the room asking how our treatments were going for the film we would make that semester. I told him about these empty trains, these forgotten, rusting hulks that once glued the country together, belching smoke and inspiring people to run out, to wave as they passed, a modern miracle. He paused, and told me about a beautiful case of lenses he owned, for his film camera. He imagined them broken, in the mud someday, useless after hearing my story. But it was not a story, it was something I had seen with my own eyes, something I wanted to record before it crumbled to nothing.

Later in the hallway, he leaned over and told me, "No one wears white."



It is dark now, and the candles are low. I do not like what I have written very much. The sharp memory of jangled nerves and fear, of hushed phone calls and the undertow of helplessness, they just are not there on the page. It just sounds sad and angry. But maybe that is the truth, and the rest was an opera in my head.

I don't know.

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