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every other man

The light outside the main entrance to our building has gone out again. The heavy metal door swings wide as I pull a hat down over my ears. In the darkness there are maybe twenty teenagers standing still. My boot scrapes across the ground, slowing down. Their hands in pockets, shoulders hunched, I look for a space to pass between them. A voice appears, saying hello in English, with an obvious accent. I am all instinct, sayingpivyet as I pass, not looking back, wondering who said this. There was a boy that was an extra in Blackbetty that lives in our building, but he is too young, too short for it to have been him.

I look back, navigating the puddles in the street. It does not make any sense.

N is with V, making their way home. I meet them, pulling V into my arms as she chatters about her day, about dry leaves and princesses, about her grandmother's apartment and what she ate there. We are going back home, and I try to explain the odd collection that stands outside. As we pass th…

the visitor

There is a knock on the door. It is the middle of the afternoon, and salesmen normally ring all of the doorbells in the morning. Through the peephole, I see a small man in overalls. He knocks again, and for some reason I decide to open the door. He waves a paper in the air, something about a mark, something about the pipes. I tell him, sure ok I will sign it and he gestures inside.

I stare at his thick, wet black hair and his tiny hands. He is polite, pushing his shoes off at the doormat and tiptoeing in. He asks to look in the bathroom, and I wave him on. E wanders to the living room door, head craning.
"He needs to check the pipes or something." I tell her, quietly.
She shrugs her shoulders and goes back to her homework.

The man peers and squints at the pipes behind a crooked panel that swings open in the bathroom. He scribbles numbers down, squints again. He seems to be taking a long time and I wonder if he can see very well. His flashlight dances around, and eventually he is done. For some reason, I do not sign any papers. His head bows a little as he leaves. Thank you, thank you.

I did not even think to call N and ask her what to do.

Later, I mention this visit to her and her eyes roll. No one ever comes to check the pipes, it is no job, no position. This man is not who he pretended to be. He was a spy, an imposter, maybe looking for some other information. But no one has ever come to check the pipes in Moscow.









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