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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 …

closely watched trains



On a Sunday afternoon, we decide to take the metro to the film lab. The nearest station is being renovated, so we wander the tunnels beneath the street that lead us to a different entrance. Everything is new here, and they scan our bags.
"It's like we are in the airport or something." E gripes.

I decide to follow the flow of people down the nearest stairs only to understand that this is not the station it used to be. There are a string of stops listed I have never heard of, and trains that are shiny red beasts wheezing in and out of the platform in near silence. This could easily be some kind of recurring dream, when I have to walk on stage naked without knowing my lines now.

But then I understand this is the new line people told me about. I stare at the map until it all makes sense. We take the next train as it arrives, eyeing a giant gap between the car and the platform big enough for a dog or a child to fall through. The seats are soft and blue. Everything smells of fresh plastic. People speak in hushed voices. The station is crawling with police.

It will be eight stops until we get off.
"This is just weird, too weird." E announces,  over and over.

The neighborhoods flit by, nondescript streets where maybe nothing ever happens. No protests, no car crashes, no weddings, no funerals. There are old buildings in the distance, like giant bricks that people live in as they slowly crumble. There is construction, stations with names like Zorgi. Everything somehow looks harmless from the blue seats. Modern, without emotion, no gristle of Soviet design. There are recycling bins on the platforms, in shiny colors. But no one recycles here, and there is one place for all of the garbage to go. This is just some clever propaganda, a photo opportunity, the sheen of civilization.

Families with children in strollers ride for a few stops and get off, their jean jackets and sneakers saying USA and Nike, Hugo Boss and Reebok. They have those same faces, sullen and withdrawn like the people on the metro.

And then we do get to the station, where we will change back to the old network of trains. A smell whips up to greet us, like rotting cotton candy. It is familiar. We will be there soon.








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