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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…

underfoot (rare air)



I took a long walk on our last day in Vada. The baby was sleeping next to N, curled up on top of the sheets as a breeze moved the light around the room. E was passed out on the couch, her cheeks just pink from the sun. Cameras in my bag, I headed for the pine forest that ran along the beach. The smell of sap and smoke and salty air came up to me. People in bathing suits were passed out on blankets, face down in the afternoon as children played quietly. A boy stared at me.

The water was as blue and clear as a postcard. I waded in, my shoes slung around my neck and felt the sand dancing around my toes. It was a moment to drink in, to take all of that rare air and hold it inside for as long as possible. I did not know when I would stand in the ocean again, and it was three years ago the last time I did this.

The vacation had not been an easy one. Viruses, allergies and bad directions had snagged us at every turn. We still sipped cold Vermentino late at night, on a tiny balcony. We still laughed and got sunburned, as the baby painted her face in olive oil somehow getting spaghetti into her mouth. We still got out of Moscow, past its cold wet summer, past the headlines, past the gates, past the traffic.

I headed back into the forest, and then along the main road. Here, an empty amusement park with rides frozen in time, here a sign by the road promising wine and olive oil, fruit and preserves. I take it of course, as cars spit gravel as they pass, as a sky crammed with black birds opens up on my right, as a pair of horses nuzzle a fence on my left. I walk for some time, thinking of them still sleeping in the room, still breathing so lightly as the tiny spots of light dance around them.

And then I understood it was time to head back.




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