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the trains still run

They never taught us more than how to make things. They did not explain how to take pictures, or write stories, or record songs when the walls are falling down. What should you paint when the sky is falling? And yet, they taught us all we needed to know. As I have begun to understand over and over again, all art is political. All freedom is freedom. The trains still run. The cameras can still be loaded with fresh rolls of film that smell of plastic and possibility. If there is a pothole, at some point it gets filled. Sometimes it just takes a hell of a long time to happen.

The sun rises. Children trundle around in the snow, laughing, falling down and getting back up again. Yes, the news is unthinkable. Yes, the headlines are poisonous enough to make you throw things out the window. But there is still dinner to cook, and why not make it delicious? Why not crack an egg, or laugh wildly at nothing in particular?

There was a night, about eight years ago when I was told that the militia w…

girlfriend experience


The new neighbor is a single woman. We have seen her a handful of times, once with a tiny dog barking wildly as the elevator doors opened on our floor. Another time, she opened her apartment door to pay for a pizza delivery. She was in a robe, as is common here. Her face is always down, messy hair falling across it, no hello, no familiar nod, no eye contact.

There is no loud tv we hear through the walls we share with her. The dog only barks during the day, when I assume it is alone. There are no eavesdropped arguments like the previous tenants, a young couple. The girlfriend threatened to go and live with her mother which we assume happened in the end. There is no sticky smell of pot wafting under the door, no drunken toasts, no parties with friends.

Every Thursday night at about 1am, there is a heavy thumping against the living room wall. It is rhythmic, almost athletic. There are cries and moans, all her. Ugly, harsh sounds as if her leg is broken. It all stops abruptly, as oddly as it began. There is no other voice, just hers. This odd ritual goes on for weeks, a near-perfect repetition, a carbon copy. Of course it is bizarre to hear things so clearly, and we can only imagine what she might say if she knew that the walls are so thin. And then, the mind wanders as it always does. Is she someone's mistress? Is she waiting for this visit the entire week? Or is she a prostitute with a regular client? Does she have a lover that visits her the same night each week? The answer hangs in the air, a fly buzzing around our heads refusing to pass through the crack of a window and disappear.

Over time, the performance grows especially hard to listen to, such a personal moment being broadcast. Once, or randomly it would not even register but the same weeknight, the duplicate pattern of moans, the predictable lurch, the sudden silence, it must be a script of some kind. Maybe they know we can hear them and do not care, or maybe they want us to. Nothing will be answered, none of it. That is a common phenomenon here.

The parade may be real, the guns may be loaded or it is all a big show.

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