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Hey, Lyosha

There are prison tattoos on the backs of his hands. Faded, blotchy shapes and a finger that jabs at a phone. "Hey, Lyosha!" He shouts, as every face on the bus swings to him. There is no answer, no voice on the other side. "Lyosha." He says again, then stares angrily out the windows. I step on someone's foot by accident, apologizing quickly. The young man waves his hand as if to say I did not need to say anything. The man with the tattoos sips from a giant cup of soda from KFC that is balanced on the empty seat next to him.

We pass a hotel we used to live next to, where expensive escorts are ferried in and out like yachts in a harbor. There is a fresh line of flags snapping in a low wind, and an American one is curiously absent. Plenty of the businessmen behind those windows are from the states.

The man brandishes the phone and hands it to the young man in front of me. I did not see that one coming. The young man wipes invisible dust from it, a reserved frown …

a new song

I don't have a good explanation for how it happens, just that it does. The guitar may be out of tune. It may be 2 in the afternoon or 3 in the morning. I dig into random piles of notes, fragments, phrases, turns of language. No matter what, it evolves into a confession. Even when you lie, you are telling the truth about something. The admission, the coming clean, it surfaces even when you try to keep it hidden.

Walking in another man's shoes offers a strange freedom. Most of my clothes came from the Salvation Army when I was growing up. I wore other people's suits. Maybe I never stopped.





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