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no invitation

We are at a 3 year old's birthday party in the back room of a cafe. Music is pumping from a tiny speaker. Balloon animals are popping, and waving in the air. A man in a yellow dinosaur costume dances wildly. Parents snap pictures with satisfied smiles on their faces.

A little girl approaches gingerly and stands in the doorway, straying from her parents somewhere inside the restaurant. She cannot be more than three. It must be hard to ignore all of the noise coming from this room packed with celebration. There is a perfect little pony tail at the back of her head. She hesitates, as one foot poises in the air and then rests back down. How to understand that she was not invited. How to understand the laughter, the loose jumping bodies, the presents piled high on the window. None of this connects to her. There is a little plate of food waiting for her back there, in the quiet restaurant. Maybe a warm bowl of soup, thick with noodles. I watch her for some time.

That night, her empty e…

continental rifts, graffiti and planes

There is absolutely nothing special about the continental rift between a father and a daughter when she becomes a teenager. One day she is your willing partner in crime, if it is a trip to the market or just lounging in a kitchen chair while you whip up some french toast. The next, her bedroom door is closed. She says "I'll stay home" when you go out. I talk to my friends about this, and they have all run into the same transformation. It is a story as old as the hills, but it is a bitter pill nonetheless. 

There are so many secrets now. Faceless, nameless friends she chats with, smirking to herself at some private joke. When you ask what is so funny she dismisses you. "You would not understand." She says. The guitar gathers dust in the corner of her room. The special pens and pencils are forgotten in the bottom of a drawer. The idea of singing together, a makeshift duet for Valentine's Day - it is unspeakable now. Sometimes I make a serious effort to bridge the gap, sometimes I just surrender to it. The process is completely exhausting. There are odd glimpses  - a book I gave her that she actually read, a dramatic tv show she finally watched. But the film camera I bought her a year ago sits on a desk, unused. When I ask her what she wants for her birthday next month, she says nothing. No party. No cake. Nothing.

I spy a scribble on the wall, waiting for the elevator to come. It says "Eva North is cool" in Russian. I wonder if she wrote it, or if some friend did. I want to say the handwriting is hers. What sparked this act? If she is so cool, doesn't everyone already know that? My head shakes, there is no way to avoid it. And then I see myself, the fuming father, the self-righteous judge and jury. Who cares if she wrote this or not, at least everything is spelled correctly.




Later, at home there is a news report. A plane leaving Moscow has crashed, killing all 71 people on board. The questions fly - was it terrorism? Was it some old plane that should never have been in the sky? The last time this happened here, it was Egyptian terrorists.

Snow is starting to fall again, a fresh light powder over the great grey drifts outside. I have a chicken roasting in the oven, and the house smells of spattering fat and lemon and salt. E is in her room, knee deep in mysterious conversations. I lean on the door, tapping lightly. She does not even notice me. I just look at her. I will tell her about the plane later. Right now, I just see her perched on the bed, her new backpack like a giant mouth opened next to her, a cold cup of forgotten tea, a pack of mint gum. Right now, I just see her.




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