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no gold (things will have to wait)

There is an old Russian expression for the inevitable moment when your neighbors begin renovating. "Searching for gold in the walls." They say, to describe the epic sounds of drills in ancient concrete. You might appreciate this odd humor, this dark joke, this survival tactic. I am not so graceful a man to wrap my thoughts around it. Those drills and grinders, they shake the very walls of our apartment. Early on Sunday mornings and often long into the evenings they go.

This has been going on for the last four months, maybe more. I stopped counting.

I cannot imagine there are any walls left, that there is an entire open floor below us, the wind whipping through the naked beams and nothing else. That is the only explanation. Or that they break down walls, build new ones, find a flaw, some grand mistake and then break all of the walls down again. Not swiftly with sledgehammers, but with one crappy old drill with a dull bit, mashing away, so that children hundreds of miles away…

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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