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the lost years

I spent almost 25 years living alone in New York. There might be a moment on a shoot, when it became clear we would be running late. Phones were slid from pockets, as the crew had hushed conversations with their loved ones. That solemn, apologetic tone was the same no matter who was talking as they answered the question "When will you be home?" I had no one, nothing but an empty apartment and some dirty dishes. I had half-written books, and guitars leaning against the walls. There was film in the cameras, waiting to be developed.

I have almost no memory of these years now.

Right now, V is sick. Nothing terrible, but enough to stay home and parade around the apartment in her favorite pyjamas. N is cooking various treats for her, unable to predict which one she will actually eat. The doorbell rings, and it might be a doctor visiting from the local clinic but it is her sister. The rooms are full of conversation and fresh cups of coffee. I try not to step on the toys that are a…

running away with the circus (looking for dolphins)


There are three of them, a brazen woman with bright eyes and a big voice, a man going grey with a hop in his step and a younger woman who might be their daughter or their niece that twists her short hair into little tufts. They roam the hotel, sometimes in elaborate costumes, letting us know that there will be a secret dance party near the ballroom in an hour.

The older woman strolls in during dinner in a costume of blinking Christmas lights and exotic face paint. V stares up at her, convinced she is a princess or a fairy or maybe both. The next night, she is all in black, great horns wobbling on her head. She always has a pair of black Converse high tops on, as if they go with every costume or maybe they are the only shoes she owns.

The man is typically dressed as a pirate, in a striped shirt, maybe an eye patch. He is perfectly relaxed, like his limbs are made of silly straws. The younger woman is always smiling, her mouth a wall of metal braces and lip gloss. I imagine they sleep in a collection of magnificent hammocks - looking up at the stars before they close their eyes.

I see them on the beach one morning, all staring off into the horizon, halfway through the construction of a giant sand castle. They tell us that they see dolphins. This is their job, to "animate" - to have fun, and share in the process of dancing in the sand for reluctant guests. Sometimes I cannot tell if they are working, as they roam the hotel, or if they are just on their own private adventures. I wonder if this is as close as a person can get to running away with the circus. The glitter, the roar, the elbows raised in wild dance steps, it all seems like a perfect show to do anyplace, anywhere. They seem happy. Their laughs are real, heads tilted back, throats wide, echoing around each room and corridor.

Like any clown, I think I might not recognise them if I passed them on the street in Moscow, or New York. I can only see them when there are splashes of glitter on their cheeks, when they are appearing as if out of nowhere, lights blinking, eyelashes as long as a peacock's feathers.

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