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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…

that smell (Moscow)


The old elevator rattles and the doors lurch open. Inside our apartment I somehow feel taller. There is a smell of formaldehyde, like cutting those frogs open in tenth grade Biology class. The rooms feel dead, not like a tender museum of our things but empty, as if the only life in these rooms is born from us and in our absence they simply did not exist. I yank the door to the balcony open, thinking that smell will go away but it lingers deep in the pillows on the couch and the drapes. Sour, sad and chemical.

I think of random conversations I had in Ureki, mostly with taxi drivers who asked where I was from. I spoke to them in broken Russian, and they all said the same thing - Moscow, a cold place with cold people. Nothing seems to happen here, or change here. Sure, there may be a new sidewalk, a new supermarket, a fresh coat of paint on a crooked fence but the sense that this entire place is dead as well, a sort of sprawling, residential graveyard is hard to shake off. There is a slow walk of time in Moscow, like gravel crunching under a giant asphalt roller. It all gets crushed to nothing, lost under a thick layer of black tar.

The ocean, outside the windows for two weeks. The low roar of the waves at night. The stacks of clouds at dawn. The water sometimes green, sometimes blue, sometimes clear, sometimes foam and churl. The ocean, taken for granted so quickly and now so far away. A vacation that felt endless until we sat in the airport and squeezed into seats, climbing into the clouds and closing our eyes.

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