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streetlights

There is no easy way to say it. I was married to someone I hid from. Tucking E into a sling, I would disappear for hours saying I was going shopping for dinner, and if she fell asleep the excuse was that she needed fresh air as I sat on a park bench with her tiny hand grabbing my pinky until she eventually woke up. I would make my way along the side streets of Greenwich as the sun went down, leaning into store windows but not going in. Eventually I would go home, and as I turned the corner there was a security light that would switch on - obviously attached to some motion sensor. In those strange and lonely moments, I would talk to that light. Each time it clicked on, I felt somehow that the night ahead could be survived no matter what madness waited for us behind the front door.

That was twelve years ago.

Another life, another country.

Today, I turned a corner in Moscow with an all-too familiar bag of groceries swinging from my shoulder. A street light flickered on and all at once I…

dinosaurs (Don't Know Why)


N announced that it was time to buy V a new bathrobe while we were eating breakfast. On my Sunday excursion to the various markets, I went into a French children's store. There were lots of shirts with drawings of tiny boats on them, plenty of horizontal stripes, tasteful frills. A salesgirl shadowed my every move until I waved her off, trying to get her to understand I knew damn well what I was doing. I found a pink shirt with a Peter Pan collar, and a bathrobe with dinosaurs on it. The salesgirl leaped in front of me, saying that this was a bathrobe for a boy and I was making a terrible mistake. Then, without me trying to say anything she understood how ridiculous she was being. "Well, a girl could wear it." She mumbled. I nodded as we made our way to the register.

There is usually a steady stream of terrible mall-music in this shopping center, vaguely euro-disco, bland and tedious. Somehow, Norah Jones came on, singing Don't Know Why. A smile crept across my face, as I remembered hearing Jesse Harris sing it first, at the old Living Room which was just a few blocks from my place on East 1st Street. Ah, Jesse who wrote this song, with his perfect old Gibson, with the unstoppable Kenny Wollessen on drums and I want to say a guy named Tim on bass.  That other life, in the microcosm of the East Village, the free admission and the $5 beer, deciding what chair to sit in but all of them within ten feet of the miniature stage. I sat in those rooms, without the slightest idea that they were fleeting and rare moments. I imagined this music was always going to be within arm's reach, a little bubble of art and song, of familiar faces and good times that I would never leave.

The salesgirl stares at me, her frown turning into a question mark. I pay, and leave the store  - walking until I stand right under a speaker. "My heart is drenched in wine." I do not hear her voice, but his instead - plaintive and vulnerable. I have nothing against her, but Jesse's version is the one I am drawn to. Maybe that is because I felt like I knew him, offering a few kinds words after a show, him flashing his smile, the humble thank you. But that was a few million years ago, and I am gliding down an escalator in Moscow. I need to find some pecorino because we are running low. We need olives and maybe there will be some good chocolates, a sweet little box to surprise N with. I look down at the bathrobe as it peeks from the bag and already see V in it, jumping and twirling before she somehow gets coaxed into bed.

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