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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…

(looking for) the heart of Saturday Night


A tail of fresh bread, torn and eaten in the street never fails to give me faith. When I was young and lonely it was the semolina from Ferrucci's on 1st Avenue. I might even fish an olive out of the plastic container, my fingertips oily and slick in the street as it burst in my mouth. Now, it is from a Georgian stall at rinok, the open market I visit on Sunday afternoons. Here are familiar faces - the fish sellers with their horizontal striped shirts. I point at a plump seabass and they nod, tossing it to open hands behind the counter where it will be cleaned and filleted for me in ten minutes. I mumble a few words they already know, about doing some more shopping and that I will be back. Next, a special corn flour for chadi, a Georgian version of a hush puppy for lack of a better term. Madlopt, I tell the woman. Thank you in Georgian, one of the handful of words I can use. Her surprised smile flashes at me, the polite foreigner.

At home, I peel the tough skins from asparagus, a rare treasure here. I am making dinner for my wife on a quiet Saturday night. There is cold bottle of Fiano in the fridge, waiting to be uncorked with a satisfying pop. The little one is running around in warm tights, pulling a train across the floor. It is already cold in Moscow, and we are waiting for the heat to come on. I dredge the fish in flour, a dusting of garam masala and then into the pan. They grow crisp and fragrant, as N drifts in and out of the kitchen, her face curious, her chin on my shoulder for a moment. I have been cooking for her since the very day we met. I know of no simpler, better way to say I love you than to set a carefully prepared plate of food in front of her.

At the last minute, I pull together a version of a sauce gribiche from what is in the fridge. Garlic, capers, parsley, and sure maybe a little mint is tossed in the bottom of the pan, finished with a splash of that glorious white wine and a stump of butter. It swirls and emulsifies, and is spooned across the fillets. I call her to the kitchen and she is somehow flustered and confused and busy because there is always something she thinks she must be doing right at that moment. I pour her some wine. I place a fork next to her plate. I stare at her as I always have.
"What?" She asks.
I say nothing for a moment.
"How do you like it?" I ask.
She eats a corner, nodding - then, some asparagus. I have dressed it with just a sliver of butter and a squeeze of lemon.
She nods again.






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