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(looking for) the heartbreaker

It has been more than two months sitting at the little white table in the living room, writing. Pushing out pages, fixing these pages, living with these pages then waking up and chewing them apart again, then adding on a new section. It is a mill, grinding the raw ideas down to a fine powder that may somehow rise and become bread. Or it may not. So many thoughts begin with "what if". What if they get stuck in an old elevator? What if she is not home when they come the first time? What if she is coming back from the market and passes them on the stairs? What if the driver is older? Or younger? What if his brother shows up instead? The questions are greater than the results on the page, the dialogue is whittled down to nubs of something recognizable.

There are cold cups of coffee, emails that go unanswered. The light comes and goes, and most of the work is done in the dark in more ways than one. Cooking dinner helps. Playing some guitar helps. If you are not careful you forge…

the house of artists


A curious holiday decoration appears in one of the elevators after New Years. A false window made of twigs, torn pages of sheet music for Jingle Bells (both in Russian and English), plastic holly berries, real pine cones and a smattering of spray snow complete the masterpiece. The doors smack open on the sixth floor, and a large woman in a fur hat and a coat as big as a steamship shuffles inside. I don't know what inspires me, but I gesture towards it and say that we are really in a museum. The woman's face launches into a number of expressions, as if she was asleep and just woke up. Words are blurted out, about how our tax dollars payed for this, but that it is actually pretty festive, and the rest I cannot even guess at what she meant. But I started a conversation with a stranger that did not end in confusion or the stink eye. There was no question "and where are you from?" Somehow, I had struck upon that common nerve and may have actually told a joke.

A wind whips up, making it almost impossible to shove the heavy metal door open that leads the street. Outside, the pavement is cold and full of ice. The woman has a last few choice words for me, about how pretty and quiet it is, but that it is not very nice to walk. Or something like that. I do a lot of guessing here, based on context. Soviet slang, irony, shorthand and outdated idioms are very hard to wrap your head around. Each generation has their own language it seems, a house of dark humor built from repurposed words.

I shove my hands into my pockets and wonder if every old building in our neighborhood has the same art covering graffiti in their elevators or if our building is somehow special, the house of artists.

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