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Everyone I know left years and years ago. There was a smell in the air, and they ran from it. Acquaintances, expats, foreigners and locals all bundled their best things and boarded planes never to return. They flew to Budapest and the English countryside. To Rome, or just back home to wherever they came from. Their absence is palpable. Who is left here? The patriots and the people with nowhere to go, no way to get out.

The sky is crammed with hard plumes of smoke. The snow has finally arrived, tucked around corners and it will remain there. Its teeth are in deep. The streets are slick and wet. The streetlights blink on, one by one.

There is an ugly silence.

Neighbors walk from the elevator as I enter and I say hello, but they ignore me as if a ghost has said something to them. Upstairs, unpacking the groceries I wonder if I am even here.

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