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Albino (part one)

I began writing Albino two million years ago. I had an editor then, who lived a few blocks away. We would meet for breakfast on Avenue A, quietly forking into home fries as we discussed the structure of the story - the economy of objects. A dollar bill was not just a dollar bill in this story, it was connected to thought and action, to music and transformation. This was the story that told me there was a whole book to dig into, mining for diamonds in the backwaters of America, turning over the ugliest rocks to better understand relationships between fathers and sons.

Last week, I stumbled across a call for submissions - not for a journal, but for a podcast where the work of new writers was read aloud. I thought back to a reading I had done of just the first few pages of Albino - a messy hero's journey,  a young man and a guitar, a man with loss and regret, a man that still had something to lose. That reading went well, enough that I felt a strange elation stepping off the stage i…

brutal youth (and twenty seven wishes)

He swings the book bag hard, thwacking her right across the face. I look up at the two of them, guessing they are both eleven, maybe twelve years old. He swings again, landing square on her nose and she is knocked back. A mother standing at the bottom of the stairs of the lobby separates them, as they shove against her, as voices shrill in the clammy air his higher than hers. 
Questions are asked. 
The boy speaks first, his eyes bulging from his face red now dripping with tears. His skin is pale, almost translucent. The girl stands, calm, tapping one toe on the wet floor. She interrupts, shrugs her shoulders. A group of mothers stare at them. I cannot tell which one is his, or which one is hers. 
They are not children. The girl wears pink cowboy boots covered in sequins. The boy is sobbing. He looks like he has never been in the sun or even the playground. I do not understand a word that is being said so I am left guessing who is guilty based on body language. 
I cannot tell. 
The security guard comes back inside from smoking his cigarette. I stare at him, wishing I had the words to rub his nose in, that I pay a special fee every month for him to sit in the lobby, that mothers are doing his work for him, that he is useless. 
I get a text message from E. They will be late coming back from the field trip, maybe even an hour. I watch the boy being dragged off by his mother. I would not have guessed it was her. The girl sighs, hands on hips. She seems too calm. I wonder if this is a subtle message, that she is the instigator. 


The children arrive in a messy group and E waves at me from behind the glass of the front doors. I jump up to take her and she makes a face.
"We can't go home yet." She tells me. "It's Grischa's birthday.
"It will take five minutes." Her teacher tells me in English.
I take E's hand and we climb the stairs together. The classroom is full of children, some still with their coats and hats on. As soon as the teacher enters the room they raise their hands.
A blonde boy stands by the chalkboard. The teacher rests her hands on his shoulders. She calls out the children's names and each one compliments Grischa, then describes something they wish for him. He smiles after each one, his head ducking forwards in quick thanks.
After all the wishes have been made, the teacher pulls his ears with a gentle tug and the children count to nine. He must remain on his toes on the ninth one as he tiptoes to a bag on his desk. He doles out chocolates and chewy candies to each of them, making a series of serpentine trips around the room until his bags are empty. He offers me a chocolate wrapped in purple foil and I take it. The children laugh, shoving things into their bags and wriggling around in their seats.
We head home as E tells me about Pushkin's house, and how his great grandfather was African, about what the rooms looked like, about how she did not get sick on the bus even though she does in cars.


We stand in the line for the poultry stand at rinok. There is an old woman in front of us arguing about the price of the eggs, or maybe just the cost of the paper carton. I am not sure. A round woman wattles up behind us with a little boy. He cannot be older than three. He is crying. She slaps at his face with a flyswatter until he stops. E rolls her eyes up to me. I shake my head. We cannot say anything. The boy makes quiet whining noises. He suddenly looks younger to me.
I ask for a small chicken, less than two kilos.
The boy begins to cry again and the woman smacks his ams and bottom with the flyswatter. People are passing us. No one bats an eye.
We go inside to buy a pastry for the walk home.




Comments

liv said…
If any idiot ever questioned the fact that you stay in that crazy place for your daughter, they should read that one again........she needs you to balance out this stuff, this crazy stuff that goes on there, that seems so common and unexamined.

Please tell E that I am very happy for her that she did not get sick on the bus. I can relate to that, I too get car sick easily - birds of a feather :)

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