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no gold (things will have to wait)

There is an old Russian expression for the inevitable moment when your neighbors begin renovating. "Searching for gold in the walls." They say, to describe the epic sounds of drills in ancient concrete. You might appreciate this odd humor, this dark joke, this survival tactic. I am not so graceful a man to wrap my thoughts around it. Those drills and grinders, they shake the very walls of our apartment. Early on Sunday mornings and often long into the evenings they go.

This has been going on for the last four months, maybe more. I stopped counting.

I cannot imagine there are any walls left, that there is an entire open floor below us, the wind whipping through the naked beams and nothing else. That is the only explanation. Or that they break down walls, build new ones, find a flaw, some grand mistake and then break all of the walls down again. Not swiftly with sledgehammers, but with one crappy old drill with a dull bit, mashing away, so that children hundreds of miles away…

Where is Valery?

I am sitting with E on the bench in front of our house. An old man wobbles towards us and mumbles something. I get the name Valery from it. I guess he is asking for him, where he might be. I ask E what he is saying and she shrugs her shoulders. He looks at us with big wet eyes, his shoulders hanging slack, jeans hiked up with no belt on them, his shoes those big pillow-shaped old people shoes. I shake my head no, apologizing. 

He stands for some time.

Our taxi arrives and we are off. He spins to us, surprised. Maybe he thought we said we knew this Valery. Maybe he thought we told him Valery was coming soon. 




When we come back, there is a cane leaning against the wall under the mailboxes. E has to pee and we have negotiated who gets the bathroom first but I am kneeling on the dirty floor, taking a picture instead. E rolls her eyes.

"Art first!" I announce, jumping into the elevator.

Upstairs I stare at the picture. I tell E I am going back downstairs just for a minute.

The Leica in my hands, my meter in the other I see the cane as the doors slide open with their messy clang. Someone is cooking peppers, and the hall sends out that bitter, green smell.

I breathe slowly, holding it in once I click the shutter. This removes my body's vibrations, lets things be a little bit sharper. Two frames and I reach the end of the roll. I think to go back and load a fresh one but then ask myself if I got it. I go back, twisting the little lever, rewinding the film already.

Later, we go out for milk and eggs and the cane is gone.





Comments

jeannine nye said…
I discovered you through another blogger a while ago, and I am so pleased to read your latest post.. you make life so interesting and manage to convey all the little nuances that make up your day... It must be difficult bringing up a little girl on your own, in fact being a single parent for boy or girl would be hard.. but you seem to embrace all your adventures so happily and I am sure that you are building great memories for your little girl to savour in the future as an adult. I guess you are there for the long term, but hats off to you, you seem to be doing a smashing job.... Do you miss your family in America? I have two of my five kids living abroad.. one in Canada, and the other in Australia.. it broke my heart to see them leave, but it was their road to travel,and despite the cost of airfares I have managed to get to see them, plus of course facebook time to catch up all the news.. keep the stories coming and I shall be back to read them... all the very best from UK.. J

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