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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…

Moscow in winter


I have started to ignore the Russian winter entirely. The ground has been thick with snow since early October. I slide on wet ice. I stomp the muck and slush from my boots in front of doorways. The snow falls with measured grace from time to time, but mostly in the middle of night when no one can see it swirling around the street lamps. I forget to draw smiles on the hood of N's car. None of this is real. It is simply outside, and I want to stay in.

When the coat is pulled on, I forget. Hat found behind a door, gloves shoved into the back of a closet, I go out to buy chicken, and milk. In the early darkness, people plod along, many with a cigarette dangling from their fingers. I navigate the hovering parked cars, exhaust choking from their tailpipes. The stores are muddy, desperate, the faces tired and confused. The aisles are re-arranged in one, but there is nothing new on the shelves, just the same dented boxes of juice.

This is Moscow in winter.


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