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no invitation

We are at a 3 year old's birthday party in the back room of a cafe. Music is pumping from a tiny speaker. Balloon animals are popping, and waving in the air. A man in a yellow dinosaur costume dances wildly. Parents snap pictures with satisfied smiles on their faces.

A little girl approaches gingerly and stands in the doorway, straying from her parents somewhere inside the restaurant. She cannot be more than three. It must be hard to ignore all of the noise coming from this room packed with celebration. There is a perfect little pony tail at the back of her head. She hesitates, as one foot poises in the air and then rests back down. How to understand that she was not invited. How to understand the laughter, the loose jumping bodies, the presents piled high on the window. None of this connects to her. There is a little plate of food waiting for her back there, in the quiet restaurant. Maybe a warm bowl of soup, thick with noodles. I watch her for some time.

That night, her empty e…

closely watched trains



On a Sunday afternoon, we decide to take the metro to the film lab. The nearest station is being renovated, so we wander the tunnels beneath the street that lead us to a different entrance. Everything is new here, and they scan our bags.
"It's like we are in the airport or something." E gripes.

I decide to follow the flow of people down the nearest stairs only to understand that this is not the station it used to be. There are a string of stops listed I have never heard of, and trains that are shiny red beasts wheezing in and out of the platform in near silence. This could easily be some kind of recurring dream, when I have to walk on stage naked without knowing my lines now.

But then I understand this is the new line people told me about. I stare at the map until it all makes sense. We take the next train as it arrives, eyeing a giant gap between the car and the platform big enough for a dog or a child to fall through. The seats are soft and blue. Everything smells of fresh plastic. People speak in hushed voices. The station is crawling with police.

It will be eight stops until we get off.
"This is just weird, too weird." E announces,  over and over.

The neighborhoods flit by, nondescript streets where maybe nothing ever happens. No protests, no car crashes, no weddings, no funerals. There are old buildings in the distance, like giant bricks that people live in as they slowly crumble. There is construction, stations with names like Zorgi. Everything somehow looks harmless from the blue seats. Modern, without emotion, no gristle of Soviet design. There are recycling bins on the platforms, in shiny colors. But no one recycles here, and there is one place for all of the garbage to go. This is just some clever propaganda, a photo opportunity, the sheen of civilization.

Families with children in strollers ride for a few stops and get off, their jean jackets and sneakers saying USA and Nike, Hugo Boss and Reebok. They have those same faces, sullen and withdrawn like the people on the metro.

And then we do get to the station, where we will change back to the old network of trains. A smell whips up to greet us, like rotting cotton candy. It is familiar. We will be there soon.








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