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Hey, Lyosha

There are prison tattoos on the backs of his hands. Faded, blotchy shapes and a finger that jabs at a phone. "Hey, Lyosha!" He shouts, as every face on the bus swings to him. There is no answer, no voice on the other side. "Lyosha." He says again, then stares angrily out the windows. I step on someone's foot by accident, apologizing quickly. The young man waves his hand as if to say I did not need to say anything. The man with the tattoos sips from a giant cup of soda from KFC that is balanced on the empty seat next to him.

We pass a hotel we used to live next to, where expensive escorts are ferried in and out like yachts in a harbor. There is a fresh line of flags snapping in a low wind, and an American one is curiously absent. Plenty of the businessmen behind those windows are from the states.

The man brandishes the phone and hands it to the young man in front of me. I did not see that one coming. The young man wipes invisible dust from it, a reserved frown …

after the storm


The doors in the apartment are slamming shut from phantom hands. The sky goes dark, from that Spring pale blue to something green, even purple. Rain smacks against dirty windows. The trees outside, freshly green are bending hard. A wind whips through the city, triggering car alarms. The trees pull and bend, their arms wild, like they are underwater. I realize the window on the balcony is open. It is already flooding when I close it. The window in the bedroom is the same, a cold puddle on the floor.

Now everything is closed, and the wind whistles through the cracks. Roofs are ripping from the tops of low houses. Trees are falling. Traffic lights lean and then tip over onto the sidewalk. Metal signs fly from old hinges, slicing into traffic.

Ten people died that day, many wounded, tens of thousands of dollars of damage.

Later, the sound of chainsaws hum from downstairs. They chop the fallen trees into random pieces, and leave them there. The piles of wet leaves and branches begin to rot in the hot sun that follows. Roots hang upside-down, as dirt-clodded mouths hang open. A black Mercedes splashes through the puddles. Children play in a sandbox, wearing ski hats and down vests.

At night, the wind picks up again. A few days later there is a tornado in another part of the country.

I think to take pictures of the remains of the trees. There is a broken piece of sidewalk I shoot and an old woman passes, eyeing me like I am a cold war spy caught in the act.
"And then what is going to happen?" She asks me, a jab, an accusation.

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