We used to make dolls out of little bags of seeds. She kissed me on the mouth in front of the other girls in our art class when she wanted to make a point. When we waited for our respective parents to pick us up, we turned off the lights in the studio and read Japanese horror stories we were entirely too young for by candlelight.
I’ve been on my longest stretch in Kiev since moving to the States. This time, I run into people. It never happened before. I had assumed the city had sifted and separated us out long ago, but now it has other ideas.
Just the other day, as I was buying gum at a kiosk, somebody went “Nataaaaasha! Antoooonova!” A little figure separated itself from the tightly packed, irritable group of people waiting for an obviously behind-schedule bus on the sidewalk. Her hair was still red. She still had her fluffy bangs and plump nose. She stood on tiptoe, put her hands on my face like a blind person studying the features, and said, “you haven’t changed. Well, you got tall.”
I don’t understand how anyone could ever recognize me after all of these years. I used to wear glasses then and little knit hats with knit flowers on them, for God’s sake. I had heard news of her before, heard she worked in some rotten branch of government, heard her sense of humour was the same, but I would have never picked her out on the sidewalk. I stare at my feet when I walk.
She’s a single mom, scandalized by the fact that I don’t have kids yet. “Why not? You don’t need to be married.” But it helps with the bills. “But it’s annoying. I lasted – I’m not kidding – three months.”
“Is it good to be back?” Yes (Well, now…). “What are you doing?” Working. Looking for messages in underpass graffiti. “What are your plans?” To take down your number and buy you a big frothy milkshake.
Her bus finally pulls up, groaning, overladen with more irritated passengers.
Open up your eyes now, tell me what you see.
It is no surprise now, what you see is me.