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What we know, however, is uncertain. In relatively lower-income neighborhoods people talk to each other while standing in line (one meter apart) at the local supermarket; one cracks a joke and the conversations, like a dance, begin; in richer areas no one says a word, almost afraid to talk, the situation must feel odder to them, some of them have clearly never even been to the local supermarket. However, why do we have this? China! in the low, gray clouds in the sky this morning – they want to level the world’s economy!; the US, always interfering!; there’s France, Germany, and the never-old, although quite new historically, European Union. The immigrants because they weren’t getting sick (xenophobia); the Chinese with their restaurants and damaged products (sinophobia); the succession of historical plagues, 1720, 1820, 1920, 2020, the latter option having almost entertained me till the social-media poster was worried about our lives in 2120, like we will all survive for the great catastrophe and at that point, really, you, post-writer, world, all of us, either know too much or know nothing at all.


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I turned the heat off. For two days, in February. The weather’s deceived me, though. It’s gotten cold again. Now it’s one of those days when you’d love to be, or you’re reminded of, a house in the country surrounded by hills, a fire crackling in the big living room, rectangular windows to the outside world, biting cold, but cloudless light-blue, when you feel nature knows best, she wouldn’t be taken in by a few warm sun rays. At this latitude! We may have created the concept, but nature knows what it really means. So the heat goes back on, like winter in reverse, and it would be lovely to be carried around the old pipes in the walls, like warm water from the boiler to these white radiators far from the window, as the low cut of the winter sun reaches them, too. They are dusty!

In response to:



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I am deaf and yet the world listens. I am blind and yet the world sees. I don’t talk and yet there are sounds. What a strange combination of thoughts. If I were any of these things I would think intuitively everybody else was like me, till they told me it wasn’t so. The other side of the little valley is the village, once thriving, now much less, with the willing effort of a so-called repopulation. We never can let go completely, but it does strike the imagination now as the unpretentious bell tower, above the rooftops, has a tuft of something sticking out under the tatty small dome of slate. It’s blades of grass, quite a clump must be, seen so from a distance, and it makes the bell tower a proper ruin in the modern sense – sneaky for a piece of architecture.


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It gets dark so early now – she whispered. A streetlight had just been lit. The man behind her was thinking – you could tell – back at the time when they used candles to light streetlights and it was all amber-yellow. As if he’d been there in person! She hated the reflection of herself in the huge window of the bus as each streetlight seemed to get its neon activated when the bus passed by it, it did something unpleasant to the red of her hair, so she tried to take the bus only before it got too dark – the sun never did create unpleasant impressions while riding through the city. Suddenly both were jolted forward and slightly to the right, a screech of the brakes and a few damning words in at least three languages: tourists! She turned around and caught the look in his eyes – he didn’t react. He was thinking now of old stagecoaches and horse-drawn buggies. She could tell.



While as much as one fifth of the population might not know they’re actually celiac – so take the test, 50% off till the end of January! – we all found out pretty quickly that the escalators in the subway can become quite narrow on arctic winter days, when the stand-on-the-right and walk-on-the-left policy just can’t work right as our ballooning winter coats and jackets over layers of shirts, undershirts, T-shirts, sweatshirts etc. just make us so puffy there’s no room left, on the left. Elbows sticking out on the other side, some holding bags – It’s too tight if you don’t stretch out a bit! The rhythm of sorry and excuse me starts orchestra-like at every unloading of inflated passengers, reduced to strutting, chests out, like a disbanded horde of overly proud army officers I saw once in a French movie, marching while eating a tart, gluten not being much of a problem then.



“In light of the fact that my clothes are hanging on the doornail, I think I should explain why I’m lying here naked in your bed. You see, last night…” “No, no.” “But it’s important, you mustn’t think I sneaked my way in. You see, last night…” “No, no!” “But if I don’t tell you, then I’ll be the only one to know and I don’t want that. So you see, last…” pause for effect, anticipating. The other looked, was about to say the two-letter starts-with-N and ends-with-O word – didn’t. “…night, there was a crowd partying in the street, along the boulevard, and fireworks, and the garbage cans were on fire, people were peering from their windows, and then like fire shots too in the background. I met you on the shore, near the deserted summer pavilion. I thought the night had scared you, too. And then we came to this part of town.”



The trained ear never fails to recognize the incoming train. The very well trained ear will also figure out which direction the train’s coming from. Trained as in having spent countless moments at any time of day and at any time of year in the underground station, a northern junction, the two platforms – northbound and to downtown – separated by a wall with strange oval holes at the bottom near the tracks. You can’t see the passengers on the other side but you can feel the movement of the wind and the echo it creates, muffled at first and then like that of a ball rolling (in writing it would be a series of b’s and d’s amplified in pitches that sink lower and lower till the brakes of the incoming train shriek fumingly, though at that point the eyes catch the two massive headlights and sight takes over. Not to mention relief given the unreliable state of public transport!)



On the escalator at a subway station, November 14. This city turns on its centralized heating systems the next day. And come November 10 those five days inevitably occur of inexplicable freezing, of little-electric-heater warm hugs, praying for the roaring sound of all the heating systems being set ablaze at once! And people are apparently more susceptible to a cold under these conditions.

On the escalator, he approaches, a tissue just pulled out of his coat pocket, she hurries ahead in fear of germs.

He notices and smiles – he would do exactly the same.

He steps on the escalator, she’s two steps ahead; he blows his nose, she takes a few steps up.

He smiles again – he would do exactly the same.

Off the escalator on the platform, it all gets lost, her puffy coat, beret and voluminous scarf. His only sneeze in a crowd of quiet coughing.



They smashed their way in through the double-paned French window in the kitchen. They were looking for cash and gold, cheap items they would resell, no traces. They figured there’d be some in the drawers – a house full of drawers! – the average person’s hiding place!

So they pulled them out, went through them, found little or nothing, and then hurled them hard on the ceramic floor tiles downstairs, on the wood flooring upstairs. TVs, computers: they left untouched. A few expensive watches: they tossed on the floor, the glass case all broken. There were old wallets with no money in some of the drawers, those too they flung angrily down on the floor.

“What’s the point of keeping all this old shit?” they must have mumbled, “Who would? Not us. Why do they?”

28 October 1916


28 October 1916

Dear Paula,

I know I said I would write tomorrow. And in a way, today is tomorrow. Of yet another day. I could also pretend your letter did not reach me till yesterday, or that I posted this some months ago and be sure it would take some months exactly to reach you. Some months and a couple of days. Lies. In the meantime, work has begun in the old convent and I am personally supervising the restoration of a fresco. I’m a self-taught fresco painter. The angels smile at me, and those that seemed wrathful I have changed to cheerful. Because I can. You know I don’t believe.

They have won, though, as I’ve stayed and not left, and I’ve started appreciating the overcast days when the moss-covered walls of… I will do something about those walls, too. I just don’t know when I’ll start.

More soon, I believe. Be well, if you can.