Without air conditioning, our windows are constantly open. We wake to smoke less punishing, thanks to an overnight shower and the prayers of many back home. We walk to the kids’ flat; several run to let us in when we buzz the bell outside their building. Having sacrificed the air conditioned accommodations for them, it is mildly annoying to find the unit turned off as we enter.
Angelina travelled unhosted in January (Scared, 12/21/09). The last day of the trip, we interviewed the kids; toward the end, she had yet to speak. Faith gently probed about what she’d most enjoyed, and got three or four words in response before a very charming boy started laughing, interjecting a snide comment. Angelina clammed up, not willing to finish her thought. It vexed me that the charmer, family safely in pocket, heartlessly mocked the shy girl. As Angelina refuses participation, I feel sure she remembers the January experience, and I must work to suppress resentment toward the boy whose long-past thoughtlessness denies her a chance to shine now.
At the metro, my magnetic ticket allows us sixty rides, the least expensive option for short-term visitors. Before we’re in the door, the kids clamor to scan the strip on the card reader. It’s already hard to remember who has had a turn, and who hasn’t. As I watch a child scan the card, I worry it won’t read between entrants, and that the gate will slam closed on the unwitting second to pass, assuring its victim multiple bruises. The metro resounds with a loud, singsongy tune whenever able-bodied cheaters jump the gate. Cheerless women wearing sour, no-nonsense expressions man booths nearby, blowing police whistles as they menacingly, but impotently, jab the air at the freeloaders.
Traipsing back to our own flat, someone remembers we need toilet paper. At a store open day and night, shopping reminds me of a book I read about marketing; in a phenomenon they called “the butt brush effect,” the authors claimed customers would stop browsing in an area the third time they were bumped from behind. Here, in aisles wide enough for only one person, I’m thinking the butt brush threshold would have to be higher. The inventory consists of expensive blue paper, or abrasive brown Soviet-holdout paper, sold singly for about twelve cents per roll. Back at the flat, exhaustion lowers inhibitions as we envision how we would advertise the rough paper, were we the ad agency charged with such an unenviable assignment. We settle on, “Your butt might feel it, but your wallet won’t!” and laugh uproariously until I feel lightheaded.
My room is really an office next to the kitchen, and it lacks a door. The location teems with distractions, and renders blogging impossible. While I’m on the phone, Jeff cobbles together nine wimpy trash bags into a makeshift door. Before I hang up, the thin blue plastic offers some semblance of privacy. Krista decorates it with my name, but I can’t decide if I should be honored or offended by the crown she draws atop the “B.”
By the time my lights go out, a fifteen-minute rainstorm has begun and ended. A stiff breeze is blowing through, and I reach for the duvet. With a cleansing rain, the welcome chill, my bag door, the hearty laughing session, and the prayers of those who love me at home, things are looking up.
I'm going to make it.
I'm going to make it.