We walk back onto the road and down towards Niko’s house. The herd of sheep follow us and begin to run up the rocky dirt path. The island whispers. Trees sway above, letting sporadic splotches of sunlight warm the road, pierce the ground, looking like a bundle of rocks landing on the Aegean’s surface. Tiny figs dangle from each branch, growing. I turn to look at the free animals as they hurry to push by. Some get trampled, stuck and pinned between a bigger body and the half-opened fence separating the den from the road. Others squeeze through the tiniest of crevices. They all wiggle themselves out and soar together. They cheer in unison, ringing their bells up the mountain. They don’t have to worry about financial crises.
A marshrutka is kind of a bus but mostly a van, and at full capacity it can carry 10 people from Brody to Lviv. There were 20 passengers in the marshrutka that day. Garrard looked at me and got a thin paperback novel out of his satchel. “It will be at least two hours on this shrutskie today for sure,” he said. He stood hunched over the van’s middle seat and then asked if I wanted some pills.
Garrard is a friend who will stand for two hours so that I can sit. Ours is an intimate friendship wherein I can blindly trust the handful of mystery pills soaked in his palm sweat he gives me. I swallowed the damp pills, a metallic taste lingering on my tongue.
When I was a kid, some of the other ten year olds on the bus taught me how to blow spit bubbles. You catch a loop of air against your bottom lip on the tip of your tongue, then roll up your tongue to blow the bubble off into the air. We had great fun wafting these dime-sized spheres over the bus seats. The bus driver wasn’t so amused. She yelled at us, then reported us to the school for “spitting on the bus.” When I got home, my mother–who was still a stay-at-home mom then, though she started working not long after–gave me a good scolding.
Outside the window I could hear men calling out to one another, stumbling up the street. Night, so!Safe home! Someone started singing. Then the baby stirred and the living room door clicked shut again. This time my husband heard it too. He got up, switched on the lights, checked that the apartment was locked (it was), and then turned off the lights and came back to bed. Soon he was fast asleep.
Underground, you expected a loamy smell. Instead you inhale a dry, metallic breeze. The English-speaking Polish guide tells your tour group that the mine’s temperature holds at 57ºF despite the 80º May day above in Krakow. You zip up your jacket before you descend the stairs cut out of salt.
Some road trips are propelled by an arrow of indifference. We look for the keys on their ring, nestled often in a bag of felid mice. If my open sweater signifies carry, tail and tuft and brass also mean rest.
When we drove past the circus hand’s kitchen, open in way of Southern Indiana late summers, we smelled peaches burning on the rough iron stove. I remembered when you told me that every day is a sliding between an expectation and an opening. It was easy to hand-over every coin in my purse and burn both our tongues with pit fruits and cheap bourbon.
When the radiators overheat we try to turn the knobs wearing oven mitts. At night it’s too hot to sleep, and we open the windows to the cold December air. My nose bleeds intermittently, suddenly, all winter long. I wake in the night to the hot rushing smell of iron, or, elbow-deep in dishwater suds, feel the blood coming too quick to stop.
There exists a certain splendor in the protestations of the electorate on the grounds of the Elected. Here, in the southern wing of the Nebraska State Capitol, roughly 75 farmers, ranchers, environmentalists, Native Americans and other dissidents have gathered to oppose construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, and more specifically, the Governor’s authority to approve the pipeline’s path through Nebraska. They’ve come wearing belt buckles and Wrangler jeans, bolo ties and t-shirts that scream “Pipeline Fighter” and “#NOKXL.” But it’s difficult, in these marbled and dimly lit halls, not to feel awed by the stature of it all, the history cast in bronze and embossed beneath your feet. Even the atheist may be overcome by the grandeur of a cathedral.