The Obvious

what i saw today

Posted in nablopomo, people, vilnius by theobvious on November 24, 2010

An old man and woman walking and holding hands. When I asked them for directions, the lady stepped in front of her man in a practised motion of taking charge and explained kindly. She then fell right back into step and into her conversation with him.

A guy on the bus telling the driver that women have trouble letting go of their virginity, but not their money.

An old blue van with a huge yellow smiley face on the front and “E=mc2” in yellow letters on the side. The people inside were laughing, probably happy, safe in their knowledge that E will always equal that, whatever happens.

Twenty minutes’ worth of streets in V. I didn’t recognize (that’s a lot for a small city of 600,000 people). When the bus finally wove out of the dark industrial neighbourhood, a graffiti said: “Welcome to V., such as it is.”

La Bayadère.

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quick one before bed

Posted in nablopomo, people by theobvious on November 23, 2010

My greatest achievement today was meeting the main shareholder of a large company and teaching him, at his request, how to fold origami stars.

Tomorrow I’m giving a silly lecture in a resort town two hours’ ride from V., so I have to get up at seven. On Sunday it was 8 (after a 3 a.m. bedtime) to look for the cat, on Monday it was 7.45 to get to work, today it was 8 to meet the cleaning lady at 9. All in all, a rather night-owl-unfriendly week.

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our couch is good for surfing

Posted in food, good, people, vilnius by theobvious on November 19, 2010

The couchsurfers are here, and I expected it to be weird, because we’ve never been in a situation where we have to meet completely new people in our house with nobody to introduce us. Surprisingly, we quite hit it off, it seems, unless these are very polite people who’ll hang out with you because they don’t want to offend.

It’s a nice feeling to get to know someone with no shared background at all: not a new member in an existing group, or a new addition to an old team, or someone we got to meet because they’re Jewish. The only thing that unites us is that they were interested in seeing this town, and we happen to live here and have an open home.

For a while now, we’ve been a bit isolated in our own house. Many of our friends moved abroad this year, and in two couples the boys turned out to have severe allergies to cats, so hardly anyone comes to visit, and when we go out, it’s usually either the two of us, or us and my parents, or us and one other couple. We love them, but it does get monotonous.

Despite my social phobia and the anxiety I feel each time when there may be new people to meet, it feels quite nice to just sit there with someone I know nothing about and chat about Morocco and cats and thesis advisors and tourists. And pie, A. baked a pie!

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mr. z., only low prices and brooke novodanilovsky

Posted in people, thoughts by theobvious on November 7, 2010

A famous Russian designer and as of late, blogger, renames his blog every week with a random quote from spam. The provenance of this post’s title is the same. For some reason, spammers have been insisting on addressing me as Mr. When I was younger, so much younger than today, I would have rejoiced in this mistake, as my greatest grievance was that I’d been born a girl.

Boys do have it so much better, in every respect, from the obvious fact that boys’ clothes, footwear, and accessories are more beautiful than girls’, to the convenient use of upright objects for emergency relief, to not having baby-making factories inside, to a simpler way with exercise, to being able to do certain things without looking funny or too butch, to so many other things.

As a child, I always identified with the male characters in books: they had all the fun, experienced character growth while being forced to perform heroic feats at an early and unprepared age, and so on, while girls were usually portrayed as wimpy, clingy, and histrionic. There would always be a younger sister who’d latch herself onto the hero and make him bring her everywhere. Dump her into a ditch!, I would think.

Being a girl sucks in comparison to being a boy. I may have said it here before. This is the kind of thing I think about a lot. It’s probably 85% stereotype, but I stand by it. And just now in Gtalk someone said “were I a girl…” in regard to something completely unrelated, but it still made me laugh.

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a bit of a filler post, but a true story

Posted in nablopomo, people, weird by theobvious on November 3, 2010

Dear diary,

I stalked someone a bit today. I was meeting a friend for tea up at the bookstore/cafe next door to work, and there were a few minutes to spare, so I got out my reader. This pleasant-looking lady was nursing her little baby at the next table. After a few minutes, she suddenly addressed me in English, asking which model the reader was. Keen as I am to advertise the things I like, I explained about it (it’s a Digma, the webpage is in Russian, but I can totally vouch for it), and went back to reading.

Later, my friend had arrived and we sat chatting, when I saw the lady get up to leave. For some reason, an image flashed before my eyes of her and me getting to know each other, me getting up the courage to say how I admire her for nursing in public (I’m so for that, and I loved this recent heartfelt post on the subject), and so on, so I just rushed after her and stuck my card in her hand, saying she could ask me if she wanted to follow up on the reader, then grinned stupidly and went back to my table. Looking back, I’ve no idea why I did that, but I’m fairly sure I freaked her out.

And that, dear diary, is how I tried being creepy for the first time in my life. Is this how dorky guys feel when they’re trying to get hot girls to go out with them?

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best conversations i’ve had all week

Posted in nablopomo, people by theobvious on November 11, 2009

So there’s this new chat service,, which picks out a random anonymous partner for you to talk to. Reminds me of good old times on IRC (actually, the person whose link I followed said the same thing). Of course, there are different kinds of conversation one can have on this kind of website, some very rewarding (like the one I had with the porn star who offered to sell me crack cocaine through PayPal), but some, let’s just say, aren’t.

Connecting to server…
Looking for someone you can chat with. Hang on.
You’re now chatting with a random stranger. Say hi!
Stranger: hey
You: hey
Stranger: horny female?
Stranger: i am horny male
You: good for you:)
Stranger: are you female?
You: yes
Stranger: do u have webcam?
You: no
Stranger: naked pics?
You: nope
Stranger: boring
Your conversational partner has disconnected.

Connecting to server…
Looking for someone you can chat with. Hang on.
You’re now chatting with a random stranger. Say hi!
Stranger: swe?
You: hi, what’s swe?
Your conversational partner has disconnected.

Lots of other such examples. Still, I’ve actually met someone very nice, and I think sometimes it’s worth just talking to someone called Stranger and knowing that you are a Stranger to them as well.

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Posted in people by theobvious on July 20, 2009

There is a confession on my mind. You are probably aware of those many forums scattered over the www, where aggravated shop assistants and annoyed waiters complain to each other of the insufferable clients, the insolence, the sheer bother of it all. Well. I wonder if they ever talk about the customers who waste their time.

Sometimes, there’s no helping or denying it, I feel compelled to have these strange interactions with people who don’t know me, can’t possibly catch me lying. I write this from a cafe in a shopping mall; in twelve minutes I will have to go; it’s been two hours since I arrived. There is nothing I need. I spent all this time in shops.

‘Hello,’ I smile politely, ‘Would you mind explaining something?’ ‘Sure,’ says the tall blonde girl hospitably. ‘Well, I was trying on those shirts – true – and they crease in the back. Would you say I need a larger size or a smaller one? Maybe a different cut?’ The girl launches into an explanation about shirt cuts, creases, and sizes, and finally suggests I try the shirt on again for her. When it doesn’t fit, she reassures me that they have other similar shirts in different cuts and takes me on a tour. Finally I thank her profusely, promising to come back with my husband or a friend, thinking I probably won’t. ‘You’ll find the one that’s good for you,’ the girl says warmly. I feel uplifted.

‘Hi, I am going on a trip, there’ll be lots of walking, do you think these shoes are up for it?’ – in the next shop. ‘Oh yes,’ this girl is curvy and a brunette, the type I like. ‘Everything on this shelf is very comfortable and durable. You can also try these… – hideous white ones – or these… – old ladies would love them – or any of them, really.’ ‘Thank you,’ I grin, try a pair on, then wander away from the shop. My next stop has nothing for me to try on; it is a baby store. ‘Could you please explain the sizing? Is it in centimeters? A boy of six months, on the small side… Thank you so much, I will ask his mother.’ Then, ‘Could you recommend a cold coffee drink which would not be sweet?’ – cue long-winded explanation by the barista on syrups and their sweetness ratio. ‘Thank you so much, I think I’ll just have a cold latte. Thanks.’

And then I sit down to type some words. There is a calm feeling in my stomach from talking to people and being very very nice to them, smiling and having them smile back. It is a rare moment for me when unfamiliar people do not make me feel uneasy. It is something to cherish, even though I realize I’ve kept these people from working, distracted each of them for several valuable minutes. It’s just that sometimes I get so lonely when I’m on my own. And then – I do always offer thanks and am always sincere. And I do regret it somewhat.

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i am tired of being jovial

Posted in i don't know, people, thoughts by theobvious on July 10, 2009

I wonder what the life of someone who works carrying a sandwich board ad in Moscow is like.

He (let him be a man, though women seem to be just as many in the job) lives in a dinky flat on the very edge of the huge metropolis: twenty minutes by bus from the last tube station. The flat is small and gets quite chilly, but it is all he can afford with the rent so high these days – he was not one of the few people actually born in the city and is forced to settle for what little is available.

The owner is a lady in her fifties who wears brown cardigans, paints her nails red a tad too infrequently, and hardly ever shows up at the place, preferring instead to pick the money up every month somewhere on the metro. All the furniture reeks of a mixture of heavy perfume, cat piss, and age. Most of it is brown, the rest – of an indeterminate colour. Nothing matches, not even things that supposedly once came in a set. This may be for the best.

In the morning the tenant wakes up in a bed of flowered sheets, walks the cold floor to the cold bathroom, switches on the light, and brushes his teeth while staring at his reflection in the mirrored drug cabinet above the sink. Toothpaste water splashes onto the mirror, and his face looks as though there are white blotches on it. Shaving feels like too much of a hassle more often than not; probably, nobody looks at a walking sandwich board’s face anyway.

After a breakfast of salami sandwiches and tea (yesterday’s cold slimy leaves in a teapot which lacks a lid, a handle, and any sort of high tea glamour) he heads out. Though it is quite early, the bus is packed, and then so is the metro carriage. People knock and shove each other, trying to make way for their bags and paperbacks. It takes a while to get to the office, where the board is waiting, stored somewhere with dozens of its siblings. He works his head through it, then adjusts the straps.

Outside, the tourists have not woken up yet, and the working people only look at the ground they’re treading in case of encountering gum, litter, or someone they know but would rather not notice. The day is spent dragging his feet time and time again around the block, or repeating whatever the sandwich board says in a dull hollow voice, pestering the people who come out of the underground crossing. Every flyer he hands out gets thrown into the nearby bin or to the ground, never read, much like the board he is wearing.

When it is time to get home, he is worn out and angry. On the tube back home, he kicks and shoves with a vengeance, and does not get up to offer his place even to the oldest, most frail of grandmas. He does not call anyone; there is nobody to call. He watches tv for a while, eating something from a can, then makes some tea for there to be something stale to drink the next morning, goes to sleep, and dreams of being tired.

Or maybe it is all entirely different.

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Posted in life, me myself, meme, new year, people by theobvious on January 2, 2009

It’s already 2009, who’d have thunk. Here’s my contribution to Sundry‘s ever-growing list of 2008 recaps.

1. What did you do in 2008 that you’d never done before? Learn Danish, climb huge rocks, get a year ticket to the opera, travel alone for no reason.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I don’t remember making any last year, and I make resolutions every day anyway.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? Yes! I’m now a happy aunt! (My cousin had a son a few days ago)

4. Did anyone close to you die? Unfortunately, yes.

5. What countries did you visit? Israel, Ukraine (first time), and Russia.

6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008? Patience, a hot bod, and a house in Jerusalem.

7. What dates from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? Probably the days of #3 and#4. And also the day A. gave me a very special gift.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Several months of daily workouts; shooting a vow renewal ceremony for my friend’s parents.

9. What was your biggest failure? The following several months of no workouts at all; the whole driving license fiasco.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? No.

11. What was the best thing you bought? My Nikon D40.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration? My family members.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? My own?

14. Where did most of your money go? Take-out coffee and stupid stuff.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? My nephew, my camera, working out, seeing Bob Dylan and Katie Melua live.

16. What song will always remind you of 2008? Maybe February by Jesus Jones or Ghost Town by Katie Melua.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder?
About the same.
b) thinner or fatter? A tad thinner, I guess, but still fatter than I’d like.
c) richer or poorer? Potentially richer, if I get to work now.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of? Changing. Schoolwork.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Succumbing to my weaknesses, whining, and procrastinating.

20. How did you spend Christmas? A shift at the hotline and watching Grease on the eve, working the whole day Christmas day.

21. Did you fall in love in 2008? I’m married, this is obviously a trick question.

22. What was your favorite TV program? What, one? I watched and liked Scrubs, House MD, How I Met Your Mother, Whose Line Is It Anyway, Top Design, Project Runway, Californication, and Will&Grace.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? I don’t think so.

24. What was the best book you read? Lost in Translation by Eva Hoffman and maybe Don Quixote.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery? The Jews Brothers Band might not have been the greatest, but it’s the most recent.

26. What did you want and get? Beside various items, I got to go to Israel and the Crimea; I also made two friends in university, which I’d lost hope of doing a while ago; and I learned some Danish.

27. What did you want and not get? Myself together.

28. What was your favorite film of this year? Wall-E, Get Real and The Fall.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I worked all day, argued a lot, and was hungry. I turned 22.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? More peace with myself and the world around.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008? Whatever fits?

32. What kept you sane? A. and the gym.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Stephen Fry – always.

34. What political issue stirred you the most? Maybe the U.S. presidential elections.

35. Who did you miss? Most of my friends – they all live far away.

36. Who was the best new person you met? My friend’s boyfriend S.?

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008. Always write down valuable lessons in case of an end-of-year quiz.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year. Is there a song about how I only remember the past two weeks? ‘I have been drinking heavily the whole time, lalala’?

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the neurotic kingdom of teenage angst

Posted in emotions, friends, link, people, photos, studies, video by theobvious on September 2, 2008

I’ve been watching this all day. It’s about a young woman’s experience at art school. I asked a friend what art school was for him (he is a fourth-year student at the school I’m considering for myself), and he told me to watch this hour-long film.

Yesterday I was positively jumping with excitement at the thought of taking all the classes on the curriculum, finally getting a framework for my photography (as it were), and laying a theoretical foundation to my practical blunderings. Today I am back to my (permanent, as of recently) state of anxiety and self-deprecation: I am not, nor have I ever been, a creative, smart, and interesting person who can actually pull off art school. My photos aren’t good enough to be accepted.

Meanwhile, today was the first day of my third year at my current school. It went better than I’d expected, though I’d expected something so dreadful I had nightmares and woke with a tremendous headache. (The day is over, but the headache is still here.) Tomorrow I have a date with my orthodontist which will interfere with a class. That’s an early start by any standard, even for me. I usually don’t go skipping classes for the first couple of weeks or so.

All hope is not lost, however. On Saturday a dear friend appeared out of nowhere (okay, he was driving from Latvia to Russia with his whole family and passed us on the way), and we spent the whole afternoon with him. Also, we have tickets to see and hear Katie Melua October 13th. If that’s not something to look forward to, I don’t know what is.

our friend a.
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escape into blogland

Posted in emotions, love, people, photos, travel by theobvious on August 22, 2008

For the past several days my mind has been an informational and emotional Alcatraz: plenty of treasure on the inside, nothing ever gets out. The trip was so overwhelming and so tiring that I felt as though my ability to share had been swept away. I was all left back there, exhausted.

Every time I’d close my eyes, I’d immediately fall asleep and see people laughing, frowning, waving at me. My favourite girls in dresses wet with seawater, my dear boys with stubble on their chins and hoarse voices from the singing and the endless arguing. I saw countless breathtaking Crimean views – mountains, plains, the sea – but none as beautiful as my friends. Then, again and again, I’d force myself awake and find myself alone, hundreds of miles away from the people I regard as my world.

I thought I needed a timeout to get back on track, but it seems like that timeout could go on forever. So I’m easing myself into normalcy, browsing Etsy, working out, editing photos (half-thinking of selling some prints), drinking Coffee of the Week at the Coffee Inn, following Olympic basketball (Lithuania lost to Spain in the semi-finals, bah), watching Wall-E (the cuteness!), reading all your blogs, trying on my own blogging hat once again. Welcome back, me.

people on the roof

people on the roof

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a penny for my thoughts won’t be enough

Posted in emotions, home, important, language, me myself, people, photos, places, thoughts, travel, valuable lesson, writing by theobvious on June 23, 2008

This trip turned out to be a learning trip. It was so rich with revelations there was practically no room left for much else.

I learned once again about real friendship, which doesn’t always need to involve personal presence, but is all the more exciting when it does. A friendship I value is a lucky, tricky, strange, full, and happy convergence of two people who couldn’t be more different or more alike. I am lucky to have several of these.

I learned about being the object of the emotions other people usually evoke in myself: concern, kindness, incomprehension, puzzlement, impatience, endless patience, affection, and a desire to share. I haven’t thought much about the way I react to these, and it is probably time to give it more consideration.

I learned a very important lesson about coping with loneliness. I was by myself a lot on the trip, however this was not the self-sufficient solitude of choice, but rather the desolate loneliness of choicelessness. The hours I spent this way left me despairing, with nothing to apply myself to, scared. I want to avoid these.

Finally, I learned something about writing. Someone gave me ‘Lost in Translation’ by Eva Hoffman to read, and the slow, soft, reflective style of someone who went through assimilating a whole new language as their main means of self-expression is an epiphany for me. There is much food for thought in this.

looking up

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my locker-room conversion

Posted in emotions, exercise, me myself, people, thoughts, valuable lesson by theobvious on April 11, 2008

Remember when I complained about feeling awkward in the locker-room at the gym? That has changed. I have been making amazing discoveries. There is a phenomenon acutely present there which I had never experienced such full contact with before, and it is called womanhood.

The women at the gym are quite an assorted bunch. Some of them are annoying, to tell the truth, but each and every one of them, in her unique way, is a woman, a lady, a female – a girl. The sense of femininity is expressed every second, in their every move and action, in their very being.

I can see women standing before mirrors, gingerly poking their sides to see how they’ll look when they lose several pounds. I can see them stealing furtive glances at other women, comparing, envious, gloating, compassionate. I notice that their choice of undergarments is telling.

A woman of about 60 is putting on her swimsuit after a workout. When the slick fabric covers the bumps and scars of age, work, and motherhood, she becomes another happy ageless girl in the bubble bath – just like the three-year old next to her, come with her mom, laughing loud and hard.

In the locker-room, everyone shares – the space and ergo, for just a moment, their life. As I stand before the full-length mirror (alas, no such luxury at home), I see reflections of women leaning against lockers, drying themselves, chatting and giggling at each other, sorting their belongings.

After the workout, the girls gradually transform out of sharing mode, they cover themselves in layers: body cream, then underwear, clothes, accessories, packed bags, lastly a business-like air. They walk out into the lobby and call their assorted boys to pick them up and back into their lives.

Still, a girl, I’ve found out, is always a girl: when she adds a little extra wiggle to her salsa hips – the instructor is a handsome, amiable guy – and when she blushes in the locker-room, surrounded for the first time by casual nudity. When she lingers in the shower, and when she rushes out, hair still dripping.

I used to say I was unfeminine. In our first months together, A. never gave me flowers, because he thought I’d hate them. He was surprised to learn that I actually liked receiving flowers from him. I am now equally surprised to find myself doing all those things I just described. What do you know – I am, too, a girl.

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i’m back

Posted in important, love, people by theobvious on April 1, 2008

Wow, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? It’d be a lie to say I missed the Internet. I was having too much fun. As a result of this week though, there were over 1000 new posts on LiveJournal and over 700 sitting in my Google Reader when I switched the laptop on today. I’m almost through now, but I skimmed, so sorry for the lack of comments.

The plan was to pretend nothing had happened and head straight to class-coffee-workout, but all I could muster any enthusiasm at all for was the gym – now that I’d missed. Tae Bo is invigorating and I can’t wait to switch to a real martial art class when I shape up at the gym. Class – meh. I might go tomorrow, or not, depends how long I spend enjoying the sunny spring weather in the afternoon.

Right before I left a touching story happened: a famous blogger posted about some bad news in her family. Most of her readers immediately assumed her mother had died, because the mother is also a blogger, loved by all. So when they found out she was, in fact, not dead, they all left her comments like – ‘So glad you’re alive!’ and ‘Great that you’re still here!’

When I read that, I thought how we never usually tell people that. I’m glad you’re alive? That’s weird. But then suddenly they’re gone, or you’re just not talking to them anymore – and that’s it. You’ve not said it and they will never know. So now upon my return to the www, I’m rushing first off to say to my beloved friends and relatives: even if you don’t read this, it’s awesome that you’re alive! I understand it all the better now, after having spent a week with many of you and now returned to my City of Few People. Miss you all already.

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surrounded by people

Posted in i don't know, people, random, vilnius by theobvious on February 19, 2008

It’s 9.30 pm when I get to a trolleybus stop in the centre of the city. It’s dark and drizzling. Two people are shuffling about in the white light of a vitamin ad. One of them is missing an arm, the other has pupils so narrow his blue eyes look like empty fishtanks. They are clearly intoxicated, probably on drugs. I brace myself, but they are too busy discussing money and leave on the first bus.

Next, a group of three shows up: a bushy-haired woman, dressed in a long black coat and black trousers, a fellow in tight jeans, looking like Johnny Depp in a cheap crime flick, and a drunk man with a cigarette. The man is half pleading, half harassing the lady, grabbing for her shoulders, mumbling. When he gets too physical, the young man pushes him away in an easy motion – he is taller and very calm.

As I stand there, trying to assess the level of aggression, thinking whether I should interfere, a trolleybus arrives. The three get on, still arguing, and I follow. I sit facing them, thinking slow thoughts about fear (I’m not afraid of being hit, except for the face, because of the glasses and the braces). There are other people inside: a man in a cap, with a gold ring on his finger, is speaking importantly on his cell – ‘Yeah, I’ll call you tomorrow, after the shoot.’ A bulky middle-aged woman is frowning into the window.

The lady in the black clothes sits down, and her son (I’m guessing that’s what he is), wraps his arm loosely around her, protecting her from – his father? – trying to lean in from the back. His face looks skeptical and contemptuous. His whole posture broadcasts control. It feels like this is a familiar situation for them, requiring no intervention.

Yet there are newcomers on the bus who think otherwise. Several drunken kids about my age, dressed funky (one is wearing shiny golden sneakers, all of them in skinny jeans with silver chains), berate the man for assaulting the lady. They are insistent: threatening, upbraiding, gesturing, shouting; but ‘Johnny Depp’ is smiling, nodding – it’s alright, everything is fine.

The youngsters tumble out soon, taking the noise with them. The journey continues in silence, even the loud man is off his cellphone now. I look at the woman across from me, taking comfort in the sight of her confident, disapproving face and her trouser-clad elephantine legs. I think she might be a teacher, or an accountant. Sensible, respectable, no-nonsense, she is my safety (normality? reality?) anchor, and she doesn’t even know it.

When we get to my stop, the worrisome trio gets off and onto the same path I need to take to get home. They are still grumbling, but the boy does not need to shove the man anymore. I keep my distance, walking behind them. At some point they veer off. I pull my hood over my eyes and concentrate on the McGilliguddys playing in my earphones. This is not a bad movie, just a regular night.

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