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September 23, 2006 - 11:59 am


You are from a big, boisterous, close-knit Russian Orthodox family who own a restaurant in the suburbs. You are the only boy. You are gentle and passionate and serious. Your father is loud and happy and he cooks while your mother and sisters serve customers and wash dishes in floral print dresses with aprons. Your grandmother is a small person with a bun of braided gray hair who sits in a wheelchair and wears an oxygen tube. She doesn't speak any English, but I can tell she sees a lot of herself in you. She likes you and slips you money sometimes. Not a lot, but still. You take her to the movies sometimes, whatever she wants to see. Your older sister has long, black hair and laughs a lot. She adores you. She's getting married soon to a man you think is not good enough for her because you've seen him with other women, but you haven't told anyone. He knows you know. There are lots of parties going on right now because of the wedding. There was a party going on that night we drove out there so late. We stood unseen around the corner of the barn out back and watched the girls, your sisters and nieces, at the big table under the arbor, holding up the unwrapped presents and giggling. You stood behind me with your arms around my waist, pressing your hips to me and whispering in my ear. I could feel your breath in my hair and on the back of my neck. You are different from the other people in your family, and you got into some kind of trouble a while ago, I'm not sure what, which is why your parents moved you out to the sticks with them. You wanted to go away to college to study some liberal-artsy thing, literature or art history or something, but instead you drive an old, blue delivery truck for your parents, loading and unloading damp cardboard boxes of produce, onions and radishes and things, and you begin work every day before dawn, which is why we had to get back when we did. You don't complain about what you're doing. You are a hard worker. You always show up on time, even if you've been up all night, like we had been. Your grandmother squeezed my hand when we left. I'm not sure if I'll ever see you again.


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