from "Don't Cry"
from the collection Don't Cry
In the dirty hotel restaurant, we had dry bricklike croissants and lots of good fruit—papaya, mangoes, bananas, oranges, and pineapple. The coffee was burnt, so we decided to go to the espresso place we’d been told was just a few blocks away. We never found the place, although we walked a long time. At ﬁrst, we walked on a crowded street made of pavement, with department stores, an Internet café, and a grocery with a big Magic Marker drawing (green and red) of fruit and vegetables in the window. Starving dogs wandered freely. The pavement abruptly fell off and gave way to rocks. We saw another wedding party, in a Mercedes decked with rich-colored ﬂowers, moving through a herd of donkeys, the herders lagging behind, talking on their cells. Beggars swarmed around us, shouting and showing us their deformed limbs, their blind eyes. We forgot our espresso. The rocky street gave way to dirt with pools of muddy water. Houses, patched together with tin, plastic, canvas, and wood, bulged out, sagged in, lurched and leaned this way, then that. Beggars swarmed us, chanting. Wedding guests in gold pants and silky shirts pushed their broken car through slowly parting pedestrians. A little boy marched along blowing a horn; he was followed by a smaller boy, who was shouting and rhythmically shaking a clutch of bells on a strap. The smell of fresh shit rose up suddenly and mixed with the odors of sweat and cooked meat. An old woman seated in the roots of a giant tree sold bundled sticks and dresses mounted on smiling white mannequins. Trees made soft, blunt, deep green shapes with their boughs. Katya turned to me, her face dazed. “We’d better go back,” she said. “We’re getting lost.”