By Ange Mlinko
From this balcony the sight lines are clear to the rooftop volleyball court of my son's elementary school
(from its mesh cage the kids at P.E. class raise a right ruckus)—
I look over; is he up there now? No; his is a different period
I'm squeezing some orange halves on a cheap plastic boat with a dome like a parliament and teeth at the spout to catch seeds and pulp
Dragging a haul of juicing oranges all the way down-campus in my bag stitched with the word “Cyprus”
I recall the oranges were mostly on the trees in Cyprus
It was the potato we were about then: the famous Cypriot, grown in red dirt and baked "in its jacket," fluffy as a buttered cloud . . .
We would pass the fields of red dirt and then a schoolyard and wonder what it would be like to be a child raised on an island like this
Squat between sun and sea, never an ice age, abounding with indigenous flowers evolving freely, without extinctions
But, oh yeah—massacres
Barbed wire slicing Nicosia in a crescent ghetto
My grandmother picked potatoes on a collective farm at the age of nine, after her father died
But the funny story she told was of having shut herself inadvertently in the potato cellar while her mother was ill with pneumonia
The eldest child, she knew that if her mother died as well it would all be on her shoulders—the infant, the other children—
And, already terrified to begin with, she began bawling
But you know, someone let her out after a few hours
Her mother survived the pneumonia
She survived the potato farm
Then when she was eighteen and working in a hospital kitchen her supervisor—Psst!—opened the pantry and gestured toward the potatoes, pocketing some in her overcoat
She was terrified all over again
If she did help herself, their boss, a kind man, would find out
If she didn't help herself, her supervisor would know she knew
She didn't take the potatoes and she didn't get fired, and decades later she would return to the scene of demoralization, her version of: THE STALIN YEARS
The volleyball court has gone silent
The P.E. teacher, whose name I don't remember, rests his arms against the ledge and overlooks the street, the campus, my building, in which I sit, stuck in a thought about potatoes
He stands there a minute or two, in repose, then turns and walks away, leaving the scene unpopulated as in some sketch or exercise by a painter removed from the north to a Mediterranean Arcadia full of ruins and cypresses
Oh, it would be an exaggeration to say it's full of ruins here!
More like one of those mythological scenes with youths and gods in a crowded sky
Bliss Street overflowing with students slowing traffic as they drift across the road, scooters clustered outside the gate inscribed with the motto “That life may be lived more abundantly”
Perfect motto for a university. Perfect
As the fig trees were perfect that grew all into one boxy wreath round the dry fountain the kids on rented bicycles circled madly
That survived the civil war by the looks of their thick trunks, ringed by apartment blocks and antennae raised into a looming cloud the color of putty. Putty, not putti
From this week's New Yorker. Mlinko's Shoulder Season was released in April 2010.
My semiannual dentist appointment was Wednesday morning, and the hygienist said my gums looked great, which they didn't a year ago -- she took my blood pressure, which was below normal even though I didn't eat particularly well this weekend, and told me that blood pressure can affect gum health. So add another reason to be glad I'm avoiding sodium! After the dentist, I met Kay for her birthday lunch -- her birthday isn't until Friday, but our kids have no school that day, so we figured we'd better meet earlier -- we went to California Pizza Kitchen, and I brought home half a Thai pizza which I get to eat for lunch tomorrow, yay!
The afternoon and evening were weird. Adam came with me to the food store because we discovered we were completely out of breakfast cereal and all snacks that he liked, and Daniel got stressed out about various abstract political and social issues while evading questions about whether this was really about college applications or what. We watched Undercovers, which remains enjoyable but at a fairly superficial fannish level for me -- I have no Deep Thoughts whatsoever to convey. Through it all, watching bits of the Chilean mine rescue has buoyed my mood...and the mood of the entire world, I suspect.