tallinn in spring

TALLINN IN SPRING. Pigeons, sunshine, spring birds, even audible at the Baltic Station Market. I find myself seated at a small table within uncomfortable reach of others. There is this feeling that every person you pass, every person you see, every displacement of air, every surface you touch might or could be infected with the virus. The water at the port is pure blue, the Old Town is mostly empty but for some shadows and construction. Yet the Baltic Station Market is still alive with young mothers pushing carriages. Now and then a pretty something will flicker in and out of my peripheral vision. It is not I whom she seeks here. She is looking for a solid man, a regimented man, a man who is fit to breed. He must have a steady job, a decent wage, and be stable of mood and inclination. This is the man she seeks. Then she too can join the mothers at the Baltic Station Market. Then she too can feel the heft of Italian oranges in her palms. This man here is working on surrealistic fiction in a medium-sized handmade journal. On his maiden voyage to this land he was more or less engrossed in doing the same. There are even photos of it. Only a fool — a hull, as the Estonians say — would have children with such a man as this. Only a fool did, three times in fact. The eldest had her first glimpses of the world just around the corner from here in an attic apartment on Valgevase or Brass Street at the dawn of the century. In the evenings she now watches Japanese films with her sister and they comment on the male characters they find most appealing. I try not to pay attention. She has been pushing my buttons lately, trying to see how little it will take to shake daddy up. Maybe if she calls him this or that there will be another scene. I have shifted and assessed different strategies. First, a hard reaction, then a softer, more tolerant one. I had read somewhere once that what women most craved of all things was a man’s steady and unfaltering presence. That only by removing your presence from their lives would they take note of your absence and then, perhaps, reappraise your true worth. So when these button-pushing moments occur, I have often left and moved on to other things. What else can you do? Yet another article I read said this is the worst thing one could do. You should withstand these trivial arrows; this allows the child to feel she is safe in her obnoxiousness. In actuality, these outbursts are just mechanisms for her to test her safety. That was at least what another article said. I’m living things day to day, reflecting on strategy. Local ladies in fine hats are pushing carriages and they are talking about things. My story has gone nowhere. The other day, the girls were watching a show and I happened to pay attention to one of the actresses. “She looks nice,” I said, “but her butt is a bit too small for me.” “How can a woman’s butt be too small?” my daughter asked. “It was a joke,” I said. “A joke.” “You are objectifying women.” “You objectify men here all day long. You do the same thing.” “That’s different.” Maybe it is different. Maybe the best strategy is to just say nothing.

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