Once Upon a Time at the Kiev

OONCE UPON A TIME at the Kiev, on the corner of East 7th and 2nd, soup with two slices of challah bread and a glass of water was a buck ninety-nine, and they left you alone. Sunday potato pickle, Monday matzoh, Tuesday barley.

That Wednesday, black bean. There were only two other regulars in the place: the mopey Hasidic guy and the redheaded artiste. You flipped over the newspapers and read the sports sections of the News and Post, the Times’ Arts & Leisure. You ignored the floating flakes of ash outside, the swirling sheets of paper.

You never ate at the Kiev with anyone else, except once when Mary Ellen visited. She had taken in the chain-smoking Ukrainian waitress, the homeless guy eating a knish, the girl with eleven eyebrow rings and said,”You eat here?”

After soup you went back to your apartment and lay on the couch, surrounded by Wyeth prints. Taut, weathered women, all named Helga. New England wind, wailing and grating. A white so angry it was gray. All galed and spare, the opposite of sex.

You kept the windows closed.

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