It looks like Moscow, she said, softly but decisively. They’d been travelling for days and days—weeks?—and he’d never mentioned where they were headed. She never noticed signs—the daughter of the kind of people who never asked for directions, had no sense of direction, could not point out a direction to others, couldn’t read a map, were prone to getting lost, didn’t recognize the North Star, couldn’t find where the bulk of the moss grew on the tree—and she never spoke to anyone, because they travelled late in the nighttime. Sex, when they had it, happened at dawn or around what she was relatively certain was lunchtime (having been robbed of a sense of direction, nature had seen fit to give her a somewhat strong internal clock). It was brief and rough; they barely broke a sweat, picked a position and stayed with it, and she often gazed out the window for the duration, both to help the time pass and because she was curious to see if people everywhere were the same. So far, this seemed to be the case.
She’d never been to Moscow, so she had no memory with which to compare what she was seeing. She felt him come, and then he rolled off her back and walked to the bathroom. She heard him brushing his teeth.
I’m sure it could be Moscow, she said. Everyone outside was wearing a warm coat; there were many stray dogs, for a single street. She didn’t remember being on a plane, but it was possible. Travel seemed to her an unremarkable thing, and she overlooked much of it by drifting off into her own thoughts.
Once, when they were at a fair, she and her mother lost each other and themselves. She had been looking for the caged animals, and instead found herself in front of a mirror maze. Even at such a young age, she knew how dangerous it would be for a person with no sense of direction to go into a maze of mirrors. She saw a woman and a little boy of about her age coming out of the maze, and approached them without hesitation.
Are you lost? the woman asked.
My mother is, too.
They walked all around the fair until they found her mother, wringing her hands and chewing her bottom lip. A monkey in a nearby cage followed suit.
Her mother embraced her, the smell of her perfume strong, mixed with fearful, anxious sweat.
I was looking for the fortune-teller, her mother offered as an explanation. What were you looking for, sweetie?
She watched the monkey shake the bars of his cage violently, screaming at her, vicious and jealous. Tears of shame blurred her vision; she couldn't see her mother anymore. All that was left was the scent of her.
Melissa Bobe holds an MFA in Creative Writing and Literary Translation from Queens College of the City University of New York. In the spring of 2011, she was a writer-in-residence at the Louis Armstrong House Museum Archives. She founded and taught a creative writing workshop for teens at the Rockville Centre Public Library for six years, and has also taught nonfiction prose writing as an adjunct instructor at Queens College. She is currently pursuing a PhD in English Literature at Rutgers University.