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My Life in the Gulag

My life in the Gulag

My father was loud and he was tall. He smoked a lot and always smelled of smoke. He didn’t bathe every day. He said that dirt was good for his immune system, all kids should play in alleys, and less shampooing prevented baldness. He was often sweaty and his blackish-red thinning hair matted down on top of his olive skinned head. He wore Fruit-of-the-Loom white v-neck t-shirts splattered and stained with red marinara and gold olive oil. He wore V-neck shirts because he feared choking. Crew necks went in the garbage. The palms of his large, round, hands, that he often held my smaller ones with, had long life and love lines filled with blue chalk. His eyes were black as night. I used to think he could see in the dark – like a leopard stalking its prey. Or later, like the giant eyes watching the valley of ashes in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby- omnipotent, sometimes sad and disappointed, but very very much alive. His eyes contained a rich vocabulary which easily trans…

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