Every Good Marriage Begins in Tears

At the vodka stand the girl tilts the bottle, pouring into paper cups. Hair falls before her face. Her skin looks raw from the cool spring air. Shaky, unsure, she spills a little on the counter. The red-nosed man waiting for his drink cries, “I’m not paying for that! Go on, fill it up, to the top!”

I try to meet her eyes to offer a kind smile, but even as it comes my turn and I order a shot, take it down, and receive my change from the older girl she works beside, she doesn’t look up once. She’s already used to pushy, alcoholic men, and she’s not easy.

“Another for you?” The older girl’s voice is nasal and insistent.

I shake my head but linger. The liquor balances the weight in my chest. I feel light. The mussiness of the girl’s dark falling hair reminds me of my brother’s wife, Zarina, but the girl is shy, and with her look of serious concentration, she’s nothing like her.

“Is this your young sister?” I ask. “You worked alone before.”

“She’s in training. Our father plans to open another stand.”

“Is vodka a good business?”

“Excuse me?” She’s getting impatient, so I order another shot and tip it back.

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