Edited by Barry Kitterman | Andrea Spofford | Amy Wright
A. A. Weiss
The prostitutes of Montgomery, State Alabama, were not social climbers. This wasn’t a surprise to Anastasia, but rather another entry in a sad catalogue of observed facts. Upon entering a recently uninhabited room at the Alabama Fine Motel, Interstate 85, rolling her pushcart of cleaning supplies ahead, her sense of smell catalogued everything that was different about this muggy, foreign land and her village, Zaicani, across the ocean, a place of double-swept sidewalks and exclusively natural smells. Abandoned condom wrappers had a smell. Burned drugs had a smell. Cologne and perfume used to mask these things had an unintended smell even worse. She had to work quickly because the girls didn’t like waiting outside too long, their arms crossed over their chests, always, as though it were cold even though nobody around for miles owned a coat.
There was nothing unpleasant about motel work for Anastasia. Each hour spent was a little favor to this foreign land, bringing order through effort, taking sticky sheets and making them fresh, eliminating the evidence trail of female blood, taking hair from the sink, sometimes, and collecting wrappers, pipe contents, brushing everything into a neat pile and picking it up with her very own plastic protection gloves. The worst stains, the worst collections of body particles that belong on the insides—these made her feel the most useful. And the prostitutes. So thankful. Small girls with small hips, nothing like the black women from the American movies that were dubbed into Russian on Channel One. These girls said “Thank you, Ma’am,” once Anastasia finished cleaning a room as though she’d done something they were supposed to have done themselves. And the men who had driven these girls to the motel were also friendly, polite in a way that made her feel like she didn’t owe them anything. These were not the men who paid the girls—those ones went straight to and from their cars, never speaking to anyone—but the men who drove the girls before and after, to a new interstate motel, perhaps, those men had a different word to use for Anastasia each time she finished cleaning a room quickly—honey, sweet pea, sugar plum. Anastasia never said anything to these men, always kept her head down, gave a nod sometimes when pleased to have done a good job, but then, once returned to her own living space, she would open the bilingual dictionary to continue the mental collection objects that men had called her, happy to accept each word in retrospect as a compliment once she looked up its definition and imagined its taste in her mouth. Her favorite object-identity was Peach.
Evidently no one in this entire country wanted this job. How necessary she felt. How well-placed in the world to be there, in State Alabama, in the right place and right time of history where jobs in America existed for girls born in Zaicani. And even though this job did not reflect the dreamed image of a pop-star’s lifestyle, or of a diplomat’s freedom of movement, it constituted exactly the same ticket onto American soil.
Anastasia had never seen a black person in person before landing at the airport in Atlanta. The men taking the bags off the conveyor belt touched everything with bare hands. Her hot breath bounced off the plastic window as she watched a man move her punga bag containing everything she owned. He used one hand and barely a flick of the wrist to transfer it from a conveyor belt to a little wagon. She wasn’t even capable of lifting it above her knees for more than two seconds. The bag made it onto the micro-bus without incident, nothing indicated theft or tampering, and the micro-bus taking her direction west, to a new time zone, was also piloted by a black man. Driving cars, washing windows at stoplights, on street corners in collections of close talkers that would be precursors to street fights in movies—in fact, within ten minutes she lost count of black men.
If Anastasia were to think literally, then Mr. Bhattacharya, manager of the Alabama Fine Motel, Interstate 85, was also a black man. He was from India, or his family was from India before. Anastasia would later be told never to guess how recently someone’s family had arrived there. Mr. Bhattacharya wore collared t-shirts, khaki pants, and sport shoes. He appeared ready to play tennis at any moment. Anastasia didn’t talk to him much. For her the man’s only consistent function was to sign her weekly task reports. He never cared about signing off that she’d performed the maximum forty hours per week, even when this was a lie and she’d done closer to sixty. He always signed the form and returned to the office computer. He spent the majority of his time behind the front desk in this manner, away from the dealings of the rooms, his attention fixed on the screen. Anastasia assumed anyone who spent that much time with a computer must be writing a large and important novel about the history of his people.
“Do you know New York City?” Anastasia once asked while he inspected her time sheet. If his answer were affirmative, Anastasia would immediately present her follow-up question about the possibility of Mr. Bhattacharya writing a recommendation letter.
“No, dear,” he said. “There’s an honest-to-God line on the map. People up there don’t bother us anymore, and we don’t bother them.”
Anastasia only inferred from this statement that Mr. Bhattacharya enjoyed living in State Alabama.
Stains came up easier with different products, and after a month Anastasia felt certain she was performing her duties at maximum capacity. Oversight was nonexistent. She didn’t even have to think very much about getting things done correctly, so her mind could wander as she absorbed the American experience. It took resolve not to ask direct questions of the girls occupying the rooms. But, once, Anastasia said, “I like your shoes.” And the girl standing on the balcony, waiting to regain shelter inside, began to cry. Anastasia wanted to hug this small girl, place the girl’s head against her chest like a doll. One of the men from below yelled up in a threatening manner and the girl said “Yes, Sir,” once in normal volume and then again so he could hear it extra clear and tear-free. Then she said, “Thank you, Ma’am,” to Anastasia and returned inside the room to watch TV on low volume until she heard a special knock on the door.
One afternoon a family arrived to occupy a room. Five minutes passed before they were back in their extended family vehicle and on the road in search of a different interstate motel. Mr. Bhattacharya had threatened to withhold their deposit and then Anastasia heard how polite people got angry in America. Mr. Bhattacharya was called a shuckster. The word didn’t appear in her dictionary, but the tone had been unmistakably negative. And in seeing that father use the negative word while the mother held the hands of two brothers, both of approximate size to be in kindergarten, Anastasia recognized that different people lived in Alabama that she knew nothing about. America had more to offer than the girls in the motel rooms, the men who drove them there, met them there, and Mr. Bhattacharya.
The next white people to arrive at the Alabama Fine Motel, Interstate 85, would be the trucker and twelve members of the Montgomery Police Department.
When Anastasia entered the room recently vacated by the traveling family, not much needed touching for her to restore the room to order. The hole someone had kicked through the bottom of the bathroom door must have been the first detail to unsettle the family. Splintered wood had been unloosened from where Anastasia had sanded it down to a somewhat flat surface, perhaps by the tip of the father’s investigating shoe. The stain on the comforter was certainly blood, yes, but it had been scrubbed by enough brushes dipped in toxic chemicals to have adopted an entirely unbloodlike color. If Anastasia had to guess, and therefore intuit knowledge about this passing family—and by extension about the outside of America beyond the Alabama Fine Motel—she would have guessed that the Bible had offended them. The book lay open on the bedside table. Several pages had been torn out—to what end, Anastasia didn’t know. She replaced the book in the drawer and caught sight of a small plastic card with a series of numbers and letters. No other drawer in any disheveled room at this motel had ever produced such a card.
It said WiFi and contained a username and a password.
Anastasia was transported back to the poorly lit technology room at her lyceum in Zaicani that boasted five IBM computers. The screens were black with green writing. Alexander Ivanovich’s technology class covered, among other things, the basics of computer literacy. Access to the Internet had been Anastasia’s reward for her careful attention in making the letters on the screen big or small, as needed. It had taken her seven tries to get it all right. And now, in this rejected motel room, Anastasia felt something within her reach. Mr. Bhattacharya sat at a desktop computer all day, but not at night, not after two in the morning. Her key to the office would work.
Anastasia could not sleep that night, and ended up walking to the office before dawn to test her key. It fit. It turned. No alarms sounded despite peeling stickers on the glass door promising otherwise. The computer turned on with a buzz. The Internet was already up and running—she didn’t even need the password on the plastic card she cradled in her hand. Anastasia smiled. Everything was possible.
She visited the office on each of the seven subsequent pre-dawn mornings before the police arrived.
Although Anastasia had possessed an email account for a little over six months, she had yet to receive an electronic letter from anyone other than Alexander Ivanovich. She reread the technology teacher’s kind though evasive words once again. “Welcome to Internet, Nastia. You have earned a daily class score of 4/5. Sincerely, Alexander Ivanovich.” This was nice, the ability to keep intimate letters in a system and not have to carry them internationally, but there was great sadness in knowing how easy it was to write such a letter, and yet not receive one. Letters from people she loved did not appear as if by magic, as she’d anticipated.
Anastasia returned to a search page and entered: Things to do in Montgomery, State Alabama. Advertisements for other, better-looking motels and hotels appeared: clean places to stay near the Rosa Parks Museum, near the First White House of the Confederacy, and near the Civil Rights Memorial Center. Attractions were spelled in big, capital letters, but nothing looked very fun. So next Anastasia searched about wanting a good time in Montgomery, State Alabama. Miniature golf did not appeal to Anastasia, nor did eating shellfish in mass quantity. With hesitation at first, fingers perched over the keys before finally punching the capital P, Anastasia searched for evidence of prostitution in State Alabama. Variations on the same news report about a singular event occupied the first dozen entries.
Seven Busted in West Montgomery Prostitution Sting.
Since her days in the Zaicani Lyceum, Anastasia had advanced in her use of English to get from place to place, ask questions about the ingredients in her food and such, but this article was above her threshold for understanding. The tone was unmistakably negative—men were exploiting women—and yet the content was, at least in part, extremely informative to an individual who wished to engage in these practices. There was a route described (Interstate 85), a clientele (truckers), and descriptions of a pool of girls escorted from motel to motel from State South Carolina through State Georgia and State Alabama. Anastasia knew these people as described by their actions. Above all, the article documented a starting point—sugarbabies.com—a website dedicated to connecting like-minded individuals.
Anastasia opened the Sugarbabies website and scrolled through pages of women with no family names, just single words like Candy and Cinnamon (more sweetness), and ages posted above small biographies, American dollars associated with each headshot. She clicked on a tab called CREATE PROFILE. As though following instincts that Alexander Ivanovich’s technology class had instilled, Anastasia completed a brief survey, imported her Gmail headshot, closed the multiple banners offering erectile dysfunction relief, and selected a sum to associate with her likeness. She settled on two hundred dollars—twice the cost of a bus ticket to New York City. As for her Sugarbabies name, she decided to use something that reminded her of home, something sweet and natural. In Russian, Opyata—the pleasure-giving honey mushroom.
During Alexander Ivanovich’s technology class, the final steps of this process had eluded her—how to confirm and finish set up of a profile for an online résumé website—but now she was able to open another window, locate her first received email since moving to Alabama, confirm her profile as accurate, and return to Sugarbabies to watch the comments section on her profile expand.
Someone responded immediately.
How could this man be driving a big truck and posting compliments on my profile at the same time? Anastasia wondered. This man, this truck driver, was on the road in Tennessee and coming right for her.
Thinking of Alexander Ivanovich one final time before returning to her room for a few hours of sleep—of his instruction, of what he described as the single most important contribution he could make to any pupil’s computer education, an act of finality and protection, an essential element of online stewardship—Anastasia erased the browser history.
For Anastasia, a girl from the countryside, during an entire childhood spent within sight of a lake or a sunflower field, nightmares had always taken place in the top floor of a city building. Heights weren’t the only issue, but rather the intension to leave the earth as a matter of daily routine, to do business away from solid, stable ground.
Chisinau, Moldova—the capital city—was the only place in her world with such buildings, such poorly-minded people. Success meant climbing stairs, thriving with less and less of what she considered the oxygen of her existence.
Anastasia felt fresh air for the first time in four hours when the bus driver opened the door and a burst of brisk current cooled her damp forehead. Off the bus she encountered the immediate harassment of city men. Her dispassionate face of zero muscle movement was well-practiced. (At what age did practice of this craft begin? How many men had helped her to achieve mastery? At this point, imaginary numbers.) Muscular men in the station who worked on engines with hammers and changed oil with bare hands gave her notice, certainly, pausing their routines to make vocal note of her presence, but she maintained her placid facial exterior, only breathing properly with her chest moving in and out comfortably once she was in the female washroom of the bus station, where she retouched her make-up, exiting twenty minutes later once assured there were no visible chinks in her armor.
The embassy district had less street traffic and better trees with fresher coats of white paint at the bottoms, but otherwise it still appeared like Moldova. She didn’t recognize all the flags she passed, but she knew America. She paused in front of the embassy, not to look at the Stars and Stripes, but to inspect the line of women that had already begun to form at that early hour. There were other girls her age.
Two blocks further on, she located the building that could have easily been the scene from all past nightmares—an example of square, Soviet architecture with seven floors. It was the first building she’d seen in this district without guards—making it appear all the more haunted—but there was indeed a flag, the red-yellow-blue bull’s head belonging to her Republic of Moldova. Anastasia pressed the call button to enter the building. She paused. There was an easy path that would lead to nothing, or a difficult one that could lead elsewhere—and elsewhere now was America. She opened the door and stepped into a proper dreamscape: green plants, a Persian rug, the smell of coffee. A receptionist looked Anastasia over—from her pointy-toed heels to tightly pulled hair bun—and said her name. Anastasia nodded to confirm her identity and produced an envelope for the receptionist to accept. How readily she was now willing to give up this envelope that she’d been protecting for the last two years—hiding it, feeding it. The receptionist shook her head and said: “No, no, never to me. Up in the office. To him.” And she pointed into an unlit corridor. “Travel Jobs or Diplomat Outreach?” asked the receptionist. And when Anastasia answered, her voice was weak and quivered. “Clear your throat! Strength now!” said the woman. “Up the stairs, fourth floor. Go quickly, girl.”
All she had to do was exchange an envelope for a special paper with a signature, then walk back to the American embassy and wait in line. Her recommendations were in order, her personal essay proofread and notarized by Zaicani’s Mayor himself. Her enrollment at university in Balti was approved and successfully deferred. She would enjoy six months in America to work and travel, gain perspective of the world, and then return to become a national leader. She only had to turn off her fear for however long it took to get the signature. She only had to avoid the word no, not say no, not think no, instead say yes instead of no to whatever this man upstairs requested.
Anastasia ascended with the fingertips of her right hand brushing the wall to guide her through the poorly lit stairwell. Once reaching the fourth floor, she paused to calm her breathing. She knocked. Nothing happened. She knocked again, harder, and still nothing happened. She tested the doorknob and pushed her way inside.
A hallway. Three doors. A future dreamscape.
Which door would lead somewhere?
She selected a door and entered without first knocking.
A man sat behind a computer. “Anastasia,” said the man. She nodded but then had to confirm vocally as the man hadn’t looked up from his computer. She was glad of the receptionist telling her to speak with strength.
“Sit,” said the man.
There were no windows in the room and this seemed like confirmation of all terrible stories Anastasia had encountered since beginning on this path. There were no records of what occurred in places like this, only evidence of the consequences: young women granted access to papers on shelves that should have been much too high; older gentlemen, afterward, with wry smiles.
“Sit,” said the man.
Now, at this point, her one final challenge—crossing the room—seemed a physical test. She held her breath, sat down, and placed the envelope on the desk. The man looked at the envelope and then shifted in his swivel chair so that he could take it up in both hands. “Good,” he said. “You give no excuses.” He opened the envelope and stuck his index finger in and out, presumably between the contents. “Excellent,” he said. “Well done.”
“Yes,” said Anastasia.
“Yes, what?” said the man.
She didn’t know what to say. “Well, this, plus the recommendations, I hope will mean something.”
The man nodded.
“I will return,” she said. “As I’m sure you read in my personal essay.”
He shook his head. Anastasia wondered what aspect of her appearance had caused him to doubt her.
“I will become a leader, yes.”
“No,” said the man. “I did not read your application materials. Not personally. I cannot read two thousand personal essays. There is no point when all are the same. Nor recommendations. How could they possibly be different?” Anastasia did not speak. Her fingernails made indentations into the soft flesh of her palms, but she did not speak. The man now nodded, perhaps pleased she’d not interrupted with useless petition. “Filling the envelope—however you managed to fill the envelope—is the only recommendation of your character that matters.” The envelope was gone from view. Anastasia hadn’t seen him place it away. The bare wood panel of the desk made her feel empty. Her feet tapped uncontrollably, energy radiating from her bun to her feet, but she did not speak. She hoped her torso appeared unmoving. “However you managed,” the man repeated. He pressed a button on the keyboard and a page began printing behind him. It was a loud machine that took several seconds to finish. He stamped and signed the form. “You know where to go?” he asked. Anastasia nodded, taking the paper from his outstretched hand. “Are you certain,” said the man, now looking at her fully as he came around the desk. “Certain that you have no interest in Diplomatic Outreach?” A finger touched hers in the transfer of the paper from one hand to another. It tickled. “It can still be arranged,” he said. Anastasia inspected the red ink in its circular pattern on the bottom of her document, the bull of the Moldovan seal visible in a broken outline. She touched the edge of the stamp with her little pinky to see if it would smudge.
“New York City?” she asked. “For diplomat work?”
The man perked up at Anastasia’s inquiry, but shook his head. “You’ll be in the capital city, of course, yes, Washington, DC.”
Anastasia nodded. The American capital was known for low structures, for squatty buildings. “No,” she said. “I’m good.” She left the room, only remembering that she’d forgotten to say thank you once standing in front of the case worker at the embassy who read from the form that the man in the office had prepared.
“State,” said the case worker, stalling with a hum while he scanned the form to locate the info, and then pointing at the laminated 8x10 map on the desk. “Alabama. Montgomery, Alabama.”
Anastasia pushed forward see what was under the man’s finger on the map.
The trucker arrived in the parking lot of the Alabama Fine Motel at 3 a.m.
Anastasia was the solitary figure at the end of the parking lot illuminated by the truck’s low beams. Judging by the expression present on Mr. Trucker’s face, the Alabama Fine Motel must surely have constituted the dreamscape his own past, personal night terror. “You’re Honey Mushroom,” said the man. Anastasia’s Sugarbabies name sounded gleeful when spoken in English out loud. “You take drugs?” asked Mr. Trucker. Anastasia blushed and looked at the floor. She said no. With her eyes averted the man’s foreign body odor found its way to her nose. He hadn’t moved very far since stepping down from his rig—just a few meters over to where Anastasia stood—but even so, he was short of breath, near panting.
“My God,” he said. “You look just like your picture.”
Anastasia nodded. She was wearing good discotheque clothes. She’d grown accustomed to the loose-fitting motel uniform, the freedom of movement, and she tugged at the bottom of her shirt to pull down the neckline a bit further when Mr. Trucker mentioned her appearance.
“Yes,” she said. “Of course.”
“No,” said Mr. Trucker. “Really, girl. You look EXACTLY like your picture.”
The conversation stalled because Anastasia didn’t understand the rhythms of American small talk. She couldn’t ask about his family. She couldn’t ask about his plans for the future. What else could one freely talk about with strangers in this situation? She went into the room and left the door open for Mr. Trucker, but he didn’t enter. He approached the doorframe and Anastasia wanted to tell him not to linger there, in the frame, but she thought it best to avoid any commands. She asked that he enter.
He stalled. “You’re very pretty,” he said.
“Let me say it, then. Are you a police lady?”
Anastasia shook her head.
“Please say it,” he said with some force, then again softer, as though apologizing for his tone. “Please say no.”
“No,” she said. And as though finally finding a point of American conversation in which to engage, she asked: “Are you a police gentleman?”
He shook his head, then shook it again to himself, looking at his shoes, chastising himself, and said: “No.” He asked if they were alone, and Anastasia mentioned that a special gentleman was sleeping in another room. She mentioned this as if any one of the men now sleeping next to their girls would come running to her aid—as if they were there to support anyone. There were three girls in the motel that night. Three girls and one man who’d driven them there—at least one, maybe two. She could scream and someone would come running, Anastasia assured herself. Mr. Trucker entered and closed the door behind him. It appeared to Anastasia that he was sad, but breathing better now.
“You’ve left your shoes by the door,” he said.
“Of course,” said Anastasia.
Mr. Trucker nodded. “That’s very strange,” he said, but he took off his shoes, too, and left them next to hers by the door.
When Anastasia next logged on to sugarbabies.com, the Internet informed her of future opportunity and happiness. Mr. Trucker had left a review, five stars, writing nothing more than the words: Legit. Just like the picture. This rating, and comment, had filled her email inbox with twenty-seven new messages. She performed pleasing arithmetic in her head: two hundred dollars per friend.
Anastasia was cleaning a room on the second level when the police arrived later that afternoon.
She exited with her back to the outside parking lot, dragging the cleaning cart outside over the small threshold bump. Four white police officers were speaking with one black man and his girl in the parking lot. Each of the police men nodded their heads while the man in the center spoke, evidently responding to questions, and when the man began speaking with his arms, actively brushing away bad ideas in the air, Anastasia watched as each of the officers instinctively stepped forward with a left foot while placing a right hand on top of a hip-resting gun, not taking it out, not yet, but unclasping the button that kept it in place.
“Can I ask you something, darling?” said an officer to the girl.
The circled man was more agitated, told the police not to talk to her, only to him, but the officer went ahead and asked the girl her age. She said eighteen, but when nobody said anything for another moment she said sixteen.
“Is this your Daddy, darling?”
The girl was outside the circle. She looked at the man inside. Perhaps she made calculations in her head. “No, Sir,” she said.
And then something recognizable happened. In the tone of the voices exchanging harsh language, in the aggression of fight or flight movements, the scene before Anastasia, witnessed from behind her cleaning cart on the upstairs balcony, represented the fulfilled promise of a nightmare. Everything negative she’d expected from America was right here. The man was on the ground with his hands behind his back, screaming, while two of the officers punched his back and neck, continually readjusting themselves for better angles. The blows ceased about a minute after the man stopped screaming. The man was in a car a moment later and taken away. Five more patrol cars arrived.
The girl who’d been answering questions was in the back of a different car, next to another girl who appeared to be napping, but the door was open and her feet were touching the parking lot. They just wanted the two girls relaxing there, it seemed, while they talked with great force to Mr. Bhattacharya. The officers were around him now, too, the same four-man perimeter, but there were no hands placed on pistols, even though the manager of the Alabama Fine Motel was speaking with violent hand gestures and a sweaty face. This was something of a silent movie. Anastasia didn’t think this would lead to further aggression, as the officers’ demeanor now appeared dispassionate, spent. They looked at each other as though to remember who’s turn it was to use handcuffs. But when the handcuffs were produced into plain sight, Mr. Bhattacharya pierced the silence Anastasia perceived by speaking loudly, angrily, directed at no one, nearly all the words unintelligible except for one word with clear meaning to the cleaning girl still watching from the second level.
Sugarbabies! I don’t know Sugarbabies!
The manager screamed, and then the car door closed and silence returned.
At this moment Anastasia felt she was no longer an observer, but a participant made of the same meat as these actors, one who shared the same fight or flight chemicals. She decided to go. She abandoned the cart where it stood, outside the recently cleaned room, and went toward the back staircase that led away from the parking lot toward her staff quarters. Two patrol men were ascending the staircase. She made eye contact from the top of the stairs, turned around to walk the other way and saw two other patrolmen on the other side of the elevated walkway, already knocking on the doors of the clean vacant rooms in search of other girls. Anastasia stayed where she was and let the officers come to her. Once she was inside the circle of officers, each had a different question: You work here, hon? Anyone else up here? Where you from? You know about other girls?
She directed her attention to the policeman who had spotted something about her look, perhaps her accent when she’d said hello, and had asked about her origin. “Travel Job,” she said. And something about the way she said those words, automatically, robotically, convinced the officers she didn’t speak good English. There weren’t any more questions. They followed her downstairs to her room, watched her kick off her shoes by the door. The police man she’d spoken to entered while the others formed a small barrier from intruders. He didn’t remove his shoes. He took Anastasia’s passport, looked at the photo but not the visa, and handed it back to her. He then took the contract co-signed by the director of Travel Jobs and Mr. Bhattacharya.
“Travel Job,” the officer repeated.
“Yes,” said Anastasia. “Travel Job.”
The officer looked at the door where his colleagues stood guard. He returned focus to Anastasia, starting at her feet in socks and jumping up to her face.
“Sit tight, honey,” he said. “We’ll be back for you.”
He tipped his cap and looked at her shoes again, together by the door, before walking out, closing the door behind him.
Sit tight—two words with individual meanings that meant nothing in combination to Anastasia. But she was too afraid to leave the room. She waited three hours before putting her shoes on and opening the door. The parking lot was empty. This was also like a movie from Channel One. Apocalypse survivors could exist in this environment. Zombies. She went to the office, opened the door, and turned on the computer. She purchased a bus ticket to New York City and checked the box indicating she would pay cash once on board. The difficult path leading elsewhere now led to the city with the tallest buildings, and certainly the greatest rewards. She returned to her room and filled the punga bag only to the point she could carry it herself, retaining her make-up kit, but leaving behind some shoes and clothing she hadn’t yet worn. And before walking the two miles to the bus station, perturbed by a feeling of forgetfulness balanced against responsibility, finally, after a minute of standing still, she felt relieved to remember her final obligation while still there at the Alabama Fine Hotel. She walked back to the office, turned on the computer and deleted the browser history.
A. A. Weiss is the author of Lenin’s Asylum, a memoir, forthcoming from Bleeding Heart Publications. Other work has appeared in BOAAT Journal, Crack the Spine, Hippocampus, Moon City Review, and elsewhere. Visit his website at www.aaweiss.com.