I was born in a lapse of time, my hand clinging to a dandelion, my feet gripping a vine leaf, my nose on my back, an eye on my ankle. The moon cast its dead pale rays, sprinkling the mortals’ dreams with a layer of spice. My mother wasn’t present at my birth or maybe she was there and her pain of being torn apart still throbs in my veins.

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Her pockets overflowing with pebbles, the mother surveyed her domain. She had a pitiless gaze and her crocodile tail was proof of her animal intransigence. Grease trembled in ripples on her body like little waves hiding the sea’s soul.

The mother had a son and a daughter. The son–oh, what a little marvel with his cute penis and the sweet violence barely hidden in his black velvety eyes! And the daughter?

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Our lives are defined by the loss we experience in our youth.  We are our loss and go through life trying to drape in a shirt of light our soul’s dark night at the bottom of which lie buried our past selves.  If we lost a father, we will look for him in all our future loves; if we lost a friend, all our friendships will bear the mark of that bond; if we lost a sister, we will try to recreate ourselves in the image of the lost one.  But if we lost our double, which is the secret, invisible quest of our lives, life will become for us the mere shadow of an unattainable universe called “the real,” and we will spend our lives trying to unravel behind each laugh, its valley of tears, behind each I, the faceless grip of nameless lack of being.

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Childhood in the Old Country
When my great-aunt Clarice left Ukraine in 1922, she was two years old.  No one could guess at the time that she would one day be a famous Brazilian writer, yet her name was always mentioned along with those of all my other relatives, aunts, uncles and cousins who had left the country and never returned.  The litany of the names that my grandmother summoned at holidays asking for protection for their invisible bodies was a ritual so ingrained in the family discourse that the names had stopped signifying existences and had turned into gray shadows populating an immense ship that was forever drifting on the oceans with no hope of ever reaching land.

I was one of the shadows even before I left the country.

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First American Job
My first job was at McDonald’s, a cashier, but in fact, my duties included pretty much everything.  At the cash register, I had to struggle to make sense of all those little boxes with abbreviations written on them, the letters moving in front of my eyes like signs in a game whose rules nobody had bothered to teach me. 

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Becoming an American

Meanwhile something happened—something of an altogether different nature.  I received a letter from the Immigration and Naturalization Service informing me that my application for American citizenship had been approved and that I was supposed to be present on such and such a date at such and such a time in order to attend the oath ceremony and receive my certificate. 

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First, take an egg.  Small, medium or large, white or brown.  Happy or unhappy chicken—it doesn’t matter.  The important thing is for the egg not to be cracked.  Turn the egg on all its…all its…on all its (let’s call them “sides” so we can move on)…and make sure it’s a healthy, smooth, crack-free egg.  You may be tempted to rush this phase, but you would make a grave mistake, for the success of the entire proceeding depends on it.  As I said, make sure there are no eggs in the crack.  I mean, no cracks in the egg.  Then move on to the second phase.

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