Notes toward giving milk to the sky--
Which planet is it? This is the way Mongolians traditionally ask what day of the week it is.
My bed is far from the window. Still I knew it was snowing. Not one snowflake could be seen either but it was fact of the brightness: the evenness of bright coming from each square in the grid of sky. Late in the day I went out, swaddled, and the mountains south of the city were white but for the black of trees, and in the polluted streets snowflakes fell huge and rare, few enough to enable focus on one shaped like a piece of down feather as it pirouetted hither and yon according to gusts.
Toya mentioned that her mother “is always giving milk to the sky, every morning, asking for my sister to sell her restaurant because my sister said once that she wanted to.” Yesterday after meeting with the head of the Mongolian National Library about my dream of helping Mongolian writers set up a PEN center, Toya and I had lunch and treated ourselves to an orgasm each. Orgasms are some sort of milky cocktail, like a white russian but better. Our lesson later was comical and we decided that we are a little more stupid after having orgasms. Toya drove me out of the city; we were silent and only listened to music. She wore an orange jacket. I’d caught the cold she had last week and did not say much. Before swaddling for the outside I had been sleeping into the afternoon in sweaty, fevered bursts rendered even more off kilter by the snow-bright and the fact that at dawn I had spoken with someone half the planet away who told me to feel him kissing every inch of me. I swallowed gingerly, observing the end of a snow day: equally even, leveled darkness, like the descent of some great block of stone.
We drove out of the city. Caught like punctuation humans in the headlights: one man walked backwards, hoping to flag a car down. We passed a child alone on a nervous horse on a bridge, and a huge patch of the bridge was missing its siding twelve feet along, where the child and horse might fall right off. One woman walked with a long stripes scarf. One child walked alone. One pair of men walked arm in arm, a friend or son or brother helping either an old or drunk companion.
We arrived at the winter palace to find the great red painted gates closed. In the driveway was a pile of stones and a feathered khadag, blue prayer cloth tied atop a stick at the top of the pile. Toya has two in her car, one around the base of the steering wheel and one around the rear view mirror. She saw behind some wooden slats in a closed door a bit of light, and knocked and asked. It had already closed for the winter. She pointed up to the ramparts and said that when she walks there its like a paradise. We turned around toward home, me handing her pieces of pizza one by one to eat as she drove. We came upon a long driveway curving up a hill and some new building at the top. There were bright lamplights along the road and around the compound. Toya was curious. A restaurant? A palace? The moment she drove through the gates I remember thinking that Mongolia was an absurd enough place to feel like home, that it made sense for me to be there. The big building, we saw through the windows, was just being made; paint rollers rested on bare floors. There were a couple of gers next to the building and one man came out to our car. They spoke and then he walked away and Toya pulled the car close to the rows of Buddhist bronze cylinders near the middle of the wall so as to back up and drive out. That was when she told me we had driven into the compound of a crematorium.
We went for dinner to a Mongolian barbeque place and I had egg and seaweed soup and a hot drink of milk curds and sugar. I asked Toya why she did not take a piece of the cream cake and she said that she was trying not to eat cream after lunch for her body not to get any fatter.