My name is Ursula Groucho Rom. I am exactly four feet and five inches tall. Yes, I am, so fuck you. I weigh 73 pounds, which is small even for four feet and five inches. I am a pituitary dwarf, a living-doll, a Small-World UNICEF-isim, product of a condition that no longer exists in the first world. Unfortunately, I was born in the second.
I was born in a megashtetl called Moscow, a paradise of concrete and stale-sweat misery, which, you should know, smells not unlike Coney Island. Date: May 7th, 1987; weight 1.10 kilograms. This, if you are American or poor at math, is severely small, even for the Gorbachev years.
Today, I have the heart of a five year-old. A very sick five-year old. Only my heart is more severely small, like a shrunken head. I also have the eyesight of an orphan, the crusty-eyed ones from Sri-Lanka and Berundi. Bad luck orphans. I’m only half orphan, myself.
Welcome to the Island that isn’t. Coney, the working-class playground, an outgrown American dream dropped like a pair of old gym shoes in that bag the society for polite treatment of retards leaves strung around your doorknob. Like all Great Russian writers (and most especially Sergei Dovlatov), I am living in exile. Only I am not great, and only just barely Russian. At least Dovlatov was tall.
The key to living in Brighton—our precious Soviet snowglobe—is not to shake it. Wear rabbit fur or long nails with little diamonds in them, or diamond crucifixes and gold mogen davids the size of your mouth or Puma track jackets and dirty white Nikes. Push a cart. Dye your hair that black cherry soda color, or bleach it, and for the love of G-d if you do one or the other, maintain. Brighton Beach would like to think it’s about as homogenous as canned milk. It isn’t, but it’s better if you don’t remind them.
I remind them. Especially in the Save the Children Bangladesh workshirt Dub brought for me and my old high school gym shorts; a huge pair of coke bottle glasses, someone’s handmedown Rx two Rx’s too old that leave marks on my crooked brown Jew nose. The night work makes it impossible to keep a pair of soft contacts; by virtue of my dwarfism and my most fantastic MediCal glasses, I look like hyperthyroid, or a muppet maybe. It is hot and raining. Hot. And Raining. I hate New York.