November 2020 At the library you can ask for a “lucky pick,” meaning the librarian will choose a novel for you based on what you tell her, like blind dating or a toy buried deep in the bottom of a box of cereal, because there are still things in life that might surprise us. “What do you read normally?” she asks me. Normally I would go inside, search the titles on the spines, tilting my head to read them. I say, “William Trevor, Colm Tóibín, Edna O’Brien, something with some weight to it,” meaning no romances of the kind that are not true to the complications and unreliability of love. She disappears into the dark and sacred space of civilization as I stand in the cold, though I have a hat, I have warm gloves and am lucky I am fed. After some minutes she emerges from the wheezing doors of the old building with two Russian novels, pleased that she has done well, that she listened and was trusted. In each book is a story where someone will be born, someone will die or go to prison or be poisoned by a lover — the old Russian masters cut to the heart of the human spirit, where any form of evil is possible, though the librarian is kind and one crocus has begun to bloom in November on the path to the parked cars where a family is living in a van, the windows covered with cardboard, one tiny red mitten lost in a field of frozen mud.