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talking to the trees

Most experiences cannot be discussed. No one wants to hear the ugly truth, and chances are you will be attacked for sharing it. To be able to speak freely means that you need a willing listener, otherwise you are just talking to the trees. Time and again I have come to understand that there is no difference between New York and Moscow, no difference between East and West. They are just cults of personality, built on violence and money and moral quicksand.

The life of an expat evolves from those early, awkward victories to one of assimilation or in cases like mine - eventually understanding that you have no country you can (or want to) call home. I am left with just these four walls and my family. This apartment is the only place I actually belong. This is the only place I do not need to soft-pedal my thoughts, where I do not need to apologize for what I have unearthed. The river of betrayal runs deep whether I look outside, or across the ocean. Willful ignorance, willful indifference…


A woman I was involved with on and off for more than 7 years once confessed to me that the only happiness in her life could be described as fleeting moments, odd surprises that vanished as quickly as they surfaced. The rest was predictable and disappointing. Naked under her sheets, I was struck by her sadness. I made us breakfast, as she shuffled around in her great blue silk bathrobe, wearing old glasses and looking wistful. I wish I could ring her up right now and ask her if she is happy. I imagine she would say yes, after a long pause. I imagine she would say "just not the happiness I might have expected".

In the face of chaos in a country described as a police state by the locals, I am grasping for these moments, not as a form of satisfaction. No, as a set of stairs to climb. These moments give me strength, and resolve.

Last night, one of the kittens was attacking the newly decorated christmas tree in full force. At 3AM she took a leap from the top of the tv set, and landed high in the false, plastic branches. A sparkly bird in her mouth, she rode the tree down to the floor with a tremendous crash of German ornaments bought at the Saks on 5th Avenue so many years ago. In Russia, when a glass breaks, a vase - anything fragile - they say it is for luck. Little grey Julia stared up at me in the darkness. She had accomplished what she had set out to do. She looked satisfied.

A few days ago E came home from detskie sad with the nanny to find no one in the apartment. She asked to come to the studio, and they surprised me, jumping around in the window in front of my desk. For dinner, we ate milk and cereal from coffee cups and drew pictures of girls named Masha and Sasha. On the way home, after 10, E chattered away in her rickety pink stroller. A few pretty girls called out to me, joking and asking why I was out with a child so late. E burst into laughter. I sighed a few minutes later and asked E what in the world I was going to do. She smiled up at me and told me "Dodya Feya" - -which means "Fairy Godmother". She told me she was coming, and I should not worry.

This morning I went to rinock to buy fresh bread and raisin pastries - - bulochki iziom. For the first time, I read the little paper for them and saw they have a nickname - - rumashki (wild daisy). These are E's favorites, that she eats in the middle of the night when she is hungry. If she only knew she was eating daisies.


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