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the immigrant and the exile

The expatriate remains patriotic - loving their country from a distance. Their loyalty does not waver.

The immigrant is a foreigner that works in another country as a result of some form of escape, some desperate act.

The exile does not love their country, and it can be said that their country rejected them.

Which one wakes up homesick?

Which one can shrug off the betrayal, the long shadow of the dream of a better life when it sours and fades?

There are days when  I see no difference between the immigrant and the exile, two sides of the same coin. The expat is a blind romantic, their decisions set as young men and women, their senses dulled to nothing. I have started to understand I am not an expat any more, as I do not love my country. I tolerate it.

close to Garfield, off of Prospect Park

E is asking me a lot of questions these days, like what is inside the moon. Walking home from school, clutching my hand as she slips on the ice every few meters we discuss astrology, chemistry and the ingredients for tiramisu. She likes to ask me what I was like when I was four, or five or seven.

My brother and I had a babysitter named Adrianne, a student of my father's from one of his drawing classes. She had long, straight dark hair and a magnificent nose in the center of her face, as I liked to think of it. Adrianne smelled of lemons, and fresh soap. She knew how to make the best shake-n-bake chicken, and her brother wore giant bellbottom sailor pants, with about a million buttons on them. We played a lot with wooden toys and marbles.

She turned the living room into a great white cloth-draped fortress with us one long afternoon, and we watched Yellow Submarine in the soft light inside it, on the tiny TV in the corner.

We left Brooklyn when I was five. On our last afternoon together she brought us to a wet piece of sidewalk. We forced our hands into the fresh cement, then scrawling our initials with a bottle cap. In my imagination, this tiny artifact still exists, somewhere close to Garfield, off of Prospect Park.

When I told this to E, she stopped in the street, her breath forming wet clouds around her. She stared at me, fiercely.

"It's still there, Pop." She said.

She rested her mittened hand on my shoulder.
She nodded once.
I nodded back.
She let out a deep breath.

Later, we made tiramisu.


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