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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.

surrender

She is in her underwear, clawing for me. The substitute teacher, a stranger has no idea why E is upset. It is a normal Friday morning for her. For E, it is the day I fly to New York to organize a new visa, to collect toys and new shoes, gifts from her family that will remain in boxes only E will open. But this is not a thought she can connect to right now. Now, she knows I am going and she cannot. She knows she will not see me for a week, and has no idea what will happen within this time. It is a descent into the unknown. No one will wrap her locks carefully in a ponytail when she is brought to school.

She is screaming, sobbing. Her hair a wild mess, I dig into my pockets to find a stray hairband, past the magic rock she gave me, past the lucky pennies. I will lean in and kiss her hot cheeks, explain to the substitute I am going away for a week. She nods in understanding.

The halls smell of warm milk.

I go to the main entrance and speak to Nina Vasilivna for a little while - a brick of a woman with wisps of deeply stained red hair and kind eyes. She talks to me in a series phrases, not questions, almost not listening to me.
"Nothing, nothing." She says. "Nothing will happen. Don't worry."

And then somehow I am on the plane. N is next to me, her face on my shoulder.

I imagine E on the playground in the dark, waiting to be taken home. I imagine her sitting by a window with the cats, looking at the snow falling.

My sister is good. Her child is laughing. Her husband is smiling. My father is here. I have not seen him in almost 8 years. He squeezes me, his beard scraping across my cheeks. I think of E, and how she calls me "yojhik" when My beard scratches her, yojhik, the hedgehog.

My brother arrives the next day. We play guitars in the living room, a circle of men in their socks, playing quietly. I knew I wanted to bring my harmonicas for a reason, and now I understand why. N is smiling her easy smile, sitting with her feet curled beneath her. Everyone is asking her questions. We drink a number of tiny cups of coffee, oggle our watches and try to understand what time it is back home.

E speaks to me with a sad, low voice when I call her. She asks if I can come back tomorrow. I tell her I am buying her pink boots that are good for jumping in puddles. OK, she says, OK Papa.

And I walk down the streets with N's hand in mine, the logic of the sidewalks, the crisscrossing speedwalkers, the ones walking slow and staring up into the heavens. We are part of this, eating magnificent bacon and egg sandwiches, ducking into this place, spreading our legs out somewhere else.

And suddenly Monday morning, writing in a busy group of tables. The only power outlet is surrounded by nutjobs. One guy is playing music that competes with the sound being piped in, a strange competition. N is reading a magazine.

I am not at home. No Arvo Part drifting around a quiet room, a place so easy to collect my thoughts. No, this is NYC, where the kooks and creeps are like magnets for people who want to concentrate for a few minutes. I ask him to use some headphones, and he starts fucking with me. Now, he holds the music player up around his chest, the sound distorting from the tiny speakers. He looks like he has not slept in a week. His face is covered in pimples. I think he waits here by the outlet on purpose, must make him feel important, significant, powerful. I don't think Lady Gaga wants him to be playing her songs this way.

There is no sense in telling a crazy person they are crazy.

I surrender. I imagine my child.

Let's get out of here.

Comments

Annie said…
Wow.... You've taken me to NY. Where I'd rather be than in that classroom saying good-bye to your frightened daughter. Poor little dear.

I am so sorry, I have't been able to keep up well. Parenting and three jobs take it out of you. But, your Monday posts are a mini-vacation. (Well, you take me away from THIS partiular reality, anyway.)
Anonymous said…
О! Awesome informations, merci beaucoup à l'article de l'écrivain. Il est compréhensible pour moi maintenant, l'efficacité et l'importance est ahurissant. Merci encore une fois et bonne chance!
Omgrrrl said…
Glad you hugged your dad. I like him.
This sounds like a really sweet and warm family reunion... 8 years, wow

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