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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…

two storms

All at once the windows are slamming. Papers flip from the tables. A low hum pushes through the air. Hail is dancing off the windshields of cars below. Thunder cracks beyond the train station. Lightning flashes once, then again. I catch a sour, metallic taste in my mouth, like I am sucking on dirty pennies. 

E is terrified. I go from room to room, closing windows, wiping the miniature floods from the sills. 

"It's the end of the world!" She cries, not joking.

I want to take pictures, but she hugs my legs, not letting me move very far. She does not want to sit under the blankets, or in a corner of the sofa. She wants me to stay in the room. 

"Pop, don't go in the kitchen or you'll DIE!" She says, starting to cry.

I come back, rest my camera on the table. I stare at the messy living room for some time, as she hugs my shoulder and we wait for the storm to pass.

I am anxious these days.

Passing through a crowded parking lot that leads to the market, a black mercedes guns its engine and starts turning, about to crush E and myself against a triple parked truck. I bang on the front fender, shaking my fist in the air. I am yelling in English, not Russian. I point at my child. I give him the finger. He guns the engine, gives me the finger back. The militia next to us say nothing, staring off into the horizon.

E looks up at me, that scared and helpless face she always makes when she used to hear me yell. I hate this moment, this expanded heart-thumping minute, when I find myself furious in the street. Sometimes, it is necessary - literally to keep from getting run over. But the aftermath is the same. A sense of resentment. A sense of failure.

It is raining suddenly again. I am making pasta in the kitchen. I have the music up loud. N is shouting.

She appears in the doorway.

"Get your camera." She says. "Now."

I stumble through the mess of the living room, over E's painting project, maybe crushing the leg of a doll in the process.

Just outside the balcony, a rainbow is hanging in the sky - maybe 100 meters away. You can see everything. The base where it blooms from the river, the arc now echoed by a second rainbow that fades off. I click randomly, out of focus, overexposed. I am laughing at myself. N raises an eyebrow, amused as always.

People on boats in the river are shouting. Cars are honking. The streets are wet, shiny.
I set the camera on a chair and just look instead, holding N's hand.

In a minute, it is already gone.


Incognita said…
Your post just took my breath away. May that be your lucky rainbow and may that luck be far from fleeting!
Banker Chick said…
Here is hoping the storms pass quickly. E will always remember that you are there protecting her, when you can, and the rainbows. You are a fantastic writer.
Annie said…
Ah - gorgeous photos! I'm glad you got to take a few, anyway.

What I'd give to live where you do!

I said something about how he protected me from getting killed in Moscow. How the cars are crazy there. Ilya responds to me, sternly: "Cars SHOULD have the right of way; they are bigger!" He is a Russian. Their way is best. He still uses a broom on the living room carpet. Vacuums are not as good.
matthewjoy said…
Hello. I started that blog that I talked about in my earlier message. It is a collective of similar stories as ours from around the world. A collective of sorts. Anybody and everyone is welcome. Here is the address:
matthewjoy said…
Thank you very much from my heart to yours for believing in me and what I am attempting to do and your posting this. I appreciate it and we connect in a special way.I wish I were there in Russia, although I would rather live in Siberia where I can do ethnographic research and have fun with life, I wish you and your sweet daughter(I have one and two sons) were here in the US of your origins. Farms and pigs need love too. They would make perfect additions to the changing of this world for the better.

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