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every other man

The light outside the main entrance to our building has gone out again. The heavy metal door swings wide as I pull a hat down over my ears. In the darkness there are maybe twenty teenagers standing still. My boot scrapes across the ground, slowing down. Their hands in pockets, shoulders hunched, I look for a space to pass between them. A voice appears, saying hello in English, with an obvious accent. I am all instinct, sayingpivyet as I pass, not looking back, wondering who said this. There was a boy that was an extra in Blackbetty that lives in our building, but he is too young, too short for it to have been him.

I look back, navigating the puddles in the street. It does not make any sense.

N is with V, making their way home. I meet them, pulling V into my arms as she chatters about her day, about dry leaves and princesses, about her grandmother's apartment and what she ate there. We are going back home, and I try to explain the odd collection that stands outside. As we pass th…

vertigo (look back in anger)

Paranoia is common in expats, starting with the sideways glances, the wide-eyed locals who stare at you, the schoolgirls in the foul air of the metro snickering at your shoes. You do not fit and they can spot you a mile away. You pay double, or triple price. At home you were savvy. Here you are a sucker. The militia and police seem to bristle as you pass them, guns swaying across their chests. 

You are often humiliated. They use confusion as an excuse to fool you, when the whole time they know exactly what they are doing. You will never get that money. You will never get that favor. You will never get that phone call.

Between the knowing and the not knowing I feel a sort of vertigo. Every sound in the night is an alarm. Ever creak is E waking up crying, padding across the floor of the dark hallway, tapping on my bedroom door. All too often this is the case. The sound of the other shoe dropping is something I anticipate now, something to expect.

Dodging bullets until you go down, I think to myself in the middle of the night as I read a book to her, as she squeezes her eyes closed searching for sleep. 

Looking back I am terrified. Perspective, and room to breath allows me to see what we went through. We spent years living from moment to moment, working our way up a ladder one rung at a time, focussed on the next payment, the next meal, the next visa. It is only when the soldier returns from the war when they realize what they did to stay alive. This is the aftershock no one is prepared for. To go home or to create a new one makes us think we have put the past behind us. "Now, life can go on." We  whisper to ourselves.

Looking down makes me restless, a cascade of memories and anniversaries at every turn. I see the death of a marriage ill-fated and stillborn. I look back in anger at how I spent six years trying to resuscitate it. 

I turn in the night.


Faces, streets, sky all play out like a roll of paper being twirled far in front of me. A play that cannot be real. I do not hear anything. This is the slow march of depression and I know it.

The face in the mirror across from me is foreign. 

A life in exile, some days even separated from my own hands, voice. Every expat faces a loss of self sometimes. But I am not Orpheus or Narcissus. On a bad day I am Sisyphus. By grace and luck, by that tiny golden kernel in my brain I rise. Better to attempt at being the child of the Phoenix. 

Eggs will help, and strong coffee. The bacon is crisp, now dolls on the kitchen table with names I must remember. The indulgence must end. There are clothes and dishes to wash, play dates to schedule, phone calls, meetings, stamps, documents. 

It is time to get out of the house somehow, E's hand tight in mine. Time to look forward, not back. Sentiment breeds contempt, I remind myself. It sours the milk.


People get poisoned. Some survive. Some look back in anger.




Comments

Omgrrrl said…
Vertigo is the best way to ascertain the effects of the strangeness that whirls around us.

Balance is allusive.


PS Thanks a lot. I have that damn Oasis song stuck in my head.

Love to you all!
invisible woman said…
Yes.
A bout of Expatitis.
Keep on loving - you'll get through.

IW
Marco North said…
thanks to both of you. I was just playing guitar for E while she took a bath, and she gave me some spontaneous lyrics about the color of love. to her, it is yellow. strong medicine...
liv said…
We never know where the choices that we make in life will actually take us, but the road ahead is still long for you and your two lovelies. Clutch the love and watch out for the landmines.

I think E isn't just full of love, I think she brings you luck as well. She's a little talisman, that one is.

Cheering you on till a better day comes. L
Banker Chick said…
I always read you first every Monday, but I always wait to comment since My first instinct is to Mother. Mothering,is not what you are looking for I am sure. You are so strong and have the love of E to make you stronger. Just hang in and fight the battles you need to fight and know that E is so worth it and all of us, who read you, are facinated by your story.
Does it help to know that I would love to be there suffering expatitis???

Will be in NYC for Thanksgiving..Ya gonna be there? Would love to meet up with you.
thecatalanway said…
Your words spoke to me this evening. I hope and trust you are past this now but I am in the midst of it and it is good to find someone who writes it down and knows.
Haven't read anything else as I found on on a google search about anger and the expat but - whereever and whoever you are - thank you!

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