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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…

forget the eggs

On Sunday just before two I turn into the courtyard. A black Mercedes sedan is idling, then rolls lazily past the side gate. The details are all achingly familiar to me - each bench, each dappled path, where to throw out garbage. I feel nothing for this place, no sentimentality, no nostalgia, not even anger or disgust. It is simply where we lived seven years ago, and where E spends some of her Saturday nights. 

It is empty. A blank piece of paper nothing will be written on.

I look up at the balcony but E is not there. Sometimes she waits for me, hand ready to wave when I emerge from the parked cars. She must be packing up her computer, and those new headphones. 

I stand at the outside door, about to buzz and a hand sweeps in front of me. The arm is long and skinny, hairy. It is one of the neighbors. He has a habit of being dramatic like this. He stands in the street in nothing but a bathrobe, the fuzzy belt hanging lose, barely keeping it closed, no shirt underneath. I remember the first time I shared an elevator ride with him, his oily black hair, his giant brown eyes bloodshot and yellowing, his pointy slippers, the way he waited for me to have some eye contact and how he enjoyed that. 

Today he is in rare form, a carton of milk in one hand and a bag of eggs dangling below it. In Russia, egg cartons are some kind of luxury, only for buying eggs in the supermarket. If you buy them close to home, they simply put them in a thin plastic bag. He smiles, half of his giant gold teeth flashing in the hallway. His hips sway. The bathrobe is getting old, and looks like he washed it with the wrong things too many times, mousy now. I wonder if he is stoned. 

And then I understand, he does not remember me. This is the show for first encounters. 

I jab at the button in the elevator for the second floor and get out. I don't need to relive anything else so I take the stairs.


Joshua Alemany said…
The best decisions you make in life are the ones to move on. Sometimes they are joyous events, sometimes poignantly sad, and sometimes just necessary. You seem to be moving forward happily and with optimism Marco. The past is just that, passed. Enjoy your future and your present. As always, thanks for sharing. Peace. J
oldswimmer said…
Groan. The photo certainly gives an aroma to all of the "ambience." Wish you had showed us your daughter waiting at your safe cubby upstairs. Great writing.
Annie said…
Oh, what a wonderful character! Checkhov or Gogol could not have described him more perfectly.

I was reading about your eggs - how they still have their natural coating, so you don't have to refrigerate them. Nice.

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