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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…

the cold and the bagels

A warm hat is pulled down past my ears down to the back of my neck. I did not even bring gloves. It is just after 6AM and I am weaving through the streets of the Lower East Side. Allen, Orchard, then the big open stretch of Delancey reaching off towards Brooklyn across the Williamsburg Bridge. It rusts slowly, pieced together with great metal plates, always a low rumble but strong, still standing.

There is the smell of reheated bacon, of fresh bread, of ammonia. I sneeze once, then again. It is colder than Moscow here.

And now crossing Houston, full of construction and barriers and men in thick jumpsuits while the cars are taking lazy turns on yellow lights. The sky is starting to grow lighter. I look once at the old place on 1st Street, not even a phantom shiver now, not even a prickle on the back of my arm. Yes, I lived there for so many years, never imagining I would need to go above 14th Street. A shrug of the shoulders, mostly against the wind that has picked up.

I read the names on awnings, a sort of game to find good names for characters. Rose. Bruno.

Ess-A-Bagel is quiet. No music, no chatter. A handful of people work in silence, turning the fresh bagels into metal baskets. The windows are getting steamed up. I smell yeast and salt, fried onion, coffee. I want to tell them these are for E, and they will travel halfway across the world today, that a girl in Moscow will stick her nose in the bag tomorrow and breathe deep, knowing this is the smell of New York at 6AM, the crackly outside, the chewy depths, the poppy seeds that stick between her teeth.

But I say nothing, buying a mixed dozen without drama. They are heavy on my wrist as I fish one out to fuel my walk back downtown.

The lights are coming on everywhere. The sky is blue turning paler. The garbage trucks are groaning to a stop then slugging back into action.

My feet know which way to go.


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