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to be an expat

How can I even begin to explain the experiences of an expat?  The great assumption is that East and West are terribly different. One is vilified, the other painted as a land of patriots and heroes. One is crude and filthy the other has streets paved with gold. Look up and you will see miracles of architecture. Beyond the windows there are supposed to be good people, open smiles and warm hearts. How can I tell you that none of this is true? How can I untie my shoes, and somehow put them on your feet three thousand miles away? You would never believe what secrets they have to tell.

Every time I go back to the states I become more embarrassed to be an American. I overhear conversations in the street, the whines of privileged and moneyed voices. Coddled, dumbed-down and mislead they are drunk on a calculated fairly tale. And then back in Moscow, the same ignorance - the same questions from curious taxi drivers about how good it must be in America, where everything is possible and life mu…

pianos (a different life)




There is a strange hush over the neighborhood. Each overcast weekday feels like a misplaced Sunday morning. The ground wet, the leaves yellow and beginning to rot, the cars puttering through the puddles all become a little symphony. Old women carry plastic bags of carrots and potatoes. There are babies in muddy strollers, most of them asleep. 

The wind does not howl. The crows are still acting wild. barking in little packs in the tree tops.

There is a pile of pages, a towering stack of them, neatly lined up on my little white desk. The pen sits ready. A cup of good coffee is growing lukewarm. I have already begun to accept the new name of this book, Papa on the Moon. 

The door bell rings.

Typically it is a salesman, or shady looking people offering cheap internet service. I ignore the ring most of the time, and then tiptoe to the peephole, deciding if the silhouette in the hallway is dangerous or not. I rarely open the door anyway. Whatever it is, we don't need it.

The bell rings, over and over. I grit my teeth, and open the door. It is a policeman, his automatic rifle swinging from his neck. He is not so tall, his hat cocked loose on his head. He speaks quickly and I try to explain that I can only understand about half of what he is saying. "A man" he says over and over. And then our apartment number. I think he is saying the man is drunk and that he is our neighbor, or that he has a piano and he says I am playing the piano too loud, or maybe he is our landlord and he is drunk and says we have a piano. But there is no piano in our apartment.

I offer to call N, to get some translation but he shakes his head, waves his hand for me to follow him. I take my documents, lock the door. We go up a few floors in the narrow elevator. I cannot imagine what is going on now. There are paramedics in the stairwell, and another policeman. A man with black hair stands in the center of them. He could be from Azerbaijan, maybe Tajikistan. A plastic half-gallon jug of beer sits on the dirty tile floor at his feet. 

I begin to guess that the drunk guy said he was coming to see me. There are quick words. Obviously he has no idea who I am. The policemen tells me to forget it. They got the wrong apartment number I guess. The man with black hair wobbles on skinny legs and looks at me with giant sad eyes.

Back downstairs, I lock the door. sit back down, and stare at the pile of pages, these old stories from a different life.




Comments

liv said…
And you returned to cold coffee
A fresh cup is absolutely called for!

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