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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…

closely watched trains

On a Sunday afternoon, we decide to take the metro to the film lab. The nearest station is being renovated, so we wander the tunnels beneath the street that lead us to a different entrance. Everything is new here, and they scan our bags.
"It's like we are in the airport or something." E gripes.

I decide to follow the flow of people down the nearest stairs only to understand that this is not the station it used to be. There are a string of stops listed I have never heard of, and trains that are shiny red beasts wheezing in and out of the platform in near silence. This could easily be some kind of recurring dream, when I have to walk on stage naked without knowing my lines now.

But then I understand this is the new line people told me about. I stare at the map until it all makes sense. We take the next train as it arrives, eyeing a giant gap between the car and the platform big enough for a dog or a child to fall through. The seats are soft and blue. Everything smells of fresh plastic. People speak in hushed voices. The station is crawling with police.

It will be eight stops until we get off.
"This is just weird, too weird." E announces,  over and over.

The neighborhoods flit by, nondescript streets where maybe nothing ever happens. No protests, no car crashes, no weddings, no funerals. There are old buildings in the distance, like giant bricks that people live in as they slowly crumble. There is construction, stations with names like Zorgi. Everything somehow looks harmless from the blue seats. Modern, without emotion, no gristle of Soviet design. There are recycling bins on the platforms, in shiny colors. But no one recycles here, and there is one place for all of the garbage to go. This is just some clever propaganda, a photo opportunity, the sheen of civilization.

Families with children in strollers ride for a few stops and get off, their jean jackets and sneakers saying USA and Nike, Hugo Boss and Reebok. They have those same faces, sullen and withdrawn like the people on the metro.

And then we do get to the station, where we will change back to the old network of trains. A smell whips up to greet us, like rotting cotton candy. It is familiar. We will be there soon.


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