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no gold (things will have to wait)

There is an old Russian expression for the inevitable moment when your neighbors begin renovating. "Searching for gold in the walls." They say, to describe the epic sounds of drills in ancient concrete. You might appreciate this odd humor, this dark joke, this survival tactic. I am not so graceful a man to wrap my thoughts around it. Those drills and grinders, they shake the very walls of our apartment. Early on Sunday mornings and often long into the evenings they go.

This has been going on for the last four months, maybe more. I stopped counting.

I cannot imagine there are any walls left, that there is an entire open floor below us, the wind whipping through the naked beams and nothing else. That is the only explanation. Or that they break down walls, build new ones, find a flaw, some grand mistake and then break all of the walls down again. Not swiftly with sledgehammers, but with one crappy old drill with a dull bit, mashing away, so that children hundreds of miles away…

imaginary places


It is an act only a New Yorker can be offended by. Anyone else would dismiss it as it happened. There are only so many hours in the day, and so much injustice a person can note, rehash, testify to and eventually absorb. There may just be a razor's edge that defines a normal person from an obsessive New Yorker, or that edge may be a mile wide. I don't know anymore. There are no tools to measure imaginary spaces. There is just the cold Moscow winter, the snow littered with shit and piss many feet deep, in long grey drifts that snake around cars and streets as far as the eye can see.

The life of an expat becomes a surrender measured out over time. You lose contact with acquaintances from back home. You become invisible to many people, transplanted in a land where no one sees you.  You become a ghost, a phantom shadow that does not recognize its face in the mirror. The past is so far away, it becomes someone else's past. A stranger's life two times over. But in this vacuum, this limbo  - there is a possibility to reinvent. You can shed a skin, and paint a new face in its place. You can laugh at the wind, or take up stamp collecting. You can walk in the street and take comfort in your anonymity.

There are bitter pills to swallow, those headlines from the place you come from. They go down easier from a distance. They become a bad movie on a dark screen. You can walk out into the lobby, buy some candies, suck on a fountain soda, and stare out at the street. It is raining, and the cars are sloshing their way through intersections while people share umbrellas and run into cafes to dry off, or fall in love, or argue, or make love or go to get their kids from school. It all happens in these imaginary places.



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