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streetlights

There is no easy way to say it. I was married to someone I hid from. Tucking E into a sling, I would disappear for hours saying I was going shopping for dinner, and if she fell asleep the excuse was that she needed fresh air as I sat on a park bench with her tiny hand grabbing my pinky until she eventually woke up. I would make my way along the side streets of Greenwich as the sun went down, leaning into store windows but not going in. Eventually I would go home, and as I turned the corner there was a security light that would switch on - obviously attached to some motion sensor. In those strange and lonely moments, I would talk to that light. Each time it clicked on, I felt somehow that the night ahead could be survived no matter what madness waited for us behind the front door.

That was twelve years ago.

Another life, another country.

Today, I turned a corner in Moscow with an all-too familiar bag of groceries swinging from my shoulder. A street light flickered on and all at once I…

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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