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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…

something about rain (E makes a movie)


I am looking for my charging cable, and wonder if E took it. I am in her bedroom now, the stuffed animals wrapped in scarves are hugging each other on the windowsill. I yank open some desk drawers. They are packed with scraps of paper and folded things, paperclips, little jangly sounds. The next, crammed full of god knows what. A quick wave of vertigo washes over me. This is what my desk drawers look like on a good day. I call her, ask if she knows where my cable is. She does not. I find it behind the couch half an hour later.

E stands by my desk on Sunday afternoon. I am working, staring at an animation. 
"Pop." She says in a quiet voice.
I turn to her.
"I need to shoot your face." She tells me.
"Right now?" I ask. "What do you need me to do? Just sitting or doing something?"
She twists her mouth around.
"Let me think." She says. "We'll shoot it tomorrow."
I watch her go back to one of my old cameras. She clicks the buttons, flicking through the options, staring at the monitor intently. I taught her how to use it a long time ago but it was too heavy for her. A few weeks ago she asked me for it, a quick refresher course and she trotted to her window taking pictures of the sky at night.


It is raining. She asks me to go downstairs with her. I am happy to carry her tripod, to follow silently and hand her whatever she needs. I offer to shoot some behind the scenes pictures for her and she laughs. This is what she does for me now.

The rain is letting up but she finds some wet leaves to shoot instead.
I stare at her, wondering how she is dressed all in black, high top converse sneakers, leather moto jacket and unruly hair. I had nothing to do with this beyond setting an example. We buy her only what she wants to wear. I bite the inside of my cheek, seeing a miniature version of myself, awkward, trying to accomplish some invisible result. I do not hover. I do not ask to see what she is doing, just if she needs me to carry something.
"Are there any puddles?" She asks me at one point.
I crane my neck.
"Maybe later." I tell her.
She nods, motioning that we can go back upstairs.
"So what is your film about?" I ask her. "Do you know yet?"
"Not really." She offers. "Maybe just about rain."

Later, the tripod stands in the kitchen, some kind of declaration. I do the same when I am making a film, leaving my equipment in the middle of rooms, a triumphant reminder.



Comments

Incognita said…
It's so amazing to see yourself in the little things she surprises you with.
And I love the Tripod's Triumph :)

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