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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…

a visitor


I am in the living room, long dark with just the lamp and the light from the screens. The work goes well, and I am firing on most cylinders. I do not realize what time it is, just know there is laughter and tiny shouts from the kitchen, the gentle mayhem of the three women under our roof. I am obsessed over an edit, playing the sequence down staring close, leaning back, nudging one frame in, one frame out, alternating takes, overlapping sound. Maybe it is fine, but I have stared at it too long to really know that.

I ask myself what kind to music needs to come next. Something hesitating. I tap my fingers on the thick glass of the desk, thinking about how slow it should be. My stomach growls. I probably need to start dinner soon.

And then I look up and V is in the doorway to the living room, on her hands and knees. She has crawled all the way from the bedroom. Her chin is up, head titling back, staring at me with giant eyes N is hunched down behind her, holding her steady. V grins wildly, one of her sweet shrieks bouncing around the big room. I am outside myself. Suddenly standing and swooping down to pick her up, and then there is a stretch of time playing on the bed, stacking the rainbow rings on the yellow cone, putting toys on my head for her to retrieve and there is no thought in my mind, not of war, or the crumbling economy, not of racism or cops killing unarmed men, not of fake food or new diseases, not of warm oceans and dying fish. There is nothing but this bed, no looming elections, just the round face looking up at me, crawling, smashing headfirst into pillows and her muffled laughter.





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