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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…

another life


There must be people that are not influenced by the seasons, or the weather. Rain must leave them unchanged. Snow may not fall in pirouettes outside their windows, then later on piss-stained piles. The sun must not finger into rooms late in the afternoon, drawing the edges of chairs and tables, buttery and warm. And at night, the streetlights must not feel like sleeping guards, leaning against the sky. The scatter of gravel under a car wheel, the wet thump of garbage thrown, the low moan of the trucks as they take it away. The smell of ice, antiseptic and sour. The smell of fresh cut grass.

I am sure they do not appreciate a fresh cup of coffee, foam dancing around the edges. Or a cup of tea, ruddy brown and wobbling in your mouth as you sip. Or a cold glass of water in the middle of the night, slugged back with the refrigerator door wide open.

None of this matters to them. They are not ruled by the whim of wind and sun. They do not stare out of windows, waiting for answers. They do not take that step back, saying "When winter is over I'll start."

I do not wonder about that life.
Give me the endless Russian snow, because it gives me time. Give me the loneliest streetlight and I will paint a portrait of him.





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