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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…

sometimes, yes


Late Friday night on the way back from a friend's house V falls asleep in the car seat. I am next to her, her little hand going slack in mine. N is navigating the slick, slushy lanes looking for a place to park. Under a great tree, next to shiny pipes that run above the earth as they snake through the neighborhood we get out of the car. Our movements are methodical, ginger as the baby is pulled from her seat and I pull her to my chest. Her jacket makes little squeaking sounds against mine as we walk along the wobbly ice. I think of a party I went to when I was finishing high school, all local artists and friends of my parents. There was a girl, I want to say her name was Chelsea. In any case, she fell asleep, her face resting against my arm. I found myself offering to carry her to the car, while her mother gathered their things. Her father was not there. I carried that little girl the same way, feeling those rag doll arms and legs swinging loose.

V is working against gravity, sliding down and then I gently move her face back up to my ear. We pass some unknown neighbors, no looks, no traded glances. I move slower, the ice is in lopsided stretches here. She feels heavier now. Her hair smells like fresh yellow cake. I think of so many fathers I have seen carrying children like this, solemn trophies. Is it so strange to understand I am one of them? Sometimes, yes.

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