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talking to the trees

Most experiences cannot be discussed. No one wants to hear the ugly truth, and chances are you will be attacked for sharing it. To be able to speak freely means that you need a willing listener, otherwise you are just talking to the trees. Time and again I have come to understand that there is no difference between New York and Moscow, no difference between East and West. They are just cults of personality, built on violence and money and moral quicksand.

The life of an expat evolves from those early, awkward victories to one of assimilation or in cases like mine - eventually understanding that you have no country you can (or want to) call home. I am left with just these four walls and my family. This apartment is the only place I actually belong. This is the only place I do not need to soft-pedal my thoughts, where I do not need to apologize for what I have unearthed. The river of betrayal runs deep whether I look outside, or across the ocean. Willful ignorance, willful indifference…

Queen Lubov

It is almost three in the morning. The computer hums, chugging away. I am refining a greenscreen matte, coaxing the edge until it disappears, until the character meshes with the scene as if they are just one story.  In this episode, animated snow is falling in great drifting loops. A giant woman stands above the buildings, looking down on the city with a mysterious expression on her face. It is not the first time I have cast Sasha as an enigmatic femme fatale. She makes playing Lubov look all too easy, strutting in heels, tilting her chin up, flipping her hair.

I reach the end of the sequence, and a satisfied hush takes over the room. I sip some cold amaro, bitter and cold and syrupy. Sleep comes quickly.

The next day, there are planes flying low above the clouds. They are seeding, dumping chemicals to keep it from raining on the parades tomorrow - the 9th of May, when the Russians defeated the Nazis in the "great patriotic war". Victory day, complete with tanks and uniforms, jets shrieking overhead, music pounding, crowds waving flags, children hoisted on shoulders.

But now snow begins to fall outside the windows, and I think of the snow I watched all night in the computer, making the flakes bigger or smaller, disappearing when they got too close, slowing them down, wafting them from side to side. Here, they are real, outside the balcony and soon they are falling in great uncontrollable splotches, dark clumps flying past the kitchen as I warm up leftovers and make couscous. E is laughing, playing Christmas music and cracking jokes to her friends.

I watch the snow falling, somehow the best tv show ever. Trees green and wet are bending in the wind. The windows fog up. Drops slide past me, slow wet trickles that fall nine stories onto parked cars and those fresh stripes of paint on the road. This is Spring in Moscow, more surreal than any imagination.


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