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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…

after the storm

The doors in the apartment are slamming shut from phantom hands. The sky goes dark, from that Spring pale blue to something green, even purple. Rain smacks against dirty windows. The trees outside, freshly green are bending hard. A wind whips through the city, triggering car alarms. The trees pull and bend, their arms wild, like they are underwater. I realize the window on the balcony is open. It is already flooding when I close it. The window in the bedroom is the same, a cold puddle on the floor.

Now everything is closed, and the wind whistles through the cracks. Roofs are ripping from the tops of low houses. Trees are falling. Traffic lights lean and then tip over onto the sidewalk. Metal signs fly from old hinges, slicing into traffic.

Ten people died that day, many wounded, tens of thousands of dollars of damage.

Later, the sound of chainsaws hum from downstairs. They chop the fallen trees into random pieces, and leave them there. The piles of wet leaves and branches begin to rot in the hot sun that follows. Roots hang upside-down, as dirt-clodded mouths hang open. A black Mercedes splashes through the puddles. Children play in a sandbox, wearing ski hats and down vests.

At night, the wind picks up again. A few days later there is a tornado in another part of the country.

I think to take pictures of the remains of the trees. There is a broken piece of sidewalk I shoot and an old woman passes, eyeing me like I am a cold war spy caught in the act.
"And then what is going to happen?" She asks me, a jab, an accusation.


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