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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…

underfoot (rare air)

I took a long walk on our last day in Vada. The baby was sleeping next to N, curled up on top of the sheets as a breeze moved the light around the room. E was passed out on the couch, her cheeks just pink from the sun. Cameras in my bag, I headed for the pine forest that ran along the beach. The smell of sap and smoke and salty air came up to me. People in bathing suits were passed out on blankets, face down in the afternoon as children played quietly. A boy stared at me.

The water was as blue and clear as a postcard. I waded in, my shoes slung around my neck and felt the sand dancing around my toes. It was a moment to drink in, to take all of that rare air and hold it inside for as long as possible. I did not know when I would stand in the ocean again, and it was three years ago the last time I did this.

The vacation had not been an easy one. Viruses, allergies and bad directions had snagged us at every turn. We still sipped cold Vermentino late at night, on a tiny balcony. We still laughed and got sunburned, as the baby painted her face in olive oil somehow getting spaghetti into her mouth. We still got out of Moscow, past its cold wet summer, past the headlines, past the gates, past the traffic.

I headed back into the forest, and then along the main road. Here, an empty amusement park with rides frozen in time, here a sign by the road promising wine and olive oil, fruit and preserves. I take it of course, as cars spit gravel as they pass, as a sky crammed with black birds opens up on my right, as a pair of horses nuzzle a fence on my left. I walk for some time, thinking of them still sleeping in the room, still breathing so lightly as the tiny spots of light dance around them.

And then I understood it was time to head back.


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