The crooked life


Almost 3 years ago I gave an interview to my friend Valentina, a journalist who was preparing, at that time, her final work to get the Master’s Degree which would lead her to become a Private Banking reporter. She was, and she is, particularly interested in brain drain issues and she has asked me recently to give her a follow up on my story. So well, here it goes, I thought I would make a story out of the follow up.

June the 12th it will be three years I’m here in Moscow. And I must say I sort of enjoy writing that sentence and feeling that its structure, in my head, is more Neapolitan Italian than English. Things happened, down here.

I have been through pre-marital cohabitation (oh how I hate this word) for three weeks now, and it’s been a mess. Still, the reason why I hate saying “pre-marital cohabitation”, is that I am not trying it to understand whether it could work: I’ve got this idea that people go and live together because they want to make it work. So, even if he takes all the bed and leaves me in a corner writing this post, nodding his head in my direction in sign of disapproval for my staying up so late, I take the challenge and keep being an unofficial wife.

Being an unofficial wife means that you do and feel all the things a wife could feel and do, but you have no rights as citizens’ wifes and there has been no big ceremony neither at the Municipality nor at the church: as a consequence, neither have you ever worn a pompous white princess dress nor forced your guests and yourself to sit for ages at the table waiting desperately for the third course of dessert to come. Though you kind of miss this exoticity of your roots. It’s kind of, when you live abroad for a while you start feeling very critical towards your host country and missing your homeland the same way as you previously missed your host country. It’s like this: the past is a foreign country. There are cities you will never want to see again and there are pieces of reality you will always cherish in your memory as a temple. Nobody can try and offend it, nobody can try and criticise it, nor praise it properly. I think it’s an illness. The russian poet Griboedov, in his comedy Gore ot Uma (Woe from Wit) writes: “Там хорошо, где нас нету” (It’s good to be where we are not). I remember a taxi driver and former secret agent from Dagestan delivering me this little literature lecture about nostalgia one night on the way from my old flat at Ulitsa 1905 to the Sheremetyevo airport. There are loads of stories I could tell about this long travel in Russia, the fact is that I don’t remember the most of them, ‘cause I’ve lost my habit to take a copybook around and because really, as an adult working person and a wife, I have less and less time for writing, reading and fulfilling artistic aspirations.

Still, there is some story I can tell.

My bathroom is the leaning tower of Pisa, and actually, if we want to be literal, it isn’t even a bathroom, but a shower room with a toilet. And I’m not joking when I say it’s leaning: really, if you come and sit on our toilet, you will notice that the door frame goes up widening according to 15 degrees angle. I cannot say that this is the main reason why every time I get home I start panicking and blinking in the worst desperate housewives fashion, but of course it helps. Though at the beginning I was quite philosophical about this and I called it a “vintage style, representing the crookedness of human existence”. Now I sit, I see it, I hear my man telling that he wants to hang some shelves on the same crooked wall, and I think I could kill him. Because that wall has already lost a corner on the corridor side while he was trying to put in the toilet door, and the only idea of him trying to drill that wall again makes me foresee the catastroph: the two of us sleepiing in a dusty room with a big irregular window on an ancient catacomb.

And this terror is somewhat the metaphor of the existence, of the understading of what you’ve done crooked and where it would be prudent not to drill, or where it would be instead interesting to drill, to enjoy some more adventure. The dicothomy between prudence and adventure, by the way, goes with the age.

I am 29. I teach English and Italian as foreign languages and I cannot say that this was the job of my dreams. I started doing it to earn money, but then they don’t give you other jobs with no experience, so to earn better it’s better to make more experience and qualify yourself and that is how I ended up being a qualified ESL and Italian as  Foreign Language teacher. I am about to start a new course about teaching Russian. I earn well and have some upgrading possibilities, but I write only as a hobby, have no time for acting or organising a theatre group (at least I don’t have it now), I would like to study music and japanese and I have learned one lesson of each in almost one year and, if I got pregnant, because in all this I would love to become a mother one day, the problem of needing three lives would increase by ten.

Nevertheless, I feel I can do it – obviously not in the premenstrual phase. I came to the conclusion that all the career stuff I was told in Europe was a bullshit to some extent. I mean, do we work to live or do we live to work? Working can be a passion, but in a more realistic way it mainly has to be a source of income for you to fulfill your passions. And if it is a passion itself (and languages and learing processes are one of my passions) then it should be double pleasure. The only thing is that a passion you commit yourself to everyday becomes a company you desperately feel like cheating on with some more attractive ones. Like those your friends run after.

That one is a successful young journalist, the other does a PhD and acts in TV programs, the other one finances a PhD by herself and does research in France, the other one is finishing his PhD in Reading and he is your former student, that other one bounces from one embassy to another, and you? You are half a writer, half a singer, half an actress, half a linguist, half a teacher. And I know that you will hush me now, ‘cause I can be no half linguist if I write a whole post in Parthenopean English and I could do the same in Russian, and practice German, Spanish and French just for fun with the colleagues and say such things like “I want to write an article about the failures and limits of communicative methodology” or “I want to finish my translation of that Russian childrens’ book” (which I have no time to do).

But I am not made to be content. I can be very happy and enjoy deeply every moment of this up and down sailing in the ocean of life, but content, no, it’s not for me.

I am made to sit on the toilet, look at the corner between the wall and the door frame and start biting my fingers till they bleed.

It sounds depressing? No. To me, when I reread it, it sounds like some mix of Montale, Leopardi, Dostoevsky and Bukowwsky. Well yea, I’d never compare myself to the latter, if it weren’t for my husband, who has started snoring very loudly.

They’re bringing our wardrobe, sofa and chairs tomorrow morning. That’s the top of my achievements at the moment. And I’ve bought some glasses at IKEA, which remind me Mirò.

If you think about it, three years ago I didn’t even have a normal job contract or anything on my bank account to say: “Hey, next May holidays are we going to Tallin or to Kazan?”



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