So you have a better host family than me. You have a better view—you posted a picture with a caption explaining its loveliness. The architecture, the “skyscrapers.” Well I have a goddess view of the lake if I walk outside in the snow. I have oily food and a room without a window. My sheets haven’t been washed in weeks. Let’s talk about your nostalgic blues and baby-cheek pink buildings. Let’s talk about your flavorful stir-fries. I got so narrow that I got on a language app. I wanted to learn Russian to distance myself from the grandmother tongue surrounding me (who knew I had the same roots as my host country? Who knew I have their blood? God). All the men go to Russia to work and here I am, another girl with the wives, scattered in the kitchen like a balding dandelion, learning Russian.
She had been to a therapist, my language partner, a rarity in her culture. The psychiatrist told her sometimes there are black sheep in the ancestral line; sometimes you inherit this mindset; you didn’t ask for it. It all sounded distinctly female. The Russian girl knew as many movies as me. She knows of Sigourney Weaver in her underwear with a cat; she called Kathy Bates’ facial features relaxing. She taught me the Russian word for vertigo (one of the only ones I can remember), for curse (Russians translate scary American films into Russian by adding the word curse—except for Annabelle. Annabelle is scary enough). She taught me the Russian title of the movie Nocturnal Animals, a way to flirt with women who were older and had cats (I’m not even bisexual). How weird, I think, how much I talk to her. But didn’t I find my last roommate, now my best friend, on Craigslist? I watched Widows the night before last, and I saw a glimpse of the layers of being a woman– daylight and nocturnal. I ate a bag of chips. Nocturnal Animals. Did you know it becomes Under the Night’s Cover? Did you know the word for under also means your sex? She taught me possessive. She taught me gender. I am unlearning English, undoing it like a shoe after walking home from school. Often I daydream about eating, about better food. About flavors and spices and marinated pork in a gyro. About your views. About your architecture. About your host family. Tell me, would you consider Kathy Bates a surrogate mother? Has a Dolores Claiborne rocked your stuffy-nosed self to sleep? I’ve cobbled together bodies, I’ve made a family, I made a view from the window I see through my door as I lay in bed. There’s a black sheep, maternal, with the loveliest hair.
Lily Daly is a writer from Alabama. She currently lives in Armenia and teaches English as a Peace Corps Volunteer.