20. Tell a Story at a Moth Event [Theme: Home]

by marinashifrin

I was 16 when I tried to commit suicide. I remember standing on the edge of the roof of my family’s home, looking past my toes when my mom stepped out for a cigarette. She made eye contact with me, realized what I was trying to do and yelled:

“JUMP, MARINA!”

For Russians, the only thing worse than being dead is being alive. Later that night my dad tried to defend my mother, “Don’t get mad at Mama. She is just nervous about your college costs.”

That’s basically the dynamic of a Russian family; humor combined with tough love. Although we left the mother country, my parents kept up with many traditions including ridiculing your children and using alcohol to solve most issues. I hated it. Things remained tense until a few years after the “roof incident” and then everything changed. I became best friends with my parents, mainly because I moved away. I first moved to Missouri, then New York and eventually Taiwan.

It seemed like the further away I moved, the closer I became with my parents. I started talking to them everyday, sometimes twice a day and I started talking about them everyday. They became legends. People would request stories about Vladimir and Olga. They even got a celebrity couple name: Volga. Volga became a part of everything I did and do. They are my loves, they are my life.

A few months ago, I left Taiwan and decided to move to California. Volga suggested I spend Thanksgiving through New Year’s at home so I could decompress before my 19th move. I hadn’t lived in Chicago in eight years so I thought, “Why not.”

When I arrived home from Taiwan, I instantly realized something wasn’t right. Something was different. It didn’t take me long to figure out what it was; a stain on the kitchen ceiling. It wasn’t that big or bright, but it was definitely there. It was about two feet long, with unusually shaped circles bunched up together in the middle and spread out at the ends. (SEE PHOTO BELOW.) But it’s not the stain that was the problem, it was my parent’s incessant arguing about the stain that was the problem.

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The Stain

Vladimir began interrogating everyone at random hours of the day — you know, to catch us off guard so we’d be more likely to cave under the pressure. When no one admitted to causing the stain, he took manners into his own hands, trying to set up an experiment to recreate such a peculiar stain. Olga took a different approach. She first denied there was a stain and then said it was a leak. When Vladimir continued to investigate, Olga decided Vladimir was slowly spiraling into a senile sixty-year-old. And then they both stopped talking. They didn’t speak to each other for a week, then two, then three, then a month, then two months.

Last Thursday I finally snapped under the silence. I decided to use a little bit of the tough love that I was raised on. I screamed at Vladimir and Olga. I asked them how they could live like this? How they could do this to us? To each other? What happened to Volga? Finally, I asked, “How can you treat someone you love like this?”

To which Olga replied, “We don’t love each other anymore.”

Now, I’ve never been stabbed in the stomach 40 times, but I’ve been dumped and I’ve seen movies. What I felt in that moment was worse than being stabbed in the stomach a million times. I think. I decided the most logical thing to do was run away.

I think this is a good part of the story to stop for a moment and remind the reader that I am a twenty-fucking-five year-old woman. In the real world, you can’t “run away” when you’re past the age of 18 — that’s just called leaving. But I wasn’t in the real world, I was in a world without Volga.

I grabbed my purse, computer and sprinted past my parents who were now screaming at each other. I flew out our front door and was just about to round the corner of the garage when I crashed into a UPS man. I was so flustered and embarrassed that all I could think to say was, “Where do I sign?”

He looked at my tear-stricken face, my frazzled parents behind me and informed me that I had to be at least 21 to sign. Before I could get upset with him for thinking I was teenager, I remembered that I’d just “run away” from home. At this point, my parents began yelling at me in Russian “Марина! Куда ты идешь? Марина! Одень куртку!”

I signed for the package and just before the UPS man left he leaned in towards me and in a thick Russian accent said, “Marina, listen to your parents and put on a jacket.” It’s like some messed up KGB God thought to himself, “How can I make this situation more absurd? Oh, I know! I’ll send a Russian UPS guy to get involved in this family argument! Круто!” When I turned back to toss the packages towards my parents, I noticed that for the first time in months they’d stopped yelling at each other and were instead yelling at me.

There they were, huddled next to each other in front of our family home in the freezing weather yelling at me, together.

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