Memories of the Old Lifeby Sasha Senderovich, Belmont, MAI hated the place I lived since the first day I could understand the world that surrounded me. It was a tiny apartment with two small rooms, a bathroom and a microscopic kitchen in a big, gray city in Russia. Ours was one of the many huge apartments, all designed the same. Hundreds and thousands of them looked identical, just like photocopies of some unknown original.Living in a family of four, I remember rarely having an opportunity to be left alone. I remember watching TV with the volume as high as possible, which still did not overshadow the sound of my sister playing the piano in the other room. I remember trying to fall asleep to the sound of the television blaring.I remember how much I liked getting up early when everyone was still asleep. I would quietly slip into the kitchen, have a quick breakfast and enjoy the rest of the short, quiet morning. This was the only time I enjoyed reading, this was the only time I could concentrate, the only time I was left with my thoughts, undisturbed by loud voices and the annoying television. Never able to have privacy, I remember how much I liked staying home alone when my family was invited to visit someone. "No," I would tell them, "I can't go today. I have too much homework to do." I remember how much I used to enjoy those short moments of silence and privacy and how sad I felt when I heard the clicking of the key in the door. But when I was alone, nothing could limit my happiness, not even the noise of traffic in a big street under the windows or the dust and heat of summer days of the huge industrial city.Sometimes, I needed a few moments of privacy when everyone was home. I remember that I used to tell my parents I had something to do and go outside on a purposeless walk. The destination did not matter. I just needed to disappear into the crowds of people walking on the streets and be alone. I vividly remember those walks: passing homeless people on practically every corner, every bus stop where angry and tired people would wait for hours for buses, getting more and more aggravated at bums. These people never shared. Most did not have enough for themselves. I remember how, on the cold winter days, the trains would stop, their engines frozen, and thousands of people would have to walk to work in the early morning, or home late at night, slowly moving their freezing feet. I remember people falling on icy sidewalks that were never cleaned. I remember people carrying heavy bags of groceries, fighting with the strong wind and covering their stiff, white faces during snowstorms. I remember old people counting their change in lines for milk, sometimes walking away because they did not have enough money.With time, I learned to take that as normal. It was my reality, the actual world I lived in, the country in what was called by sophisticated politicians an "economic transition," the country that in fact was stuck at one spot and not moving anywhere. I remember endless days passing routinely in their purposelessness. Just like all the furniture in our tiny apartment stayed at the same place for fifteen years, life did not seem to change much. Every day was lived with the purpose of advancing the night, when only the distant noises of cars could be heard behind the shut windows.I remember my last day there. Vividly, I picture the sad faces of everyone in my family at the sight of many big suitcases with the memories of old life stuffed in them. I remember faking the same sadness on my face while my soul was happy with joy of the end to a boring routine, the beginning of the new and the unknown. -
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.