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Breaking Fate This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   The the yellow light of the dining room lamp, my mind is a mass of nerves. So manyquestions ... years of unanswered questions about why my family lives in Americaand not in our native Russia. My father holds the answers, and his grasp on themhas been too tight. I sit under the light while he walks around me, a cigarettein one hand, a wine glass in the other. His body language itself is evasive. Itgives me the impression that I am an intruder in his thoughts, as though I amwaiting for answers not meant for my ears. Looking me in the eyes, he seems tomock my hesitation with a smirk that looks so much like my own.

"Aninterview with me? For how much?" he jokes, sucking down his wine. "Allgood reporters pay well."

"Why are you pacing, Dad? Are youuncomfortable?" I ask. I don't know what to do with my hands.

"It helps me think. They don't let me do it at work. I think betterthis way."

"So, tell me, why did you decide to come to America?I've never really known why we are here." Listening to my voice, thequestion sounded better on paper. I watch his face to see if the question struckhome. All I see is the gleam of his glasses. It's hard doing this without seeinghis eyes.

"Why did I come to America? I came to work in an Americancompany which did business with Europe and owned large portions of Russian seatrade." That simple, huh? I don't think I'm going to let it go at that.

"Tell me more," I encourage him.

"The companyinvited me. They gave me the opportunity to get a green card, so we stayed."

"So, it was just for the green card? Didn't you have personalreasons for wanting that green card?" Where do I come into play? My parentshad drilled into my head that the only reason they sacrificed everything and camehere was for me.

He interrupts my thoughts by continuing, "Then thecompany went out of business, and I was forced to choose between going back orstaying and making a life here. You were already in the American school. Yourmother and I decided not to break your fate, and we stayed." So it was me. Iuprooted them.

"Break my fate?"

"You were in thirdgrade. You were doing well and it would have been a shock for you to goback."

"Oh, so if it wasn't for me, you wouldn't havestayed?" Guilt overwhelms my voice, and I sound more like anecho.

"No. You know, there's that saying 'There's no place likehome.' I forget where it came from, but everyone knows it. I gave up myhome." I never knew Dorothy's life would reflect my father's. A redundantstring of words takes on new meaning. Am I allowed to be ashamed of the role Iplayed? As much as it hurts, I want to know exactly what this man gave up for me.How numb and strange does he feel?

"What part of you did you lose?What did you leave behind emotionally?" I squeeze out of barely movinglips.

"I left myself there. All of me - it's there." Ouch ...talk about twisting the knife.

"So, in other words, you losteverything?"

"You're too young to know these things,"he mumbles, barely audible, and looks irritated while taking another drag of hiscigarette, which has burned down to the end. "But I suppose it's good thatyou ask, even if in some stupid interview," he stops, puts out the smoke,resumes. "My mother's grave is there. My father is there. My friends. Myyouth. I met your mother there." Again making a loop into the living room.

"But those are all past friends, it's a country of the past. None ofthat exists anymore, except in my nostalgia. When you're nostalgic, it's hard tothink objectively and remember things for what they really were. Now everythingthere's cold for me. The people have changed." He's talking about the facesin the pictures he kept from Russia. All of them are vague in my memory, but forhim, the wound still hasn't healed. Why did his heart commit such suicide? Is hecompletely miserable here?

"Dad, did you gain anything at allcoming here?" He looks at me as if I know the answer better than he does.

"Something positive? Hmm ... your questions are toodifficult." I wonder if they're too difficult to answer, or too painful. Hecontinues thinking out loud. "Something positive. I would like to think thatsince my wife, my child and I are here alone with nobody to help us, we havelearned to be self-sufficient. Independent from the world." He doesn't lie.Our house is a Russian microcosm in suburban New York.

"Independent? How?" I ask, hoping to hear his definition of theword.

"Financially, emotionally," he answers, making hisvoice soft. "We were forced to think on our feet, and in this isolation, wehave studied one another and learned each other. That would never have beenpossible in Russia. Here, everything is difficult, but that gives us strength.It's all for one and one for all. Even the little steps that lead to success makeus less fearful of the sound of the next one."

I can't tell. All Ihear is the sound of his feet pacing. And as much as he thinks we have"learned one another," I'm discovering more about him with everyquestion.

"I'm secure and we're all safe. The rest is smallstuff."

But what I want to know is how that independence paidoff. Here comes the question, and as cliché as it sounds, I think this oneholds the key.

"You hear the phrase 'American Dream' all the time,right, Dad? How do you interpret that? What does it mean to you?"

Without even thinking, he blurts, "It's the dream of every person to live ina good house, with a good spouse, to make a good living. It isn't necessarily theAmerican dream. it's the dream of every normal person." So, what otherpeople define as streets of gold, my father sums up as a natural human need. Inthat case, "Have you reached yours, Dad?"

Looking down, almostbashfully, he says that our life is still moving, we're still climbing. As longas there's no war, we're okay. From that reply, I understand that he hasn'treached it completely.

"And what if there is war?" I ask,hoping for him to clarify that statement.

"What types of things areyou asking?"

I rephrase. "If there's war, how will it changeyou, your life?"

"It won't only change my life, it'll changeeveryone's," he almost yells, exhaling the smoke of his second cigarette."What are we? All cogs, tiny screws in the great scheme of things. We canonly pray everything goes well." He almost swallows the last few words. Myfather has never been religious - until September 11, I guess.

"Sothen, you feel patriotism toward America," I conclude.

"We haveto give back to this country. If I knew what to do to stop war from collapsing onAmerica, I'd do it." His raised voice makes me believe he would jump on thenext plane to Afghanistan. If he would do anything to protect his country, hemust belong in it.

"Do you feel at home in America? With itspeople?"

"This country is unique in that every nationality hasits niche. It's a place for every nation. The Jews, the Hispanics, the Poles,they're all American. We're all part of the American society." He has pacedaround my final question, leaving it only half-answered. Apparently, he has foundhis niche among the Russians in America, but not America herself. His heart isstill in Russia, with his past, his youth.

I am left feeling as though myfather and I share a roof over our heads, but not a home. I live here, while theman who sits across the table lives in a town halfway across the globe. He hasamputated his own heart for my sake, and now I'm flushed with guilt ... I brokemy father's fate.BR>






This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.





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