I don’t think long stories fly well on Medium, but who cares! Besides, I didn’t write this specifically for Medium. Some years ago I drafted a book about my various international travels and experiences but never finished it. Maybe one day! This is the opening chapter.
“I want to talk to you about something,” my father said, his boots crunching in the dirty snow. We were walking our bull terrier in the Moose Island forest. These long weekend hikes in the forest near our home had become a chore, boring the hell out of me. On that particular day Mom had stayed at home.
The words, “I want to talk to you about something” sounded a tad ominous.
Oh, it’s that conversation. He is going to educate me about my penis.
Curiosity and discomfort mingled in my mind. I was thirteen and had been wondering when and how my parents would handle my sex education. Not that I needed it. I had learned enough on my own by chatting with friends at school and reading the anatomy articles in the abridged Soviet encyclopedia in our living room.
I was, however, caught off guard by the life-changing conversation that followed. Nothing around us in Metrogorodok, a drab, unremarkable district on the eastern edge of Moscow, called for anything life-changing. On rare sunny days, the snowy forest looked picturesque, but most often the trails we roamed were gray and dirty, like the low-hanging clouds above.
“I want you to go away. Study abroad,” Dad said. “It will open up a world of opportunities for you later in life.”
I didn’t know how to react to this suggestion — or was it a dictum? — so I shrugged to let him know I was listening, and we continued our walk.
“I haven’t discussed this with Mom yet,” he added, as if hearing doubts in my head. So maybe this wasn’t a conversation I had to take seriously. My overprotective mother would never allow me to live away from home. I was a momma’s boy to the extreme. She was always with me, everywhere I went, not even allowing me to run simple errands in our neighborhood, like getting a loaf of bread in the grocery store across the road. And now I’d study abroad?!
Even if my Mom’s control over my life was not an issue, the idea of living abroad sounded surreal anyway. It was 1993, a mere two years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Though the borders were now open for travel, leaving the…