Later, I will write about the pink sky that I woke to, and of how December’s grayness has taken hold; how the air reeked of winter and the pond was painted with ice. I will write about the children at the small school, where we practiced letters and drew pictures, and my walk there and back. I will describe my host father’s voice and smile when I read my name (in Ukrainian) in the gazette and the way, at the exact moment I was thinking I didn’t want to run, my friend called me to say she didn’t want to either. I will relive the hour at her house, where the table was set with sausage and chicken and carrots and cabbage, and she rolled it all in lavash like I taught her to do with tacos, and their disappointment that permeated when I admitted that I probably wouldn’t be in town for New Year’s.
Yes, I will record those aspects of my life in the small town (not a village) where I live in Eastern Ukraine, but right now my head is filled with thoughts of the way I am torn in two, with how I can’t share the life I am planning with the people who have become my family. After sitting with my closest Ukrainian friends, I came home and retreated to my room, putting in my head phones and talking in a quiet voice to my girlfriend, like I have done every night for almost a year. For weeks, my host mother has been teasing me about having a lover. I always slyly deny, with a smile on my face, knowing that they can’t know, that their knowledge could destroy any relationship I have built with them.
Life here is often filled with questions about boyfriends and husbands and lovers, and why I don’t have one or if I’ve found one, and why I don’t find one in Ukraine. But what they never ask is if I have a girlfriend, because, well, I’m a girl. And that is why I am torn, because if I had a boyfriend my friends and host family wouldn’t be disappointed and confused about my leaving, they would have invitations and stories and questions. I would be able to share the excitement of being in love and adventures undertaken. But instead, I spend my evenings in my room, music playing softly, trying not to speak too loud, making sure her voice is not heard, hiding from the life around me, imagining the life that could be.