It's all relative around here. Once you land, figure out the power outlets, find a cute little Persian rug knockoff at the grocery store and get a load of the valet service and your first paycheck, you sink deeper and the place just starts wrapping its tentacles around you.
You still feel like you control your appendages ... your thoughts, your wherewithal.
Only when you've been operating in the arms of this friendly but powerful sea monster of a society for quite a while--and a new person comes, naked, wide-eyed, dumbstruck drifting down past you eye level--do you get a sense of what has happened to you.
The person floats there, looking around, the hairs dancing above their head, their cheeks buoyant. And then up behind them comes a shadow. The water between your eyeballs and the leviathan's procession grows thin. You witness: the same moment you remember so long ago happening to them. You remember: when it first touched you and eased itself around your waste, curled its tentacle tips atop your head and into your palms, ran its smooth skin along your calves and placed its tender micro suction cups atop your feet.
Some days, you do realize, somehow, you can't move as freely as you once did, but in other ways are strengthened to ten times your original ways--it all depends on what it sees in you, what it lets you do, helps you do and prevents you from doing, this society here.
It's not some small, benign member of the deep sea world, this one. It's got some heft. But underwater, everything becomes kind of relative to how elusive it can make itself, how well it navigates and commands it endless turf, how deeply it spends its time.
And a power like this runs deep--what with its tribal history and its recent run into riches. It lays low and reaches out only for the select of us who somehow saw it for what it was, once upon a time, when we dove in head first, toward the shiny objects related to this expat experience.
Again, we are not privy to the view of what is actually happening to us, until the occasional new person gets gripped before our eyes. They look at us, watch us, wonder about us.
They seem to ask us: How can we go on like this? Don't we have any shame, about those designer shoes, vacations, electric guitars, speedboats, lovers, self reinventions and "I won't be in today, my flight is delayed from the weekend in Moscow."
We look at them like cats, wrapped in tentacles, turning our attention just for a moment from our fancy feast dishes.
No. Actually. No we don't.