We are in the Ploschad Revolutsi metro station, deep below Red Square. E has never been here before, and shouts while pointing out the bronze statues in every archway. None of the happy workers are standing. Men and women with guns and scythes, with hammers and noble jawlines. Teenagers run in packs to one of a man kneeling with a rifle and a dog. The dog's face is burnished, luminous in the soft halflight of the metro. They rub the dog's cold nose, laughing, joking, then pirouette onto the next train.
"Pop." E says, tugging my hand. "I think the dog is lucky."
We approach the statue.
I lift her up.
She presses her tiny hands to the dog's face.
I see her wishing.
We take the next train.
"Do you really think it's lucky?" I ask her.
She shrugs her shoulders.
"Maybe it's just shiny." She says.
Every time I retrieve E, she gives me a long report about what she goes through while she is in her mother's house. Now, she is dragged to some kind of child psychologist every Saturday. A doctor that has never met me tells her I am some sort of monster, that I am a poor excuse for a human. The doctor tells E that her mother is wonderful, some kind of saint. The doctor tells E that she is sad, and that she must not be sad, that children are never sad. The doctor tells E she should help her mother, and go outside in the street and play by herself, cook for herself, and always wear clothing with flowers on it. She tells E she must drink a lot of black tea and wear her hair in braids.
E disagrees, to the letter. She tells the doctor she is not sad at my house, and she is dismissed. The doctor tells her that rock and roll is bad, that America is bad, and that Russia is the only good place in the world.
E cannot wait to turn on the music when we get home, with bags of fruit swinging from our arms. She pogos on the big soft chair in the living room, whipping her hair around. I hand her the tiny guitar I bought her.
"No, Pop!" She shouts. "AIR guitar."
Her face squeezes into itself. A sudden wind swirls through the apartment and a door slams shut. She ignores it all, playing her imaginary power chords, jumping higher and higher.
She dozes off after we eat lunch. I know she is not tired so much as emotionally spent. Her face is filthy. A cat scratch hovers on her cheek. I want to put some antibiotic on it, but think better not to risk waking her. More important she sleep that sleep we all have in our own bed, if only for an hour while the sun walks across the walls.
She turns, hands twisted awkwardly around stuffed animals. I play some guitar, very softly with just my fingertips. I sing her a lullaby.
I want her to sleep all the way until morning, maybe to think that this doctor was a kind of nightmare, but not real, maybe to believe she never left on Saturday and just slept for a long time, that she imagined all of it.
She wakes up late, feet padding to my bedroom door. I am already up before she knocks. I know that sound.
"Pop." She says, holding her arms out to me.
I hoist her up, as she forces her face into the back of my neck. I carry her around the dark apartment, singing the lullabies I have always sung for her. I feel her breath chugging in and out of her tiny body. It slows a little. Her arms go slack around me. I do the old trick of making my way to the hall mirror, looking at our reflection to see if she has really found sleep again.
I sing one more for luck, then fold her back under the light sheet.
In the morning I will eat cold, tiny nectarines I think, as I go back to bed.