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running away with the circus (looking for dolphins)

There are three of them, a brazen woman with bright eyes and a big voice, a man going grey with a hop in his step and a younger woman who might be their daughter or their niece that twists her short hair into little tufts. They roam the hotel, sometimes in elaborate costumes, letting us know that there will be a secret dance party near the ballroom in an hour.

The older woman strolls in during dinner in a costume of blinking Christmas lights and exotic face paint. V stares up at her, convinced she is a princess or a fairy or maybe both. The next night, she is all in black, great horns wobbling on her head. She always has a pair of black Converse high tops on, as if they go with every costume or maybe they are the only shoes she owns.

The man is typically dressed as a pirate, in a striped shirt, maybe an eye patch. He is perfectly relaxed, like his limbs are made of silly straws. The younger woman is always smiling, her mouth a wall of metal braces and lip gloss. I imagine they sleep …


She stands in the red Chinese dress, knees together. The girl next to her somehow has the microphone. An elevator music backing track for Silent Night trickles out of the speakers on both sides of the stage. E looks like a forgotten bouquet of flowers left limp and dry in a vase. I cannot hear her at all, just the girl who sings loud and out of tune, missing half of the words entirely, the rest unintelligible. E's lips are moving. That is the only way to know she is singing along with this train wreck. The song ends with an abrupt click of the cd player, in mid-note. Bland applause ripples through the audience. That familiar sense of anger and frustration runs along the back of my neck. I know it is some pointless school play, a day that will be forgotten as easily as it was slapped together but my teeth will not unclench. I wanted it for her, not for my misplaced fatherly pride. I wanted her to know what it is to open her lungs and sing to the back of the room in that way she does when she is in the bathtub, or sometimes in the street. 

Once more she is pressed into the shadows here, even in the center of a stage. Once more, we are both reminded of how crude and random the culture is here, with its facade of grace. 

Parents and grandmothers are clamoring for positions, shoving cameras in front of each other. Giant smiles are creeping across their faces, great whoops and foot stomping as each child performs in some glittery leftover halloween costume. 

I crane my neck, give E a small wave as she goes back to her seat against the wall. She rolls her eyes. I roll mine back. Maybe we are too humble for this place. We don't have it in us to shove other people aside. 

Afterwards, I sit next to her as the room swirls with shrieking mothers and camera flashes. She takes my hand and squeezes it in hers. 
"You don't have to say anything Pop." She tells me. "I know."
"As long as you know." I say quietly.
We watch the room slowly empty. 
"At least everybody in New York knows I can sing good." She says.
"You even made some of them cry." I remind her.
E looks up at me, her eyes starting to get wet. 
She stares at me for some time, without blinking.
"We'll get there, kiddo." I whisper. "It just feels like we'll be stuck in Moscow forever."
She nods once, then stands up.
I see her brush the moment away, like a wet dog flicking its fur. 
The stage is empty now. I look at the shiny balloons and the swath of blue cloth meant to be the sky that covers just part of the back wall. 
"Come on, Pop." She says. "I want to show you the snowflake I made."


gina said…
Dear Eva,

I just read your dad's account of your school concert, and I want you to know that there are HUNDREDS of people in NY who know what an amazing singer you are! I played your and your dad's beautiful rendition of Silent Night for my whole family on Christmas as well as all of my friends on-line. We all agree that you've done the most wonderful version of that song that we've ever heard. I'm so sorry you were discouraged at school, but no worries. You have a very big and happy audience awaiting you! I can't wait to hear you sing more!!

Happy New Year to you!

Joshua Alemany said…
Dear Eva, I agree with Gina. Listening to you and your pop sing Silent Night was the most beautiful part of Christmas for me this year. I cried a and smiled the whole time I was listening. Then I played it again for my daughter. She is 3-1/2. She listened with her eyes wide open, she never even blinked the whole time you were singing. When the video finished, she finally took a breath and whispered "that was beautiful... But she's just a little girl? Could I sing like that someday too?" So thank you Eva for inspiring my little girl to want to sing and touch people's hearts someday, just like you did. Merry Christmas to you, little angel. (Nice job parenting Marco, your heart being on your sleeve has rubbed off on her :-)
liv said…
Yes, indeed, your voice's were heard coast to coast in America. From NY to Portland, Oregon! And they were so beautiful!

Eva, your day will come. And it will be bigger than anyone expected. It will be spectacular ! Because you will be singing for all the people who Love you and there are so, so many of us. Keep singing!
Sarah said…
In London England too Eva! My two little ones adopted from St Petersburg, Russia and are now Russian/ Americans just like you loved your version of Silent Night so much! It is so beautiful! You and your Dad are fighters! Keep believing in yourself!!! Happy New Year!
Maria Shatskaya said…
May I have the record of the song by Eva? Silent Night? Just for me, Grisha and maybe Lesha? :)

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