Bittersweet Moscow: Invisible doctors

Bittersweet Moscow: Invisible doctors

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Marco North, a single father in search of quality and happiness for his daughter in Moscow, is relieved to know his bravery has the backing support of an imaginary doctor...

The snow had cocooned itself in filthy swirls around the streets and pathways. We trudge in the dim light, careful of the ice beneath the surface. I slide wildly, waving my arms around and E squeezes my hand tightly. I do not fall. She laughs at me, a bubble of happiness as stoic faces pass us on all sides.

One of the strays trots next to us, a German Shepherd mix. It noses our feet. E grows scared. I tell her to put her other hand in her pocket.

The dog is glued to the sides of our knees, bumping against us. Her fear grows. I stop for a moment and it disappears into the crowd.

"I have an invisible doctor," E announces as we walk home from school.
"Oh really." I say, wondering if we are almost out of milk.
"He protects me," E continues, "And only I can see him. When I was born in one minute he was there and he never leaves me."

"Okay," I say, fascinated by the way her mind works.
"And he only protects you?" I ask.
"Yes," she explains, "And only my people know about him."
"Your people?" I ask.
"Yes. Vika, and you, and my friends from school," she says.
"And N?" I ask.
She twists her mouth around. She nods a big yes.
"But not mom," she says defiantly, "She is not my people."


She breathes in deeply.
"If I clap three times he will fly down to me," she says.
"And he is the one who put the computer in my brain and gave me robot bones."

We walk in silence for a bit.
"Do other people have their own invisible doctors?" I ask.
"No," she says quickly, "Only me."
"Ah," I say, guiding us past the crowd in front of the railway station. We walk in the gutter now.
"And if you don't believe me, you are not my people," she said.

That night I watch her sleeping as I work late, the computer an unblinking eye on the other side of the room. The place smells of empty coffee cups and half-sucked lollipops. She has nightmares. She turns in her sleep. Last week she told me the secret name she calls her mother -- Lepit, the maker of sculptures from plastilene -- a moldable, temporary clay that never keeps its shape.

I sit next to her, holding her tiny hand as it instinctually grabs mine. I sing to her the same melody I sang to her when she was one minute old, washing her tiny body in that blue plastic basin as the nurses gave me some space.

Marco North is an expat New Yorker living in Moscow with his daughter. He is a professional filmmaker, published writer and musician, known for the singular nature of his work. Read more about North's life in Moscow via his blog, Impressions of an expat.

All photo © Impressions of an expat

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