There is a feeling from Natalya that I am still struggling to articulate and understand. I began to think of it in terms of possession because falling in love felt like being consumed by something not myself.
But I am not really struggling to understand that kind of possession. It has more to do with connection and belonging—belonging with, belonging to. It seems to be the struggle of someone accustomed to ownership trying to understand relationships.
It seems like the opposite of enslavement ought to be freedom, but evidently in my mind that is not the case. Evidently, the opposite of enslavement is connection.
I have been trying to pin this down. When I think of Natalya’s kisses on my body, there is a sense of being tattooed, of being branded. There is a sense about it of being marked. I feel about it as though it she did it not just for fun, and not just because it felt good, but to make a point. I have that sense about many things she did, and I don’t know that that’s an accurate sense. What I think is accurate about my memory of it is that there was a point. The way she touched me adds up to something.
So I’m struggling with this, and what I get from my struggling is a sense of myself as property—as an item that is transferrable. I grew up thinking of myself as a time share, rather than as part of a family.
My father owned me, and he sold the rights to use me after church. He made a deal with Yuri and sold him some of my nights and a part of my weekends. Yuri sold my minutes and hours to other men and sold my image to yet others.
I have a sense of being owned as a condition of my life—I was going to be owned by someone—but not necessarily owned by anyone in particular.
With Natalya, there was a sense about it of permanence, as if whatever I did and wherever I went, I was still hers. Her possession of me was not transferrable. There remained, in a sense, a rightful owner. But by owner, I don’t mean someone who demands, that I must comply with. I’m just putting that sense of permanence into the structure which already exist in my mind. The structure assumes I am a slave, but acknowledges this is a kind of slavery. I’m trying to understand only this one piece of my confusion right now, and not the whole thing. That much is enough for one day.
Because the thing about the sense of permanence is that it makes me feel safe. I want to feel that kind of possession. The permanence seems safe not so much as a protection against loss or abandonment or uncertainty, but as a kind of motivation.
No one cares that much about a library book, but if it is your book, you take better care of it. If you loan that book to your friend, you expect your friend to take care of it too, because it is yours. I am not a book, but what I am saying is that relationships mean you care. No one cares much about transferrable property, except to avoid any fines or other negative consequenes.
Natalya makes me feel like an old and very dog-eared, worn-out book that is tied together carefully with string so that the pages that have fallen out don’t get lost and that is kept in a special place—away from small, dirty fingers, away from heat and dust and damp—but taken out again and again to read. Because it is a special book, it is a treasured book, it’s a book with important things to say that you cannot hear enough times.
I know I am not a book, but I am just trying to understand the sense of permanence better. Because, as I said, the safety I feel about the permanence is not about not having to experience loss, but about having someone to protect me. It is about having someone to protect me even me from herself.
I mean, we do that, don’t we? We care, and so we don’t say every stupid thing that comes into our heads, because that might hurt them. Some people keep a civil tongue just because, just out of a sense of decorum, but with the people we are close to, we do that so we don’t hurt them. It’s so we don’t damage the relationship.
At the same time, I know most of us are kind to others just because. You wouldn’t beat a child half to death even if she weren’t your child.
But still. I think there’s something to this idea I’m struggling with. I can’t seem to quite say it so that it makes sense.
Natalya’s kisses make me feel I am hers and so no can hurt me. No one is allowed to. They did, but I feel that way anyway. I am too small to say no, but she can say no for me. She can say that hurts, don’t do that about me. She can say that is not good for her. She can say that is not in her best interest.
And I think, in considering this, I am starting to understand the role of a parent in a child’s life. I know Natalya was later my lover and when she came she was only 13, but my experience of being parented was so brief and so long ago, that the next caring relationship I encountered had to work overtime to help me understand how to be in the world.
So, I think Natalya did something for me that parents normally do for their children, which involves making the rules. The rules aren’t just about how the child is allowed to behave, or how other adults behave with the child, but how the parent behaves with the child. Parents have rules for themselves in how they act toward their children. So did Natalya. Her rules meant she nurtured me