Anoushka has new boots. Or, I have new boots.
But they are the kind of boots Anoushka would like.
She did not buy them. She did not even pick them out. Charlie did.
It was strange to feel the sense of switching in the midst of browsing the shops. Suddenly, I wanted boots that laced. Suddenly, I was looking in the wrong section of the store, and I began to think that I already have perfectly acceptable boots. I have hiking boots and they are warm and comfortable.
(And I never, ever wear them because they don’t look nice with National Dress and none of the other ladies wear boots like them.)
I had to explain to Charlie that the boots were not for him, that they were for Anoushka, and he understood that. He understood about buying a gift.
The boots are black and comfortable—more or less—and sensible in that they are not made out of suede, which is popular these days here in Country X but impossible to care for. They have some kind of pointless buckle thing on the sides and they are just the tiniest bit sexy.
Anoushka likes sexy things.
Charlie understands sexuality as wonder, as a gentle, tender thing that involves care. Charlie remembers making love to his Natashka as being like touching a flower, but Anoushka is another matter entirely.
Anoushka understands passion. She knows how to seduce.
Anoushka is ten years old.
Anoushka knows things she is too young to know and understands things she is too young to understand. Anoushka is the part of me who had to behave in a sexual, seductive way towards adult men from the time I can remember.
Anoushka is a child part, but she understands adult problems and adult kinds of pain and she also connects to aspects of me that are real and adult and me and her memories render those aspects of myself unbearable.
Anoushka also knows what it feels to be raped. She knows what it means to have a female body in a world that provided no protection for it. She knows what it means to have a female body in a world in which that body exists only to be used and to be hurt.
She knows what it means to be nothing more than a device to create pleasure for other people. And what it means to suffer because she is not that. No girl is a device. No woman is a device. If we were intended to be devices, we wouldn’t have sensations or emotions. We could lie there and just be bored the way dogs are.
I know I have to let in some of that pain. Otherwise, it crashes over me like a wave while I am trying to carry on with the rest of my life.
At the core of the pain is a feeling of abandonment. I was abandoned by nearly the whole rest of society. A judge abandoned me to my father to be raped again. A minister abandoned me to a pedophile to be sold to him again and again. The neighbors abandoned me to Yuri to watch Natalya die.
And because of that I don’t just feel worthless in the eyes of the men who abused and exploited me. I feel worthless in the eyes of everyone.
Because, while the thugs and pedophiles and my sociopathic father did what they did because of who they were, everyone else let it happen when they could have chosen something else for me.
You could say they didn’t know, but they did know. The minister knew that I said a man was hurting me. The judge saw my medical reports and heard what the social worker had to say—and I don’t think it was that I ought to go back, given the look on her face when she had to take me and my teddy bear back to my parents’ house. The minister did not believe me and the judge did not care.
You might say that is only two people and others would have cared, but I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe you are right. It is impossible to really say now.
But I think it takes effort not to recoil from the knowledge of what was happening to me. It takes effort to keep the shock from making you retreat into denial or paralysis—I know because that happens to me too. It is too much effort and it is too easy not to make the effort. For most people, I wasn’t worth making that kind of effort for.
It is wrong though. It was wrong to abandon the little girl I was to the men who thought of me as nothing more than a device. It was wrong not to make the effort to believe me or to protect me. It was wrong not to see that I was worth those things—I am not worth those things because I am anything special, but because I am a human being.
It would be wrong to do that to myself now. It would be wrong to not just feel the sense of worthlessness, but to join in with it. It would be wrong to say, No one cared about me, and so I am not going to care about myself either. It would be wrong to agree, I was worth nothing to anyone then, and so I cannot be worth anything to myself now.
It would be wrong to go on letting myself be someone else’s device and ignore the pain that being treated that way causes me as a human being.
Someone has to care.
Almost no one cared when I was a child, but I am not a child now, and I have to care.
Thinking this, I am reminded that Natalya was my miracle and I was also hers. I am still her miracle and I ought to be my own miracle. If I cannot be my own miracle, I ought to at least remember what I was to her.
That isn’t to say I am going to be able to magically stop feeling worthless because I’ve come to some kind of realization about it. The feeling will keep arising anyhow.
It is not wrong to have the feeling of worthlessness or the perception of being a person without worth. Feelings and perceptions are nothing more than that. But it is wrong not to be kind to myself when I have that feeling and perception.
It is wrong not to care. It is wrong not to see my own pain and wrong not to try to help myself with it. I can’t fix everything just now for myself. I am going to hurt for a while. But it is wrong not to try to do what little I can do to help.