There are a hundred things I want to write down, and I can’t construct a single coherent thought around any of them. The ability to create order and coherence in my head seems to have escaped me.

Incoherent thought #3:

I bought make-up in the Capitol City. It seemed like an interesting thing to try. My brief eye make-up ritual in the morning is so evocative, I wondered what would happen.

What happens when I try it all on at once is that I remember still shots. I am perhaps five or six in the memories, and I am posing seductively with no clothes, with some clothes on, with clothes on but things pulled here and there to reveal private parts of myself. I am posing with men, as if I am about to perform sex acts on them. But I don’t have to, because then there’s another shot to take doing something else and there is no time to do what I don’t want to do.

I don’t know how I feel about these pictures. They are frightening to some extent, but less frightening than other things I might have to do, and so there is also a sense of relief.

And there is also a sense of their inevitability. As if it is Saturday, it is Tuesday, or whatever, and so naturally I am doing this. Naturally.

Because it is why I was placed on God’s green earth. To do this. I have no other purpose or function.

Obviously, I will do it.


More switches

My friend says she wants to talk to Vivianne and when she says this, I feel a little twinge of happiness, as if I am wanted. And it’s nice to feel that way.

Later, someone does want to talk and I let her. It’s difficult to let her. I am afraid to let go. While it happens—or doesn’t happen, because I am fighting it—I can feel a sense of intense anger inside. I want to break things, or the part wants to break things, and so I am afraid of what will happen if I let go of control. In the end, I do though. It is easier, I find, to just let it. Fighting the switch is so exhausting and so confusing, it is simpler to let go when I can.

But when I switch, the part isn’t angry. She has a temper, but she isn’t angry all the time. She just wanted out.

The person who comes out seems unable to remember anything, and being in her mind is like being in a white room with nothing in it. I know things, and I am in the background, and she could know things from me, but the things I know are still not things she knows.

She wants to scream. “Who is Nata?” she asks my friend, because that is the name she wants to scream. The last thing she seems to remember is being covered in blood.

It is Vivianne who comes out, but she feels no connection to this name. It seems to be my name for her, but not her name for herself. She tells my friend at last that maybe her name is Veroushka. She is not very sure about this.

Later, the next morning, I try to help her with this. It distresses her not to know. Without a name, she is not sure of her own existence, and she feels invisible and unreal.

It is Vera. You can call her Veroushka, but Vera is a proper name, a real name, and she is immensely relieved to have one, like it means the world has carved out space for her.

Vera says she thinks she is dead. If she isn’t dead, then she will make herself dead. The blankness inside her seems to be about the horror of the death she saw—the death that she cannot quite remember, but that she saw. She doesn’t know why she wants to die precisely, just that it seems quieter. There is a sense of wanting to get away from all the noise of life, and to have some kind of peace at last.

The thing about switching is that it is not mostly as terrible as I think it will be. Charlie, whose grief frightens me, is mostly calm once he feels heard. It is the pressure to forget that makes the pain unbearable for him and for me. As well, what I get from entering into his mind is that he is incredibly caring and kind. If I switch into him, that caring seems to be a part of his being, and it feels good to be him. I can like that part of myself.

Annoushka feels like trash, but if she can talk about that feeling, it is not so terrible either. It is terrible because she is so confused by everything. Everything in her head is in pieces, like she never had a chance to put anything together or to make sense of anything. If I switch, she can put things together in a way that she can’t when I am doing the sense-making.

Being Vera is a little the same way. She is suicidal, but not impulsive. She can talk about wanting to die, and it’s not terrible. It is, in a way, just a feeling, like any other. Like being happy or grumpy or tired.

The hard part, it seems, is being both at once. If those feelings intrude into me, then I have to manage too many at once. I have to manage, for example, both feeling suicidal and my own reaction to feeling suicidal. In switching, I can narrow it down to one set of feelings at a time, and it becomes easier to deal with them, to make sense of them, to calm them and make them better.

The morning

I am at last back in Y-Town.

But I had to process many things in order to cope with the journey, and I come back not the same. I came back needing to put together what has emerged about myself. So it is not exactly like being home. It is like being in a friend’s home. Some place where I am welcome, and comfortable, and looked after, but is not exactly my own.

I am in a kind of awkward in-between state, where things are out but not sorted. They aren’t complicated things to sort. I mean, they are not intellectual or complex. But they are shocking to me. It is shocking to me how I feel.

I feel, first of all, that I can exist and be real, and I do not need to hide behind a screen of not-really-being-there. I imagine this feeling is from a part that feels more free to be out in the world, but I don’t really know which one. I imagine it is Annoushka, who has turned out to be different than I thought she would be. Or maybe it is Charlie, who feels no one can see him, but has begun to talk. And maybe it is both of them together.

I feel also that I can be a part of the world and that I am not trash to be thrown out whenever you feel like cleaning the house. I feel I don’t have to pretend to be someone else just to pass as a human being.

I feel I was never trash, but it hurts to think this. If I am not trash, then the pain of it is real, and I have to feel what it was to be used and thrown away as a little girl. And it does hurt to feel this.

Those are just the pieces. The whole is something different still.

Orphanage child

I am thinking about routine this morning. I am at a friend’s house—one of the volunteer teachers. She is going back to her home country in a few weeks from now and this is my last chance to see her.

Because of this, I have no routine. First, I spent two days getting to the capitol by bus. Then I spent three days in the capitol. Now, I am here in her town.

It is one less tool in the box of how I can cope.

I use routine a lot to help me and it does help me. It makes things more predictable and less frightening and it also means I do those things that help automatically, without needing to remember to do them, because they are habit. And so they get done and I feel better.

But sometimes I remind myself of a Romanian orphanage child, because it is place and schedule and physical order that helps me cope more than the living human beings around me.

And this morning I wonder if I will ever trust anyone, and if people will ever help me feel safe instead of more frightened.

A friend’s town

My friend left in the morning, but I am staying on in her town for another day until the bus comes that will take me all the way to Y-Town again. She took me around yesterday, and I met some people. One of them invited me to an annual ritual her family is having. I thought I would go.

But instead I spent the whole day indoors, not doing much of anything visible, trying to give myself a chance to catch up on sorting my head.

I think it helped.

Charlie was distressed about something. He was distressed that he had hurt Natalya. He was distressed that what we had to do in front of the cameras devastated her—and I think that it did—and he felt the way he had tried to survive it was still wrong.

It was wrong. All the choices were wrong. He did not create that set of choices. I did not create that set of choices. My father did. Yuri did. The world of commercial child pornography did. The wrongness is not his to carry. It is not mine to carry.

I don’t know if he understands this or not. I don’t know if that message got through. It feels that it has gotten perhaps halfway through.

But there is something else to this: our perceptions come to us first as emotions to us, and “wrongness” isn’t exactly an emotion. I mean, I cannot look it up in a dictionary and get that as part of the definition. But it’s the word I can think of to describe the emotion that goes with watching someone else harmed.

For Charlie, it is unbearable to feel this. For Charlie, having his body and mind used in a way that hurt someone else—someone he loved—feels unforgivable.

It is unforgivable. It is unforgivable that someone did that to him and to me.

But this is a part of Charlie’s pain. It is something he needs to tell someone over and over again, I loved her and every choice I had was something that would cause her pain. Every alternative led to harm.

I loved her and every time I saw her, I had to watch her suffer. Every time I saw her, I had to be an instrument that caused that suffering.

There is a way in which this is beautiful to me—not his pain and not Natalya’s suffering, but the fact that despite the narrow constraints of the choices we had, we went on doing the best we could. We were in so much pain ourselves, but we kept on trying not to cause each other more of it.

Charlie feels he needs to be forgiven. He wishes he could be. And it is hard to explain to him that he cannot be forgiven because there is nothing to forgive. What happened to Natalya was wrong, but he was not the wrongdoer. He made the wrong as right as he could. It’s just that he could never make the wrong right enough.