It is breakfast time. I am, for the moment, in a Western bubble. I am in a Western bubble mainly because I want to sit and write for a while in a place that is warm. Also, I want a cup of coffee.

Charlie likes coffee. And the large Americano currently burning a hole in my stomach reminds him of the coffee he used to make.

I am trying to let things settle in a little. I am trying to let it settle in that I feel different, that many things seem different to me now.

Charlie was worried he was selfish to make love to Natalya because he wanted her so much. He was worried doing something he wanted would automatically hurt someone.

He complains someone is always hogging the brain, that he doesn’t get to think, and that is true. I am always thinking, and that is not usually with his knowledge or experiences. It is always, in fact, without the full picture. I am trying to see the whole picture, but I can’t, and so the thoughts I have are sometimes riddled with flaws and holes and missing pieces.

So it’s surprising to me that it’s simple to help him with his guilt. Someone tells him he wasn’t selfish and he thinks about this a little, but not that much. He remembers a little too. And that’s enough. No, he wasn’t selfish. If he can think with his experiences in mind, it makes sense. He is not grasping at elusive will-o-wisps the way I am. He knows he gave Natalya something she wanted. He can see this in what he remembers: he cannot understand what it was, but he is not like me. He doesn’t need to understand every single little thing. Just the big things. And so he is okay.

He still grieves. He still grieves intensely, but that is okay too. The main thing is that no one is trying to take the grief away from him. No one is trying to shove the memories down along with the pain and, because of that, he can let go gently instead of ripping the whole thread of her out of the tapestry of his life. He knows he needs to grieve and no one is trying to highjack that process now. He can—and I can—do what needs to be done.

I realize I need to let myself still be in love. There is something incomplete about the life I have lived, because it was all in pieces. There are so many things I did not get to do, and perhaps a part of the grief involves seeing what I didn’t have when Natalya was alive.

There is a grief for the life I lived also.

And there is nothing normal or average about our relationship. I can’t pretend there was.

However, given that, I realize when you are in love and when you are able to be with that person, then after you leave something of them remains with you. Maybe it is a feeling, or it is the memory of what they last did or said replaying itself in your head. Maybe it is the scent of them lingering on your own body, or maybe it is the taste of something you ate with them. But something remains, and whatever remains is delicious in a way. It is something to be savoured.

I had none of that. I left Natalya, and everything about her had to be shoved back into the box and locked up tight. I could not remember her. I could not think about her. I could not tell anyone anything about her. I could not notice if anything of her did remain on me. If I left her room smelling of her soap and her shampoo because I had just re-2x2ed myself and I had used her things in her shower—and I think this did happen—I could not know this. If the taste of her tea or of her body was still in my mouth, I could not know that. If the smell of her was on my hands from just having made love to her, I most definitely could not know that.

And so I think finding her soap again, searching out a substitute shampoo again and using them, I think those things are an attempt at a reparative experience. I can leave the time I set aside to grieve for her and to work some of those things out, and I don’t have to entirely close it up in a box again. I can smell as though I used her shower, the way I used to, and not need to shut out what it reminds me of.

The little ones need her memory because they need the reminder of safety, but the rest of me needs it so that I can feel a reprieve from the cruelty of having to shut her memory up in a box in my mind.

That boxing up process hurt every time I did it. And I need to see that I can stop doing it. I can be safe from that particular kind of pain. There are other pains, but that one at least can end.

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