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.

 

 

Advertisements