I am trying to help Lana understand that pain can end.

In the mornings, it is cold. It is very cold. There is a weather report and maybe it is for the whole district and not my town, but it says that the low last night was -8 degrees C.

It is cold inside too. It is not as cold, but if I tell you that I can see daylight through the walls, you start to get an idea. And it is often windy—less at night. But still. All that cold outside gets in.

Country X has no concept of insulation, and the houses tend to be dark and cold all year round. In the summer, this is lovely. In the winter, it is not so lovely. Most people have woodburning stoves, and the thing to do is to huddle around it until you’re sweating. Or, if it is daytime, go outside and sit in the sun, because although the high was evidently only 4 degrees, it is beautiful and sunny and warm in the late mornings.

I, on the other hand, have a tiny little electric heater I keep wondering if I ought to replace with a bigger one. And don’t. Because so far, I can manage.

But it means as I am washing dishes after breakfast, my hands hurt. Doing the laundry—which I can’t bear to wash in cold water anymore and switch on the hot water heater for (my electric bill is going to be atrocious)—I usually get my feet wet. I try not to do this and it happens anyway. Typically more than once. I don’t, even now, wear shoes in the house unless Annoushka gets in a mood and won’t let me take her boots off. I wear plastic sandals and two pairs of socks and mostly this is fine. Except after they get wet. Then they get cold. The cold comes on gradually—they got wet with warm water, and it takes time for the wool to lose its insulating properties.

My hands freeze from washing dishes and my feet freeze because they are wet, and what I do these days is dip my hands in the warm laundry water when I can’t stand the pain in my hands anymore. When my feet freeze from being in wet, cold socks, I eventually hold my feet in front of the heater and change my socks.

I am trying to get Lana to see this process. My hands get cold and hurt, but it is not an endless, insoluble problem. My feet get cold and hurt also, but it is also not hopeless. It is a more difficult problem, but it can be dealt with. They stop hurting. I might have to wash more dishes and then they will hurt again, but I can just keep dipping them in the laundry water.

Lana has mostly been responsible for managing unbearable, seemingly endless pain. She has not mentioned my dad’s torture, but I know from how I remember it that this was her province. She is called upon to manage both physical and emotional pain. I don’t really know what she does with the pain—I suspect she just shuts everything down.

As the other parts begin to grasp that Natashka is really, really dead and not coming back again, I think it is going to be unbearable for them. And I think it is going to fall to her to try to manage the pain of it.

The loss is less painful now, but I think that is because one layer of the pain has been scraped away.

For Charlie and for Sam, the layer of pain that was unbearable was the sense of amputation about it—that she could not even be remembered. They understand they can remember now, and it hurts less. But I don’t think they’ve really accepted her death.

Annoushka has only barely begun to engage with it. She has been almost entirely focused on trying to understand how she felt when Natashka was still alive. It’s going to hurt her too. She began to cry for the first time yesterday. She just said, I miss you I miss you I miss you I miss you. Like that. Over and over.

So I think all of this is going to hit Lana very hard, even though I don’t know what the loss itself will mean for her. I think she is going to get stuck with the pain of it. Every time that pain gets too much for some other part, it is going to end up landing in her lap.

And, so, at the moment, that is why I am sitting in bed with a hot water bottle under my feet, getting them nice and warm and toasty. There are other kinds of pain I need to deal with—a childhood of torture seems to involve a great deal of ongoing, residual pain in the body and only some of it is due to psychological trauma—but I can only address one of them at a time.

 

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