Annoushka pops out again in the afternoon. She is thinking about sex. She wants it. Then she remembers Natashka is gone. Sex is no longer possible.

Or it is, but she doesn’t want to. Not ever.

Never, never, never.

Only Natashka will do.

And so she is again unbearably sad. She thinks about ways to die. The river seems impractical now. It’s cold, but shallow. Hanging seems more possible. But she doesn’t know about the other parts. They might not want to die. She would be killing everyone if she died. And the thought gives her pause.

Still, life without Natashka seems agonizingly empty. Even if it isn’t empty as it is, it ought to be empty. Again, the whole world seems like it ought to die with her. There should no longer be any joy in it, any beauty, any wonder, any fun. There should be nothing.

But she can’t understand this. She can’t understand what she misses or why she feels this way. It’s the slice problem. Her slice of the world is too small, and it’s not big enough for her to make sense of.

She keeps thinking about sex, but what she misses is something inside the sex, something that happens within it or during it, and not the sex itself. But she doesn’t know what it is.

When she lands on it, it’s not what I would have thought it was. It’s not what she would have thought.

I don’t want to grow up without her.

I want to show her my report cards.

I want her to come to my graduation.

I want to marry her and have babies and buy a house and get a dog.

She says this and begins to sob. She has finally named what it is. She can cry over it now.

In other words, she wants Natashka to witness all of the milestones of her life. She wants Natashka to be the milestones, but she also wants her to be there for them.

Like you would your mom or dad.

What Annoushka got—what was expressed in the slice of Natashka’s that was hers—was approval and unconditional love. It seems unlikely, because she also got the idea that This is special. I want to do this only with only one special person. She has two things that seem mutually exclusive.

She got something that suggests a motherly feeling and she got something else that has to do with being lovers. And those two feelings didn’t occur separately. One got added on to the other..

Those feelings were there all the time—they would have been. But the other parts had different concerns. They weren’t paying attention to that. They were paying attention to something else.

Annoushka was paying attention to it, but sex is the slice she got. So when she thinks I want Natashka’s approval, I want her unconditional love, I want that she always seemed to know what I needed and to be there for me in meeting that need, and when she thinks I want that reassurance that I am
good, I was always good, I will always be good she thinks about sex. That’s the slice it came in.

It’s hard not to see this as ick. But Natashka is not a relative. She didn’t feel to me like a relative. And Annoushka doesn’t have any of that sense of wanting to please Natashka that makes a child want to please an adult at her own expense. She wants to please Natashka, but there is also the sense that she will please Natashka, that everything she does will please her. There isn’t a pressure to conform to her wishes, because the wish is that she be Annoushka.

Mostly. There are only two pieces where it seems to be there: I had to get out of that life, and I ought to do something more to look pretty. I’m such a pretty girl, I ought to just…

If you’re female, you can probably finish that sentence.

But it’s this enormous relief for Annoushka, to understand this, because she feels now she can grow up. Natashka is not here. They can no longer touch, but what she misses is not really a physical thing. It doesn’t require touch, and what’s absolutely essential is something she doesn’t need to give up. Not ever.

Natashka does approve of her. She does see her milestones. It’s not the same—this idea of someone watching her from afar. But it’s good enough. It’s better than having it be entirely impossible, and it’s also better than the idea of someone coming along and attempting to replace Natashka. Which had been her fear.

But no one can. Or will.

And now she understands why.

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