Charlie cries in the night instead of Sam. He is not crying for Natashka. He is crying for himself. He cannot explain why. He just feels worthless.

I wake up in in the morning, late, feeling stunned in some way and I don’t want to do any of the usual things. I don’t want tea. I don’t want breakfast. I don’t even want to open the blinds although it is light and probably the start of another perfect, beautiful day here in Y-Town. So I put on my coat—it is cold—and I lie there for a long time. I get tea at last and spill nearly all of it in the bed.

This, at least, gets me up.

Charlie thinks he has been thinking about sex, but he has not. He has been thinking about the camera and what he had to do in front of it.

There is an emotion he has during it that he cannot identify. It seems to come through in the course of one particular act and the emotion of it is intense. It makes him think he likes that particular act, but he cannot name why. He cannot name the emotion.

The emotion is sadness.

He cannot identify it because, although he is consumed with melancholy from missing Natashka, he is not supposed to feel sad. He is not really supposed to feel much of anything.

I have—and he has—been trying to come around to the idea of his gender. He knows he has to come to grips with it, and he also knows he does not really identify as male. His boyness is about pretending to be other than what he was. Grappling with his gender is a matter of grappling with his pain.

And I realize after he is able to name the emotion at last that his thinking about sexuality is not about being male or female. It is about being trafficked. It is about his whole role and identity having been organized around self-effacement. He does not matter. Only the other person does. They are supposed to feel good. His feelings are beside the point.

Imagining himself as male allowed him to do what he needed to do without being terrified that someone was going to violate him in an unbearably painful and frightening way at any moment. But it is not the main thing of what he was.

The other parts have bits of how things really felt for me that I could not bear to feel. Charlie allowed me to survive by constricting the feelings. The only feeling allowed out is care for the other person. That was the only feeling that let me to keep doing what I needed to do instead of disrupting it. Everything else created a risk.

My rage is in Verka and my physical agony and humiliation are in Annoushka and my fear is in Lana. They are split off because they would have made me unable to perform. All of these feelings are split off so that Charlie can concentrate and can do his job and so we can all stay out of the freezer and so that no one flies into a rage in the middle of things and breaks some part of our body we do not want broken.

But what he had to do was terribly sorrowful. Charlie has tried to suppress it, but that is still what he feels. The sadness did not get shut down entirely. It is still there. And so that is what he remembers of being forced to perform sex acts on others—immensely, immensely sad.

What he likes about what he remembers doing—that one particular act—is that at least he was close to the girl he was performing with. At least he was, in some way, held. He could look into her eyes and he could feel, just slightly, like a human being again.

He could, for a moment, feel cared about and that he mattered. Otherwise, he did not. He was nothing. He was a machine.

It’s not that I did not ever get this when I was with Natashka. If we had to perform together, she did care. But Annoushka got that. He did not. This is the only time he was able to experience her care.

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