Lana has a memory yesterday. She is sleepy and lying in bed and listening to her favourite Russian songs, waiting for a nap to overtake her. And it just suddenly pops into her head.

Nata is holding her. She says Nata is holding her like she is dead, and by this she means her own body is limp, and Nata is holding her the way you hold someone who cannot respond to your holding in any way.

Nata is scared. She is trying to wake Lana up, rubbing her hands and slapping her face. Lana has forgotten to breathe. She is not breathing, and Nata is trying to make her breathe again. Nata blows into her mouth. The force of someone else’s air startles her into breathing again.

And after that Nata is angry. She is furious. She picks up the dazed Lana and shouts. She says if this happens again, she will kill them. She says she will kill Yuri. She will kill all of them.

Nata is a tiny thing—shockingly strong, but tiny—and she cannot be more than 13 years old. She is probably 12, but she is murderous with rage. Absolutely murderous. And to Lana, it seems she means this. Natalya is completely, utterly serious.

Natalya cannot stop the abuse. She cannot stop what happens all the time without it leading to something worse, but if they are going to kill me anyway, she has nothing much to lose. She will find a way to fucking take them out. All together or one by one. Either way. But definitely, certainly, she will do it.

The force of her rage is shocking to Lana. It is shocking to her that Natalya is so enraged she has stopped being afraid. The rage is beyond all sense.

It makes Lana think.

Her sparkle never went away, she says. She would never leave me. Her sparkle is here.

And if I am honest about it, it feels that way to me too. It feels she is here, with me. I try not to feel this. I assume the feeling comes from something inside me that is unable to let go and that it is a kind of self-delusion born out of the pain of her absence. I need her here, and so it feels to me she is here. I keep pushing the feeling away.

But I feel it. Whatever the reason for it, the feeling of her presence is there nearly all of the time. It was there before I knew what it was—just a sense of person in the room. A sense that someone was there with me, and that I was never entirely alone.

So in the interest of honesty, and since no one really knows about these things anyway, let us say she is. Let us say she goes away like other people go to the supermarket or go for a haircut or take a business trip. They are gone for a short time, and then they come back, because their home is with you. She goes away sometimes, perhaps. She looks in on her brother. She meets up with her parents again. She does whatever ghosts do. And then she comes back. Because her home is with me.

That is one piece.

The other piece is about Plan A.

I miss Natalya’s physical presence. I miss her smell and her chatter and her touch. I miss everything about her. But.

I can live without it.

It hurts. It used to hurt more. Still, I can live without it.

Natalya without a body is a very shitty Plan A, but it is still Plan A. On the scale of 1-10 we talked about before, with life in the country with a dog and however many kids she wanted being a 10, this is a 1. (I don’t know that I wanted life in the country, but she did.)

A one is okay. Plan B is a negative number. Plan B makes me wake up in the morning saying, “Fuck! Another one!” Plan B makes me disappointed to see the sun rise every day. Plan B makes me think about dying far, far too much, and that gets tedious.

So I’m opting for Plan A. It lets me get up in the morning without profanity on my lips. It lifts that sense of an immense, dreary fog. Even a shitty Plan A does that for me.

I don’t really have any idea what this means for me. It doesn’t mean I will start setting two plates at the table or leaving her side of the bed empty for her. She doesn’t have a body. She doesn’t need those things. She doesn’t really need anything from me, except for me to let her be with me.

I’ll find out what it means today.

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