Sam holds a broken bit of a plastic earing that looks like a flower. There is a rhinestone in the center of it, and the sparkle of it reminds him that Nata is dead.

He wants her alive, but if Nata is dead, then she is safe. And more than he needs her to be alive, he needs her to be safe.

If he doesn’t know she is safe, he goes on waking in the night, wondering where she is. Wondering if she is safe.

He needs her to be safe.

Today, Charlie began to realize he needs something of the same thing. More than he needs Natashka to be alive still, he needs to remember that she is dead.

His logic goes like this:

  1. She was being hurt
  2. She died
  3. She was safe forever

If you remove #2, you can never get to #3. There are other ways of getting to #3 than #2, but they didn’t happen. You would have to imagine a different #2 in order to get to #3 instead that does not reflect real life. It is simpler to take hold of real life.

So he begins to think about how can he help himself remember that she is dead. He thinks for a while that maybe he is like Sammy, he needs an object. But he is not like Sammy.

Sammy has the memory and can’t hold onto it—he is little. He was there when Nata died, but he couldn’t understand it. He does understand it now, but he cannot hold onto the meaning of what happened. It is only because he is little that he cannot hold onto it. Otherwise, he would know.

But Charlie can’t remember because he never had the memory. He wasn’t there. He just needs the memory.

Verka has the memory. And as he begins to look around in our collective mind for her memory, he begins to realize how alone she has been with the memory—and for so many years the knowledge—of Natashka’s death. No one else could stand to really grasp her death, and so Verka has held that alone.

It’s a heavy, heavy burden care, death is. It occurs to him that she ought not to carry it alone, that she ought not to carry it even with only his help. They all need to help carry this one. It is otherwise too terrible.

And he begins to imagine a way to share the burden of it. He thinks about where Natashka’s body might be now: we don’t know at all. We don’t know whether it was found or whether it remained in the same place Yuri dumped it like trash he didn’t want. We don’t know where Yuri would have done that.

But Charlie imagines a tree in a quiet place somewhere. He imagines her body is there somewhere under it, feeding the tree the way all things do in the end. He imagines calling all of the others there with him. He plays a song on my laptop that Nata used to look. And while it is playing, he imagines them holding hands under that tree and being together with that knowledge.

They couldn’t carry it before because they didn’t know how. It was too difficult. Only Verka had the strength to carry it. The others did not. Now they can carry it not because they are stronger but because they can help each other. They have ways to comfort themselves and each other.

They can play lullabies for Sam and remind him about the sparkle. They can let Annoushka have tickles again. They can make Lana warm. He can remember he helped her when they were both being tortured. They don’t need to be alone with their pain anymore and they don’t need to be quite so helpless in the face of it.

He imagines them holding hands and they keep playing songs and they cry together.

And maybe it will help.

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