Some things have happened in the last few days. Some thoughts popped into my head. There have been changes.
Charlie watches his favourite music videos—many of which happen to feature pretty girls—and he thinks to himself, I don’t have to have sex with them. It comes with a sense of enormous relief, because what he thinks of as sex isn’t really sex. It is a form of torture. It was being forced to cause someone else physical pain. It was having to create an intense, unwanted sensory experience that seemed to never end. It was having that done to him.
He did have sex. But when he thinks I don’t have to do that anymore, he means I am not going to be tortured. He can see the difference between sex and torture, but not clearly yet. For him, sex is still everything he did with girls. Sometimes, with Natashka, it was not torture. Sometimes, he had choices about it and she had choices about it and this made him feel free. This filled him with wonder.
In thinking I don’t have to, he feels a sense of relaxation, because the terror lifts when he thinks this. He sees a pretty girl—they were all pretty—and he is filled with terror at what he will have to do with them. And then he remembers, I don’t have to do that, and the terror lifts.
That is Charlie.
I was looking at tattoos online the other day. I did this because I keep thinking about something on Natashka’s hip—I think it is her hip. I think it is a tattoo. I keep looking at this image on her hip and trying to work out what it is. I think it is a rose. I think it is a rose and a cross. But I don’t know, and it’s maybe not terribly important, but I want to know. I want to know what was on her body.
Tattoos tend to be unoriginal, in my experience. They are like memes that get passed around. When I was 20, my friend gave me a tattoo with a sewing needle and India ink—a painful method, I might add. After that, I started looking around my small college town and realized at least five other people had more or less the same image on their bodies.
So it seemed like a look around at other tattoos would jog my memory a little. But I ended up seeing mob tattoos or tattoos that look like mob tattoos.
It makes Yekaterina pop out. The tattoos remind her of Yuri. They particularly remind her of Yuri raping her.
It’s one of those memories that is no particular surprise and at the same time is extremely powerful. Yekaterina is terrified, but I am enraged. I think I was enraged then.
My dad was a psychopath. And crazy.
Yuri was not crazy. Yuri was a sociopath, but an entirely different kind of man than my father. He followed rules. He enforced rules.
One of those rules ought to have been you don’t rape little girls.
I don’t have any illusions: Vory generally see women as objects—as sacks to stuff things inside. My image of myself as exactly that thing is not an accident.
The Russian mob is an incredibly sexist culture, but it is a culture, and I cannot think of any culture on earth that approves of child rape. The question is always what counts as a child, and there is always a certain amount of sweeping things under the rug, but there is typically some lower limit on when you can start openly brutalizing girls without social consequences. Seven is under it.
Our American prisons are more or less run by violent gangs. They are brutal. They seem to be lawless. But well-known child molesters cannot be released into the general prison population because violent, predatory, ruthless gangs do not approve of raping children.
Vory do not approve of raping children.
Yuri raped me when I was seven years old. It is not okay that he raped me when I was 12 either, but it is unforgiveable that he raped me when I was seven. It broke every rule he might have lived by.
He broke those rules because he could. In that way, he is exactly like my father.
I think we need to kill him, Katya and I. On paper, but in some form, we need to make it very clear to ourselves that this was indeed in every way wrong.
Even the mob thought I had a right to be a child and to be safe.
So that is the second thing.
The third thing is that there does seem to be an eighth part. I was wrong about this. There is someone inside who feels like me in an entirely different way than the parts. She looks like me. She has no particular age. She would answer to my name, but I am no longer Annoushka. There is Annoushka the part and then there is this part. They are not the same.
This Annoushka pops out sometimes. It seems to be her. I don’t have the same sense when she pops out of being someone else. I just feel different. I feel like me, but different.
I feel like the world is new.
She was out for a few hours yesterday morning. Everything I did was like doing it for the first time. I dried my hands on a hand towel and she held the towel in her hand and ran her fingers over it, as if the texture of it were astonishing. Everything was like that, and we did the chores very slowly because of that. She had to look at everything and feel everything and sit with a sense of shock about it all.
I get memories from this part. They are not surprising memories either, but they horrify me in some completely different and deeper level.
She remembers—I remember—standing in front of a building. I realize later this is a liquor store. There is nothing special about the liquor store. It is one place among many. She remembers standing there in an aggressively sexual posture, soliciting. She remembers doing this from the time she is about seven years old
It is a terrifying memory, because the johns have to come. If they don’t come, there will be Yuri and the freezer and so johns need to be interested. She must attract their interest.
But when they do come, that is terrifying too. She doesn’t know what kind of man will come or what he will do. Once she leaves with him, he can take her anywhere. He can do anything. He can say he wants one thing and do something entirely different to her. He can be moderately careful or he can brutal. He can beat her. He can kill her. She doesn’t know. She has to get his attention. She has to make him want to perform sex acts with her. And yet she doesn’t have any idea what will happen if he does.
And then she has to make him pay. If he doesn’t pay, there is the freezer again. There is Yuri and his rage to contend with.
None of this had occurred to me. I remembered hotels. Natalya lives in a hotel, but I also know I didn’t work there. It was perhaps the idea that the johns be persuaded to use that hotel, but I don’t have any memory of this happening—not because it didn’t happen, but because it was not anything special. It is not like Natalya’s room, which was part of my emotional landscape. I did it wherever they wanted me to do it.
I remember a different hotel when I was younger—under six. I remember a pool and I remember soliciting men around the pool. I remember little, little girls there doing the same thing I was doing. I had assumed my life later was something like that, although it centered around a different place and around different people.
But I hadn’t imagined I was soliciting on the streets. And maybe it seems like it doesn’t matter—if someone is sexually exploiting a little girl, it might seem like it doesn’t get worse than that. To me it does seem like it gets worse. It seems like it was worse, because soliciting on the streets is so much more dangerous than working out of a fixed place—physically so.
It’s hard to get my head around. I was being sexually assaulted all the time. I was physically tortured. And I was also in this constant physical danger, a physical danger I had to seek out.
I thought I could grasp the monstrousness of what was done to me, but I can’t. I can’t grasp how human beings can do this to one another. I can’t grasp how they can do it to a helpless child.
I really can’t.
Sometimes, one of the hardest parts of healing is confronting a grief regarding the human race. For the rest of us, it seems like the monstrosity of what people can do is never really resolved. You read about it in the papers. You are horrified. You can never make sense of it and you eventually let it go until the next time you hear about it.
But monstrosity was my reality. I can’t do that. And it is terrible, absolutely terrible, to think what some people are capable of and what some people do.
I can grasp some things, but I really cannot grasp the whole of it. I can grasp the monstrosity of my dad. I can grasp my mother’s dangerous instability. I can grasp the brutality of organized crime. But there are things I can’t grasp.
I can’t grasp Yuri. He is beyond me. I cannot do the foundational element of empathy and imagine in any way what it is like to be him. It is too difficult and however much I try to imagine, whatever effort I put into trying to construct his world view for myself, I can’t do it.
He was a monster.
I cannot imagine being monstrous well enough to understand him.