Sunday was full of terrible memories. It wasn’t an onslaught. Just two. One from Lana, one from Charlie. That was more than enough.
They were the same kind of memories, and I imagine one of them is only half Lana’s. She isn’t really acting in the memory. She is sitting across the room watching some other me do it. And so, a more traumatized part has the full emotional impact of having to live it. She just has a slice. The slice alone was like being hit by a wave.
They were memories of things I had to do to Natalya.
The dominant emotion is terror. In the memories, I have to do something that hurts her, that in one case is downright dangerous, and the whole time I am doing what I have to do I am thinking, I’m going to fucking kill her. My whole attention is on controlling my fear so that I don’t.
In middle school, a friend told me once, “You are so controlled.” Yes, that’s why. It’s so I don’t get myself killed. It’s so I don’t fuck up and kill someone else.
I have two memories. I am sure they are merely a representative sample. I’m sure there were dozens or hundreds or thousands of times I had to hurt her.
There are a few take-aways from this. One of them is just the understanding that she was really, really tortured. I had my own hall of horrors at home. I had my dad, who watched my suffering just for fun. But she had Yuri. Yuri was not the same kind of psychopath as my dad.
Yuri was, in many ways, worse. And he learned that shit in Soviet prisons. He re-enacted the torture of sadistic, power-drunk prison guards or mob leadership on fragile, half-formed young women and adolescent girls.
And so I can better understand why all of the parts need to know that Natalya is safe now. I wasn’t just worried about the johns or the porn shoots and “ordinary” sexual abuse. I was worried about excruciating, life-threatening torture. I was worried they would torture her to death.
The other take-away is my role in it, because this has been puzzling for a long and, yet, with more of the memories together, it’s really very clear.
As wrong wrong wrong as what I did was, I could not refuse it. Even if I had the courage to refuse, even if I thought they wouldn’t kill me for refusing, I could not.
Someone else would do it. There is always someone else.
And that someone else would not love Natalya. That person would either enjoy it or be indifferent, and they would not take so much care to harm her as little as possible. The men were cruel. The girls were not. But they were damaged into their own little boxes. There was no sense of collective responsibility or action: No sense that we are all in this little life boat together and we had better look after one another the best we can. It was everyone for themselves and when you had to do this kind of thing, you survived the best you could. The other person survived the best she could. If someone died in the process, so be it. That’s just how things go sometimes.
I knew that. I knew I had to do it. I knew not doing it put her at greater risk. At best it would be more painful—which doesn’t sound dreadful, but this is the kind of pain that can make you lose your mind. At worst, she would die.
I did not have to do anything that would certainly kill someone or even needed to kill someone, but when they just don’t care, the question of medical care because an important one. I didn’t have an answer to it. She had just better not need it. I had better make sure of that.
In the memories I have I am 10 or 11 or maybe 12 years old. This might have happened at every age I was as well. I don’t know. But when I might have been worried about pimples and periods, I needed to put on my big-girl pants and do this.