Sam has this looping, disturbing memory at night before he falls asleep. It is creepy and terrifying and yucky, but it is entirely unclear to either of us why it needs to be remembered.

There are 9.000 other more creepy, more terrifying, more yucky memories that could be playing out in our heads that don’t.

Also, this one doesn’t make sense.

It goes on replaying in the morning, just in a kind of loop. After a while, I start to realize it is not one memory, but a whole category of different memories that seem in some way related.

I can’t really untangle them. I know what I’m remembering, but not why it’s important or what it is that ties them together for me.

And then it suddenly hits me. Nata had a baby. The memories are important because of the baby.

She was pregnant. I think she was pregnant twice—once when she was quite young, maybe only 12 or 13, and again when she was a bit older. It is the second baby she delivered. (The first one was aborted.)

I remember holding that baby—the weight of it and its squashed-up baby face.

The thing about babies is the relationship so often forms before they are born. There is that seven or eight months before you ever catch sight of them when you know they are there growing inside their mother’s body.

And then they are born and they are wonderful. They are miraculous. Most of the time, they end up with all the usual body parts. They have 10 fingers and 10 toes. And they cry and they shit and spit up and they do all of these amazing baby things that indicate they are real, genuine, authentic human beings and in so many cases someone you loved—or yourself—made the baby inside her very own body. It is completely stunning. Despite all the spitting up and the crying and the shitting, it is terribly hard not to love them. Especially if it never occurs to you to try not to. The love just comes.

Maybe if you are tired and fed up and never get to sleep, the miracle of this is lost on you, but if you are 10 or 11 years old and a youngest child (so that you have never witnessed anything quite like this before), then this makes an impression. You are spell-bound with wonder.

I was spellbound with wonder.

But then, one day, the baby is gone. They come to take it away, and after that I never see the baby again. The miracle of its life is like one more thing stolen from me. She is one more loss to grieve for, one more person I could not protect, one more love I could not keep.

I don’t know what they called her later, this baby who would now be 30 years old, but Natalya named her Vera. She called her Veroushka, just as I later called myself. Vera means faith.

I miss her.