It’s an odd day—the morning is intense and then the afternoon wanders. That happens sometimes. It’s like I open a box because there’s something big and terrible and horrendous in it that needs to be taken out and examined and then I realize, Oh, but there’s this in there. And this too. And there’s no obvious relationship between the first, horrendous thing and the littler stuff. They’re just in there all together, as if it was the last box at moving time and it all had to go somewhere. Of course, there probably is a relationship between them all, but I don’t know what it is and it doesn’t matter that much to me.

But it does mean today I ponder prayer—I don’t know what I believe these days, everything is too much in flux, and I have this uncomfortable feeling that Natalya is disappointed that I don’t pray. She is proud of everything else about me, but in that regard I am letting her down.

And it’s odd. It’s an odd feeling. It’s odder still to feel prickles of a kind of forbidden recognition at things I know she taught me. I don’t remember them, but they are easy to look up and when I do them again, I feel that. I feel it very strongly, but not in a way that makes a direct kind of sense. Just that I’ve done it before, and I had a feeling about it when I used to do it, but I don’t know what that feeling was. It is replaying in me, but I can’t recognize it.

I presume there is the forbiddance of also being a 2×2. That Natalya is teaching me to do these things, and she is good, she’s what I would call a solid, just a solid human being, but I’m not allowed to do any of these things. I am not allowed to pray like that, and I wouldn’t think about it—a wall would be there between these two lives—but what she is teaching me has stepped out of the trafficking box and jumped into the religion box.

Praying her way feels like home, and yet I’m also terrified God will reach down and burn me up in a fiery flame. Then and there.

I suppose that’s the feeling, but I’m speculating. I feel something, but I can’t quite be sure what it is yet. It seems to be that: comfort and fear rolled up in one messy, tangled ball.

I have, too, a very specific memory about her. The memory takes a long time to come. It arrives sort of in pieces and I have to put them together, but they add up to one afternoon, to maybe an houron a sunny, warm, lazy kind of afternoon when nothing much needed to be done.

We are by the pool, or what ought to be a pool. There is pool furniture and a concrete pool deck, but the actual pool does not figure into my awareness and I have an idea the pool is empty, that it has been drained and we are sitting there just because it is a place to sit in the sun.

Natalya and I are sitting on the edge of a plastic lounge chair—there are other girls around, but they aren’t important to me either. I am not really paying attention to them. I must be about six, and I am sitting on the lounge chair in front of her, between her legs. She has her arms around me, and I am nestled into her.

She is wearing a short, full red skirt with a kind of ruffle around the edge. I seem to like the skirt, because I don’t remember anything else about our clothes. The skirt has large white polka-dots.

We are throwing rocks. We are throwing them against a larger rock on the other side of the pool deck—that’s the target—and every once in a while I must run to the bed of these small white stones and gather up more of them because we have thrown them all.

And that’s all.

I am tucked into her all safe and loved and warm and we’re throwing rocks on a sunny, winter day. Every once in a while, she bends down to kiss my cheek or tickle my neck, and I am just deliciously happy.

That’s the memory.

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