It’s the last day of the holidays. Tomorrow, I will report to school again and we will have a dreadful, long, boring meeting in which important things may or may not happen. And probably I won’t understand much of what is happening, and although it’s important I may possibly also miss it.

I will meet the new principal.

I will be reminded of church and of the man my father trafficked me to afterwards and of the ministers who discouraged me from making the frightened plea for help that I tried making.

Inside, it will be freezing, and I will have no control over this. It will not be like washing the dishes in the ice cold water in the mornings and being able to dip my hands in warm laundry water in the bathroom every five minutes if I have to.

It will just be relentlessly cold and there will be no relief from it until something already triggering to me—needing to sit still in a long and boring meeting—is over.

And I will be reminded of Yuri and his freezer.

I will be reminded of powerlessness and captivity.

So although the first week back is not very difficult, it is going to be difficult for me.

If I am lucky, the days will be shortened and we will get to go home early and I will have time to recover before the stress of the next day begins, but I have my doubts about this. Our new head of schools is strict and although most teachers had no work at the end of the year, we had to keep careful logs detailing how we had spent our time for a full school day. Which mostly meant lying.

I spent today building up some insulation for this, or at least trying to. I cleaned the house for most of the morning. I swept and I swabbed the floors and I scrubbed the bathroom and I dusted and I washed the laundry. That was not the insulation. It was just what needed to be done while I went about bracing myself for what lay ahead.

Almost all of this involves squatting. I don’t own anything that has one of those long, Western-style handles on it which allows you to actually stand while you clean. And squatting is mostly an efficient posture for working on things you need to do on the floor. At least that is what I have found.

But it’s not the squatting so much as the lowness to the ground which brings on one long, almost continuous emotional flashback. There are two of them, two separate kinds of memories: one is of being forced to rape Natalya in an especially brutal and maybe life-threatening way and the other is holding her as she died.

There is something else that runs between them as a strand aside from the position and that is prayer. The rapes are in Yuri’s bedroom. They are not pornography. They do not need to be titillating. They do not need to look like we love it. I don’t know if they are punishments or if they are just being done so that Yuri can enjoy the extent of his power over us, but they are different than other things that we must do. Because of this, we don’t, thank God, also need to layer over the terror of it a patina of sexual ecstasy. We can just do what we have been told to do.

So, the whole time I am being forced to brutalize Natalya, she is praying. It might be several prayers one after the other, but I think it is the same prayer, said nearly continuously. I think it is a “Hail Mary” in Russian.

I have had to learn this prayer again, but I knew it when she was alive. It is something she made sure to teach me. And when she died, that is the same prayer I said over her after I felt the life drain out of her body and I knew that her soul had gone out of it.

 

 

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