I’ve had a lot of flashbacks the last 5 or 6 days. It’s not pleasant and I can’t really get out of them. I end up feeling trapped in them, like a movie I want to walk out on. The flashbacks are all of Natalya’s murder. They’re all of that night. What happened before, what happened during, what happened after.
They seem totally unmanageable—and they do take hours to get out of—but I’m evidently able to stay coherent enough to extract important little bits out of. The bits cause me to see things in a different way usually. That’s the reason they are important.
Several of them involve language to one degree or another. I remember clearly a few things she said that I couldn’t remember clearly before. And some other things.
The first is that, as they are beating her to death, she calls for help. I thought she called for me. She says my name. She says save me.
But as I listen again in the flashback, they aren’t connected. It is not “save me” singular. It is save me “plural.” She’s not talking to me. She’s talking to everyone. I remember it as me because everything is confused, because she’s shouting in Russian and I understand a second, developing language in a different way than the language I have mastered. It’s less specific in how I process it, and under stress it ends up as just a vague intimation. The word save has been uttered. I know that. The rest is speculation.
In fact, I can remember the precise word now and it’s plural.
That’s one thing.
She told me to escape. The word she used is a simple word, it is commonly used to mean run. It doesn’t need to be a literal running. That’s for me. That is singular
The way I have remembered it is as a physical need to run in my body.
But she told me to escape. That’s my bit—my instruction. Not save me, escape.
I also remembered something else today. Beforehand, she has made me write down my name, my phone number, and my address in English. She says this is in case we are separated—that happens. Girls are “given” as gifts. They are sold. You wake up one morning and someone as gone. Or someone new is there. She hasn’t—I guess she’s very young and very valuable, and she’s been kept in one place for 7 years. But it seems reasonable to think the clock could be running on that.
When they come for her, it becomes clear that she lied to me. She gave that to someone. She gave that to the police or some other authority. And because of that she felt I was protected. She felt I could not turn up dead without it coming back to Yuri.
Initially, I wanted to blame police corruption for her death—that was a problem in those days in that department, although I didn’t know it. However, I thought that partly out of naivety, which is wearing off now. The girls were always watched. Yuri’s men were there, the hotel owner was probably an eye, the girls informed on each other. There were dozens of people to tell Yuri what she has done.
But it explains her last minutes with me before she opened the door. It explains that there was a sense of a smile about her. I’m not saying she was happy—she was nervous. The thought the tension in her body suggests is this: It’s now, can I do it? At the same time, there was something happy about her.
It seems to me now she felt she had won. When someone uses fear to control you, you are only controlled as long as the fear does. And she had taken control of the fear. She had secured an exit route for me—my dad tortured me afterward, but I never saw Yuri again after that. He never touched me. He never did anything. So she had what she wanted. She was going to die, but she had made her own choice about it: she had her freedom.
And I can’t really stand it.