When I think of Natalya now, she’s not wearing a shirt. The average, this is Natalya image in my head is a waist-up shot where she’s naked. Or half-naked. And it’s weird.

It was a long time—almost a full day—before I realized why. Something had caught my attention. There was a clue there in what I remember, and the clue was in her half-naked body.

When Natalya and I first kissed, and I unbuttoned her shirt, I opened it up to a different set of breasts. They were swollen with milk.

Natalya still had Veroushka, and she was breastfeeding. I don’t remember when Veroushka was taken away, but she was still there when Natalya first kissed me. Veroushka was there in the room then. She was sleeping.

It opens the door up to a whole room of memories of the three of us together. They are wonderful memories, cozy, safe, happy memories. They are of Natalya holding Veroushka and kissing me, of Natalya feeding Veroushka, of making love while Veroushka slept.

That was my family. And they are gone. Both of them. Natalya is dead and Veroushka I can’t ever find again, and even if I did, she’s had a whole life since then. She doesn’t know I fell in love with her mother when she was just a tiny thing and it’s completely possible that she doesn’t care I held her then, that I rocked her, that I changed her poopy diaper. She doesn’t know I loved her too or that I miss her.

No wonder I wake up in the mornings in a state of total despair.

Spring is full of anniversaries. October is dreadful because Natalya died and after that my life went to an even worse hell than usual, but the spring is littered with a different set of dates that now all represent losses.

I know the dates. Veroushka was born on February 9th, and Natalya and I kissed for the first time on March 23 and we had sex on the 27th, and Natalya’s birthday was April 14th. And all of these dates represent losses, because Veroushka was taken away and Natalya is dead and the relationship that felt to me like a marriage died along with her.

These days, the trees are blossoming and the hedges are starting to come to life again and the grass is greening up and it’s dreadful. I look at all of these beautiful, new things full of life and I just want to cry. Mostly, I do cry.

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