Lately, I wake up every day in a black hole. I wake up down at the bottom of the hole and over the next several hours gradually climb out of it—partly I just switch into a part that feels more hopeful. Partly, I try to gently soothe it away. Which kind of works.
Then I go off to school and the teaching day is long and exhausting, but mostly goes well. At least large chunks of it.
Then I do it all over again the next day.
This morning was somewhat better. The black hole didn’t seem to be as deep and it wasn’t as hard to crawl out of it. I thought, Okay, so maybe it’s finally better.
I’m not feeling well these days. I have a cold that is not dreadful but just won’t relent. It gets better some days and then worse other days. Maybe it’s not even the same cold. Maybe it’s four or five small ones. Two-thirds of my students have snot streaming down their faces. I don’t even say anything. But there are plenty of germs to choose from among my 180 students.
Anyway, the point of that is just that I’m tired. It’s Sunday and I’m tired and I took a nap. And woke up again in the black hole.
I know more or less why. It’s sleeping that’s the problem. Natalya cuddled me when I slept. I don’t know that we had a chance to grab a quick nap that often, but when we did, she held me. She did when I was very small and she did when I was her lover and she did in the years between also, when I wasn’t that small anymore and most American children sleep just fine with a good night kiss and maybe a story and don’t need quite so many cuddles.
I know why that happened. When someone important to you is constantly taken away from you and you have no control over that, you only feel completely safe if you can hold onto them. Unconsciously, you have to reassure yourself that they haven’t been stolen. And we were both doing that.
So that’s the trigger. It is worse because I did fall asleep and I did wake up and then she was murdered. But it would still be a trigger even without tht. She’s not there when I fall asleep and she’s not there when I wake up, and it makes it very painfully clear that she’s dead. It’s not quite as bad as it was—it is not like being stabbed in the chest at least. But it’s instead this horrible, black haze of hopelessness and despair where I just can’t see the point of anything.
At the moment, I’m there. I have no idea how to get out of it. It’s also hard to be bothered to try.
I’ve had a lot of nice memories come back to me lately. There is a whole set of memories about Veroushka and about Natalya being pregnant, because being in love came on gradually and it started before Veroushka was born. I didn’t realize what it was. It began as just an intense warmth in my chest that wasn’t so very different from what I felt before except it just seemed more adult.
I think I didn’t realize girls might feel that way about other girls, and then, also, when I started to feel that way she was hugely, hugely pregnant. The connection to a physical desire wasn’t entirely obvious.
Later, of course, the baby was born and she was so wonderful—with her fuzzy, black baby hair and her long eyelashes and her weight in my arms.
I was eleven then and in the sixth grade, but there was something about it that felt very settled. There was Natalya and there was the baby and life was just complete. And maybe I was too young to know to brace myself for all the losses ahead—they were, in fact, inevitable. It was inevitable that the baby would be taken away. It was inevitable that I be separated from Natalya, even if she had not died in the way that she did.
I imagine it’s a bit like being 25, when life seems completely ahead of you, but not so horribly uncertain as it does at 20. There is starting to be a path ahead of you. It’s starting to look like it might go in a decent kind of direction. There seemed to be a path.
There wasn’t a path. There were a few months of absolute magic. And that was all.