Anna surfaces for a while. It’s enlightening. She comes out in her usual confused state. I can’t remember why she says this, but she observes that her role is to be a place to put shock. I thought when I first saw her that she might be my original personality: she seems to remember so much and she’s no particular age or she’s an adult and age is not part of her identity in the same way that it’s not part of my identity, because there is no longer a huge difference in terms of how I experience myself the way there was when I was ten.
Anyway, that’s not it. She just gets shock. That’s her slice of my life. And so the first big shock that has to be dealt with is Natalya’s death. Now there are other, smaller shocks.
There is the overarching shock that my father rented me out to the Russian mafia to traffic for sex. It’s shocking, first of all, that a father would do this, that a man I knew would do it. It’s shocking that it’s possible for someone to be as shocking as Yuri was.
It’s also shocking that there was a Russian mafia in the 80s in my small Southern California town. Growing up, I was led to believe I lived in Mayberry. As an older child and teen, I started to see it wasn’t like that. I read the paper. I saw the place was over-run with meth labs and heavily armed gangs were growing marijuana in the public forests, that there was a tidy gun-trafficking business going on, and that the proximity to the border was creating a completely different kind of crime than you might have in a small town elsewhere. Scratch the innocent-looking surface, and what you found was corruption.
So there’s that shock.
There is also the shock of what my world was really like versus what I might have been led it ought to be like. It is shocking that we persisted in being human beings, that a child sex trafficking victim still has a birthday party, that we shared ice cream cones, that there were still slices of joy in our lives.
It is shocking too that my life was actually nothing like what I thought it was. I was loved by someone I knew about only in fragments—bits so small I thought they didn’t point to a real person, but to something else. It’s shocking how much those things I didn’t know shaped the whole rest of my life.
It’s shocking that love—and the grief for it—is a lot of what shaped it. The particular form of that love shocks me too. It’s shocking I was sexually active before I was 12. It’s shocking I felt married when I was 13. It’s shocking that within the context of my life, those things didn’t seem unreasonable.
In so many ways, I am not the person I once thought I was.