It is Easter today. It is our Easter—Natalya’s and mine. I wake up sick again, which doesn’t help things. I’m always sick these days.
After a while Ruthie says, “I no want have Easter no Nata.” She would like to cancel the day. It hurts too much.
I didn’t really expect today to hurt like this because the other Easter was last week and the anniversary of the proposal was last week too, and it seemed like if I could get through that and get through the week, then I could join the ranks of things I had survived.
I haven’t done anything to mark the day. I’m trying to eat, do the laundry, keep Ruthie from getting too whimpery. I need memorials on these days, but they always involve so much pain, and I am not sure I can handle even one more thing.
I have these bits of thoughts. They aren’t more coherent because I am sick, because I don’t have the energy to follow an idea through, because I feel too fragile to really pursue them.
But it seems to me that Annoushka has a trainload of happy memories with Natashka. Some of them have arrived and some are in the station and some are still on their way. I didn’t know they were from her—they didn’t come with a particular Annoushka stamp on them—but it seems that they did come from her. That they are part of her slice of my life, and they are just leaking out of her.
One theme that emerges out of them for me is how much like a girl Natalya made me feel. It’s hard to pin that down in words exactly, but it’s clear that’s how she sees me, as squarely situated within my gender identity. And it’s interesting, because I don’t feel that way in the rest of my life. On the one hand, the 2×2 idea of femininity makes it impossible to behave like a normal, gender-conforming girl in other contexts. There is something about it that makes you feel stripped of your gender and stripped of your sexuality. It is just too different from the mainstream, or it was in the community where I grew up. Others outside the 2x2s don’t necessarily see you as masculine, but maybe just as genderless and sexless.
So Annoushka is very girl, but not in the same way that Katya is. In a different way, that has maybe more spark, more activeness, more joy.
Alongside this, I’m realizing that Annoushka feels suicidal today. The happy memories surface for a bit and as I relax into them, I start to feel suicidal. The overwhelm and the despair are connected.
And I start to think that Annoushka has processed what has happened as a 10-year-old girl—all of it. The romantic relationship, the proposal, Natalya’s death. The body is not ten anymore and there are other parts processing all of these things in different ways some of which are more mature, but she has understood it as a 10-year-old girl would.
Which is basically as the end of the world.
I remember a little more about what ten-year-old girls are doing and thinking—or were in 1983. They were playing MASH and trying to predict who they might marry. They were wondering how many children they were going to have. They were suddenly giggling around boys and thinking about princes.
For a 10-year-old girl in those days, getting married and starting a family is the whole point and purpose of life. It’s the whole goal. Times changed maybe and we grew up a little and we started thinking about going to college perhaps or what kind of work we might want to do, but at 10 it was all about our relational futures.
So that is who Natalya proposes to. Not entirely, but in part. She proposes to this little, little girl who sees marriage and domestic life as the whole reason for her own existence.
Because of that, when Natalya dies, it is the end of the world for Annoushka. There is no Plan B for her. There cannot be another Natalya—the bond is too strong and too unique—and marriage is the whole reason for Annoushka to live. There is no one else she can have that kind of future with. She cannot marry someone else.
And so it is completely, entirely the end of the world.