It is pouring down rain. The monsoon has started.
Is it monsoon? This is a temperate rain forest and it rains all summer long. Is the summer rainy season a monsoon? I don’t know.
Anyway, I can hear it. I like rain. It reminds me of jumping in puddles in new rain boots with Nata.
Emotions and ideas that have little apparent connection seem to affect each other. There have been two strands of them this week. One of them is an earlier idea about the way living in an unequal society played out in our lives, and that Natalya had less access to societal protection and justice because of her ethnicity and immigration status—and probably too because of her connection to organized crime.
Children are left vulnerable to exploitation for many different reasons. That is the reason no one helped her. It is the reason we screamed in the parking lot of a cheap hotel and no one in the neighboring apartment blocks did anything at all about it. We were “those people.”
It is the reason our story seemed to not count. Some people count more than others.
And it’s part of a larger picture. It’s part of my memory of interactions not directly connected with soliciting or with anything related to that. It is part of my memory of buying ice cream and soda pop. It is a part of how we were seen all the time: I wasn’t in Nata’s situation. I didn’t have her immigration status, her mother tongue, or her national origin. But no one knew that, and I was treated as though I were.
I was not protected at home because my father is a sociopath and society does not really know how to deal with sociopaths and because children are not adequately protected generally still. I was not protected in the area where I was trafficked for all of the same reasons Nata wasn’t. My life was worth less for categorical reasons: language, ethnicity, immigration status, appearance of membership in a criminal class.
In other contexts, I had so much class and race-based privilege. I went to a drug store to buy ice cream with Nata and I no longer had those privileges. I stopped counting.
And so what I am processing lately is this idea that I wanted so badly to make us count. The two themes on my mind this week are connected.
I have spent a lot of time with or in Charlie. He wants to protect Nata. We hug blankets a lot so this emotion that feels like a physical pain in his arms and chest can be relieved, and what comes out of that soothing is the idea that the protection he wants to give Nata is to make her count to other people.
If you count, then your suffering won’t simply be ignored. You will be treated with some degree of human dignity. There is this feeling of wanting to love her into significance, of wanting to love her into some kind of worth to society.
It’s not so simple. You can’t do that. And it’s all so very complex. But it’s a feeling that doesn’t really go away.