Sometimes what is hard about remembering Nata is how much it highlights the total inadequacy of my parents. She was a girl only four years my senior and badly traumatized herself, but she did a much better job of being consistently nurturing than my own parents. I know this, but it’s hard to exactly face sometimes. It leaves my parents with no excuse.

I have been thinking about bedtime with Nata, and realizing she gave me a bedtime routine that was as normal as she could make it. We came home from soliciting and she took a shower while I played in the bathroom, because it was too scary to be on the other side of a door from her, and then she gave me a bath. She had toys for me in the bath, and although it was maybe two in the morning, I got to play with them.

And then she put me in clean underwear and fresh jammies and we prayed and went to bed.

For someone who feels icky from being sexually abused for hours, all that clean nice softness is wonderful. I’m also incredibly touched to remember that she made sure all these things were there and waiting for me when I came. It was just a few hours between soliciting and the time my dad was going to get me, but she put me to bed in jammies with ducks on them. One year, she gave me Christmas jammies with red stripes and green Christmas trees on them and another year there were jammies with candy canes and I particularly loved those. They were never nighties when I was small, because when you are chronically abused, it feels safer to wear trousers than a nightie that can ride up and leave you feeling exposed.

I am touched too that there were always clean underwear to change into. She couldn’t send me home in different underwear—my mother had to know I was being trafficked, but somehow it was like we had to let her pretend she didn’t know. It was different from my dad’s abuse that was completely out in the open at home. So anyway, Nata bought the same kind my mother bought so that my mother never noticed that there had been an underwear swap in the night. I seem to remember Nata had other panties for me too that were much cuter, although I’m not sure why I needed so many, but she had the generic-looking department store variety my mother bought so I could go home without blood and semen in my underwear.

And it just really highlights what my parents didn’t do. My mother, who had the power to stop the abuse from my father, didn’t. She didn’t even give me a bath afterward. If I wanted a bath, I guess I could take one. But Nata, who had no power to stop anything, went out and bought pajamas so that I could fall asleep feeling fresh and clean and safe and loved even if it was only for an hour.