The Afghani girls spoke Dari, which is the name of the Persian spoken in Afghanistan. They spoke other languages and I suppose most of them spoke some amount of Russian.

I find Russian enormously evocative now. It reminds me of safety and happy times and also of myself. I don’t understand very much—I think it’s mostly the wall is still there—but it has a quality of feeling like a mother tongue.

When I started to remember Farzana, I thought I would see what Farsi did—I have a few songs by Iranian singers on my laptop. It is not the same as the dialects the girls might have spoken, but I think it’s very similar. I thought I would just see what it would do for me. I have more access to feelings now. It’s not that I haven’t listened to these songs, but I didn’t have the same access to my feelings before. So I wanted to see what those feelings were.

It is different than listening to Russian, but it is equally evocative, and I started to listen at school, not realizing I would end up feeling like I’d been hit by a sledgehammer. It gives me memories I can’t make any sense of. They are mostly emotions. I want pictures, but I don’t understand the pictures I get, and I don’t know if the pictures I think are clear are real are invented.

And I suppose it’s confusing because I am getting everything at once. I am getting the happy times and horror together. Of course, that’s impossible to sort out.

One aspect of everything, I think, is that there is a shock in being able to name and understand what happened to me and who these girls were. Because I never connected anything I experienced to the broader world. I never translated anything. The bridge to the world outside of abuse was never allowed to be built. I never realized exactly that the languages I heard were languages spoken by people who weren’t being trafficked, whose lives weren’t entirely controlled by criminals, who had real cultures and real traditions, and weren’t unfailingly abducted or murdered.

These girls had fathers who were farmers and sheepherders and electricians and mothers who worked in offices and factories and farmed too. For these girls, there was a before. For me, there was no before. I was only ever caught up in horror, but most of them had somewhat average lives. And it’s a very odd understanding to come to.


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