The last day

Today is the last day of exams. I will proctor in the morning and then in the afternoon leave to go to a 3-day retreat with the other foreign teachers.

Leaving anywhere is an enormous trigger. It is, whether I like it or not, the reminder for me of leaving Nata’s room for the last time. It is letting go of her dead body and never seeing her again, never seeing the room where we had made our home together, never seeing the other girls who also lived in that place.

I was hoping it wasn’t going to be as bad this time around, but it is. It is just more on the surface, which I suppose in the long run will help. Maybe something will get worked through.

But at the moment, it’s very difficult.

And C might also be leaving. She will go to her village over the holidays and then perhaps after that to boarding school and when she returns I will go back to the United States and realistically if she does end up in boarding school I will most likely never see her again. Even if she comes back from boarding school before I depart from Country X, I will not just run into her. I never do. She doesn’t live far from me, but she lives in the other direction from the main town. In a year and a half, I have never just run into her outside of school. Not even once.

If I want to see her again, I have to do something, but I feel like a grief-stricken madwoman at the moment. I don’t feel like someone who should even be talking to children.

At the same time, I have been thinking children grow up. They become adults, and usually they have the same core personality they had as children. And C is a lovely person. She is likely to become someone I would still want to know. Just now, she needs help growing up, but she is probably going to become someone I would like to be my friend.

There are some children I get close to because they just need someone. Yesterday, a boy in Class 6—he’s never been in my class—asked me to help with his maths every day after mid-term break. He came to my house on my birthday. He feels close to me because one day he was out supposedly cleaning up at the holy site and he was just fooling around, and I told him, “Go pull those weeds. Good job. Now go and get those.” I just gave him some direction and some praise, and so he feels close to me. I did that because he was very dirty—he looked as though no one takes care of him—and because he was so without direction. And as it turns out no one does take care of him. That’s what the staff have told me. No one at home looks after him. He is left pretty much on his own.

So there are children like that, and C is a little that way. She’s scared for no reason. She can’t seem to trust that if I wanted her yesterday, I will want her again today. She hopes she can trust, but she is so afraid to, and I can see this because it’s all over her face. It was all over her face on Monday. We sat and talked for a long time on Saturday. Then Monday came around and she just looked stricken. She was too afraid to even speak to me beyond good morning. I could see the hope and the fear there and I didn’t know what to do about it.

It feels to me that she must be this way because someone hasn’t been there for her. Someone has seemed to love her one day and not the next day, and so she doesn’t expect constancy. I want to be constant for her then. I want to help with that.

But of course I am not constant. I keep thinking everyone is going to die, and I am scared too, for different reasons.

To me, C is a little a child who needs someone. And she is also a lovely human being. I think this was apparent to me long before, but she looked like someone who had carried me away from a dead body. She made me think of death and horror and it all became hopelessly confused for me.

There is all this going on, and I know that if I want C to not just disappear out of my life, I need to make some kind of effort. She’s not going to do that, the way a different child would. She’s too afraid to reach out, because maybe I won’t be there if she does. It’s up to me to me to do it. It is partly her culture—she doesn’t want to intrude on an adult—and it’s partly her own particular woundedness.

To do that, I need to not be a madwoman. I need to be brave and not think if I care then someone is going to come along and murder her. I need to talk to her directly and tell I don’t want her to disappear and this is what I would like her to do so that she doesn’t. I need to be able to process the emotional reality of my life to have the confidence to do that, because when I forget, I think that I must be forcing her into a closeness she doesn’t want. She does want it. She clearly does. But when I can’t process emotions, I just see her withdrawal from me, and I interpret it as a desire to move away rather than a fear of a disappointment she has known too many times before.

I need to be a sane adult and not a frightened child.

I couldn’t sleep last night. I can’t seem to eat decently these days—that’s been going on for a week or more. I have to pack. I have to arrange a taxi. I have to cope with the grief. And I have to have this conversation with C. I have to do it today—there are no other days.

The thing about C for me is she so very clearly reminds me there is something good left in the world. There are still good people left—Yuri didn’t kill all of them—and there good things I can do. And it makes it feel very much like it could eventually be okay to be alive. I might be able to learn to live with the fact of my own survival.

It’s one of those days when I just need a guardian angel or I need God. I don’t have the strength to do it myself. I just don’t.


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