I told.

It was dinner and I thought I’d mix it up and sit next to some people I hadn’t spoken to before and didn’t know. Mostly, this wasn’t really a good decision. They bored me. They were nice people, but just the topics that interested them at that particular point in time had no interest in me.

But then someone—what was his name?—began to say that there are places that are lawless that are perfectly safe. He gave the example the Northeastern India, which really is terribly unsafe. He’s clearly never found the Asian news section of a newspaper and has no idea.

It’s also not entirely lawless. Indian villages are governed by a village head and a tribal council. They settle disputes and mete out punishment. He insisted there wasn’t any police presence, as if that is law and order.

And I’m afraid I got a bit angry, just at the arrogance of it. He knows nothing but wants to speak as someone with authority.

He then gave the example of maybe a place run by warlords or the Mafia. Well, I know all about that. So I told him I grew up working for the mafia.

“Where was that?”

“Southern California.”

“What did you do?”

“I was a prostitute.”

“How did you get out of that?”

So I told him I didn’t really know, that something had happened that I didn’t really understand.

I’ve been thinking about callous, unemotional people—people who might not be quite sociopaths like my father, but lack normal emotional responses to things, and he’s clearly one of them. He looks at me in a slightly mocking way this whole time, like he doesn’t believe me. And it pisses me off. How dare he?

He relents a little in the end: “I wouldn’t know anything about that.” But it seems to me he’s sort of trying to pretend to be normal. He looks a little sorry, but it seems to me to be manufactured. It doesn’t look the slightest bit sincere to me. Maybe it is, but it doesn’t look that way to me.

There were two other people there, listening to this. They’ve been part of the conversation, but at that point they are mostly silent, and they are nice people. The man across the table asks if I want to tell more of the story. I don’t actually. I’m not even sure why I said as much as I said. I don’t because it’s horrifying Every bit of it is horrifying, and I don’t want them to be burdened with that horror. Taking on the burden of that horror is something you ought to be able to choose to do for some important reason, like you really want to understand or you have had some kind of similar experience or because you care. It shouldn’t just be a time when you learn a bit more that people do completely unthinkable things to other people and you can’t really fathom why. So I don’t say anything. I don’t even say why I don’t want to say anything. I am just tongue-tied—shocked I said as much as I said.

The conversation moves on.

But later, I have to deal with it. I told. Parts of me really and truly believe Yuri will rise from the dead and kill me. There is also the grief of it. Nata died so that I could get out of it. I said it. I said that someone died. I said it out-loud, and that makes it register as really being true. She lived and she died and I miss her and I don’t know how to live without her.

I wake up in the night—I don’t sleep until 11 anyway, and then at 2 am, I am awake again, afraid. I chat with a friend for a while, and that helps. It helps a lot. I sleep. But in the morning there is still the grief.

There could also be the bewilderment that I told people I barely know, people who are my colleagues, people I also don’t trust. And yet this seems minor—at least at the moment. They aren’t going to tell anyone whose opinion I care about. They aren’t going to tell my students. They aren’t going to tell the principal. They aren’t going to tell anyone in Y-town. They will tell each other, and most of them I’ve not spoken to even once since they arrived in Bhutan. I don’t really care what they think of me.

It is much more that I just need to grieve.

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