We have a holiday today. For me, that means extra processing time. So that’s good.

Last week was really hard. The marking was more triggering than I thought it would be, then it took longer, then I hardly got any sleep. I came back to the first day of school on maybe four hours of sleep, which I don’t do well with anyway. It was easy in terms of teaching—there wasn’t much of it. The first day back, no one really expected to have classes and they didn’t bring books or notebooks or even pencils in some cases. The second day, I talked to them about behaviour—trying to set a tone for the second half of the year, because they had gotten restless and undisciplined in the class at the end. We did some other stuff too. That was easier than it might have been. Saturday, there was no teaching at all—I didn’t have much work—but the mark sheets were triggering and I had forgotten it might be. I had forgotten, too, that the start of the second half of the school year would trigger memories of the start of the school year when I was a child, or that July in Country X might feel like September in the United States, and that Nata cared a lot about my schooling. The memories are vague. I can’t really access them, although I don’t know why it’s so hard, except that there is a lot to deal with on top of that. Maybe it is just too much.

They seem to be surfacing as an urge to wrap new school supplies up in shiny paper and give them to C along with a note that says some encouraging things. And maybe that’s exactly what Nata did for me. It might have been. She could have easily done that. No one would have noticed I had an extra pencil or two.

I am aware that I repeat with C the things that the girls I especially loved did for me. I have given her pancakes twice, and although I had these other, more specific reasons for doing it, I know it’s really because for me those memories of pancakes are memories of being loved. Before midterm break I gave her a medal to wear, a little plastic thing from my favourite temple in Delhi that I have kept for 22 years. I know Msishchka—whom I think I haven’t mentioned yet, but she loved me when I was very small—gave me a Mary medal before she disappeared. I know when I do these things for someone else, I feel that the girls I loved are a little less dead because they are living inside me. The things they did become traditions and, in that way, keep living. At least for a while.

But I also know it’s not really fair to do this to C. It’s not fair to live out my trauma with her.

So I don’t know about the school supplies in shiny paper. Inside, I can’t seem to agree with myself about it.

C is supposed to come to school tomorrow at 7:30 to meet with me and get help with her math. That is the plan we have made. I think she might forget, because it’s the day after a holiday, and we made the plan on Friday. I didn’t remind her yesterday. Probably I ought to have.

That’s not really the main thing. The main thing seems to be grief. I am engaging more with life, I know. Not maybe on the outside, but on the inside, I am more connected to it. And that means accepting the way that I got here. It means accepting that Nata died. It’s hard. I think it’s hard because it’s hard to grasp certain pieces of it. I can grasp that Yuri was evil and that he took her life from her when he had no right to do that. I can grasp that everything which brought us together was wrong. It was wrong that she was essentially abducted from her home country and brought to a new one, not against her will, but under false pretenses and without the permission of parents who might have understood the risks involved. It was wrong she was kept in virtual slavery. It was wrong she was sexually abused in horrifying ways through all of her childhood. It was wrong she was sexually abused for commercial purposes. Everything about our circumstances was wrong. I can grasp that.

I can grasp that neither Yuri nor my father had any right to do what they did to me.

It is hard for me to grasp the strength of her love, or the faith she had in me to create a future for myself. It is hard for me to grasp her courage.

Without an understanding of Natashka, I can’t really understand everything else. It is like I have made a building, but a floor is missing somewhere in the middle. How is the roof—the last thing that happened, her death—how is that going to stay on? It collapses. I think this means every day I wake up again, not really understanding that she is dead. A piece is missing in the middle. The final piece keeps crashing down, and I have to begin again.

I know I am here because of things that I did. I have made a life out of the chance Natashka carved out for me. But it’s the same thing: a piece is missing in the middle. I can’t grasp her death, and so where I am now is hard to understand. I am trying to do that today. It’s hard.

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