So the day turned out sort of good. Not perfect or great, but better than it has been. The morning was wretched and then suddenly something lifted. I never know when this happens if it’s just kind of a switch—I mean, if the pain will come back later exactly as before, only just now I’m shutting it out. But anyway that happened.

I got to school a bit early, thinking I might get some work done, but also with this thought of being able to see C before school. It helps just to see her. Yes, she’s still alive. I guess that’s it. Also, they have gone back to cutting stones next to my house and it’s probably nothing more than an enormous trigger until I leave. So I went. I saw her coming. She didn’t see me. She used to always walk across the assembly ground as a shortcut to her classroom. Now, she doesn’t do that. She walks the long way, down the road on the other side from where I might be sitting, and then she turns at a right angle to her classrooms below where I can’t see her anymore. I don’t know why she has done this. It meant that she didn’t see me.

She went down and put her things in her classroom and then went back up the road the same way, still not seeing me, to stand at the edge of the campus and check backpacks for junk food, which is her job this week and maybe will be next week.

I sat for a while outside, trying to write lesson plans, and I began to think about her tooth, because she had this terrible toothache a few weeks ago. I wanted her to have it looked at and she keeps putting off going. It turns out she is scared to go, which I hadn’t realized, but she told me on Wednesday that she would go on Saturday. I began to think I don’t want her to be scared. I don’t really know what to do, but I don’t like thinking I pressured her into doing something that scares her when she doesn’t want to do it and maybe it isn’t not necessary. It’s not terribly important, but these things always feel terribly important to me. So I went to ask her if she was still feeling scared. No, she wasn’t scared. She would go tomorrow. I left her then, and it seems to me, as I looked at her, I could see a little better she is safe. No one had seduced her into a life of exploitation and dehumanization. She is okay. She is fine.

A bit later, I was walking down a path to go check whether my 5B was working during social work time, and I felt a kind of lightening, as though some kind of burden had been lifted. I don’t know why, but it made the day so much better.

The other thing I realized today is that C looks less like Ksymcha than she used to. C has lived past her, I think. Her face has changed and it no longer looks quite as soft, and maybe also she has put on a bit of weight with puberty so that her face is rounder and fuller. It might be that I am starting to see this difference more clearly, and the difference is giving me a degree of clarity. Ksymcha was a little girl trying to be a mother to me, and C is a slightly less little girl simply trying to be a girl. C is safe because she is not living in Yuri’s brothel, and Ksymcha is dead but she has left me with the most beautiful memories of love and warmth I could ever imagine.

I think the grief has gotten a bit processed, and those wonderful memories of feeling safe and happy, and of feeling free enough to play, are less bound up with sorrow. The pain is a little less and so I have better access to the good stuff. It’s like having the door open a crack when you are standing in a darkened room. There is this crack in the grief for the happy memories to come through.

What’s maybe most important—I think it might be—is just this feeling of belonging to someone. My parents were disasters. I felt like an outsider in most of my life, because there was so much I had to conceal. But Ksymcha loved me. I had someone. I had someone when I was very small and young enough for that sense of belonging to become a permanent part of me and my identity. It just got covered over with pain.

Let’s see what tomorrow holds.

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