I think I get it. How it all fits together. I think my last post alluded to it, but it’s not clear, because I didn’t know.
Aylan Kurdi’s father, who has lost everything that mattered to him, says what I wanted to say when Natashka died. Except, this time, everyone cares. No one cared when she died, but everyone cares that his family is dead and he feels he has nothing and no one left to live for. And he has left his country and his people behind. He has tried to immigrate illegally. He is some of the things she was, although he is in that situation for quite different reasons. Natashka was a 9-year-old with family problems manipulated into something she did not want to do by someone who conned little and not-so-little girls for a living. Aylan’s family fled a war zone. It’s not the same thing. Nonetheless, in my mind, there is that sense of their being in something of the same category: illegal immigrants, members of low-status groups. It’s possible for someone to care.
To process that, I also have to process the sense of worthlessness that goes with our place in society—the place that Natashka seemed to have, which meant when she called for help (or maybe it was I who called for help), no one came running. Thus the other, terrible night.
It’s weird how these things work. Processing trauma is weird. I mean, it’s not linear. It doesn’t even always seem to make sense. I feel things and while I feel things stuff bumps around in my head. Eventually, something comes of that. But it’s not a neat progression between the first thing that bumps and what it all shakes down into being.
Then the other thought is really a memory. It is the precise memory of holding Nata’s body and not wanting to leave it. That is what Aylan’s body on the beach makes me think of. I imagine his father wants to hold his body. I wanted to hold Nata’s body forever. I did not want to let it go. They burned her. I wanted them to burn me along with her so that the last thing that happened to me was that I held her in my arms.
So I’ve been remembering that feeling. I remember that feeling of never wanting to let go.
Because actually this is all about moving beyond that point, and you can’t move beyond something until the last one is fully experienced. Not cathected. Emotions aren’t like vomit you need to bring up. Experienced. So I did that. And I needed to do that, because C makes me want to live. Not for any great purpose, but kind of like a good story. I want to see what happens next. I want to see what kind of person she really becomes, what kind of family she creates for herself, what work she does.
As a teacher, I know I am temporary. I fill a place for a time in a child’s life, but then someone else fills that place. They remember me, and the feelings remain, but those feelings become softer over time. I might see a child a year later or a few times over the next year. They might come to see me for a few minutes every day even, but it’s not like being a relative. It seems that way to me.
C is different.
I thought she was going from here with her family to another state in this country, but she isn’t. She will come back here after the winter holidays and attend boarding school. I don’t know how that will work exactly, for me to see her, but I think I can see her. I can watch her grow up a little more. Yesterday, I asked her what I should do—should I stay in Country X or not? I asked my Class 5 students that, and I also asked her. She said I should stay. Then I can help her. So I want to do that. I want to stay here until she finishes Class 10, which is when they have a big exam that I think decides a lot of important things for the students here.
After Nata died, I must have imagined a life for myself that would be focused on what I could do, and on what things I could do that would make me happy. Ours is such a doing culture. I’m starting to see how it isn’t “doing” that is so important to me. I just want to watch a few things grow. I want to be a gardener maybe, and just let people do what they would do naturally with just a bit of help from me. I have to do something, but it’s the watching that gives me joy.