I wish I could work something out. It’s all sort of floating around in my head, without shape or form, but in these really significant pieces. It’s like I’m almost there, and can’t arrive.

I think Annousheh’s mother cleaned. I think she wasn’t a sex worker, and she was 25 or 30. She lived at the hotel along with the girls, but I think her job was to clean. I think her name was Aisha.

I had this weird fragment of memory beginning on Saturday. French. Who spoke French to me and why? Someone seemed to have. A big orange cat named Marmalade. White leather furniture. Good smells. Someone’s house, a clean house, an orderly house.

What I get out of is a sense of someone giving a shit about life. A sense that life has value. Mine has value, the person who lived there had value. I think maybe her name was Yvette. Something with a V.

I have this long, protracted, only semi-intelligible Facebook chat with C about why she matters to me. It begins on Friday and continues in this intermittent, inchoate way until Sunday evening. She has, first of all, the idea that she causes me a lot of worry. She doesn’t mention this over the weekend, but it has surfaced before and never been completely resolved. Then yesterday she says she thinks she can’t matter to because she hurts me a lot. Why does she think she hurts me? How many times has this happened? I can’t get a picture. She says she hurt me on Friday, because she wouldn’t let me come to her house. She wouldn’t because it was “muddy.” And that did hurt. What kind of judgmental jackass does she imagine me to be? But there’s no way to explain this over chat in broken English.

But this sense that she feels she cannot be loved breaks my heart. It breaks my heart that I see her chances at a future for herself foreshortened again and again. She wants to come to my house on Sunday for help with English and math, but her mom abandons her to laundry and babysitting and, in the end, she can’t come. She has an opportunity, but she can’t take it. This might be why she thinks she hurts me: my feeling of heartbreak at watching her life fade into the distance, in a way, when she is only 13 years old.

The thing about giving a shit is you keep trying. She can’t come to meet me early in the mornings most days because there are too many chores at home. Or she forgets about an assignment and scrambles to write it at the last minute. I don’t blame her for her forgetfulness. Having no one to help you stay organized at home will do that to you. She can’t come to my house for tutoring because her mother runs around with her friends and leaves C with the work of raising 4 kids. So I keep trying to think of new little bits of time to help her in. She is intending to stay here in Y-town next year and attend boarding school, but I think if her grades are low, they won’t accept her. It’s something I need to ask an adult about. If she doesn’t have anyone to help her, she won’t pass her exams in Class 10. And then I don’t know what will happen to her. Girls with no opportunities settle for what they can, and what they settle for is very often the most palatable form of exploitation available to them.

Anyway, my heart breaks for her that she can’t understand how she could matter to me. But I think my heart is also breaking for myself, because I couldn’t either. I am only just barely getting a sense of it. In the morning, before leaving for school, I cry for a long time.

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