The problem with C, for me, is that there are still things I cannot see. I see them, I suppose, but they don’t get processed. I remember them without ever being able to understand them. If I think about them, I seem to be unable to remember other things.
She triggers me like nothing else does, and I do not know why, because I cannot keep all the pieces together in one place to see what they add up to.
Before I left for the Capitol City, I felt I was doing so well. I was able to stay in “real-time” and process life while it was happening and I was. But I don’t think I was processing C. Some things, but not other things. I think this because when I look back at being with her, it is as though they occurred behind glass.
I think this happens when I am shutting down large chunks of my awareness. Like, maybe I know how I feel, but only if I don’t see something or only if I don’t hear something or do not think something. It gives me a feeling of there being something at the edge of my peripheral vision.
It makes it impossible to really know how to respond to her or care for her. I never know if I am really responding to her needs or whether I am responding only to a kind of distortion, because I don’t know what it is that is just out of range, or whether it is important or not.
It’s possible some of them are half-processed and I just need to make another pass at them. I know at the end of the year, the feeling of grief was profound, because she was completing Class 8, the year I was in when Nata died and it is also an important event in C’s life and therefore in my life and my girls are not here to see it. There is a sense of her having surpassed all of them. She met a milestone they cannot see, even virtually, but also a milestone many of them did not see themselves. I know that was one piece. It’s the piece I knew about and tried to deal with.
There seem to be other pieces I ought to try to work out.
I think her skin is a trigger. You wouldn’t think this—I find it hard to believe—because I have touched plenty of other people’s skins in the last 20 or 30 years. But what I have to remember is the same things might have always triggered me before, but I would have simply stayed behind glass where I had always stayed and not noticed. I would not have that feeling of going behind glass again, because I was already there.
I am thinking of one particular moment in the kitchen: my memories of C are perfectly preserved sometimes. They are like things frozen in amber. I think it’s because I shut down at that moment, and a narrative memory stops being formed. There is only a sensory memory, something like a flashback but less disorganized, and it is sitting there waiting in my amygdala.
We were talking about something. Or, I was trying to force C to talk to me about it. I can’t remember the topic. Something she was trying to avoid discussing. I caught hold of her forearms while she was standing there. I think she had been cutting meat. I caught hold of her and said something and she said something about her work—she retreats into her household chores when I want to talk. It does need to get done, but I think it is also habit. She is anxious. There must be work to do. And she begins to remember she would put off if she felt relaxed.
So I touched her arms.
Remembering the feel of her arms in my hands overwhelms me. I am not sure why. There is some intense thought or connection I have about it. But my first thought about it is how do you cut them? I don’t know exactly what memory this connects to me for me, if it is my dad’s home-style rituals or if it is the bodies being fed into machines or if it is the murder by stabbing I saw once, but it is so very horrifying.
How do you cut them? How do you slice arms like that to pieces?
She has a girl’s arms. The skin is soft. They aren’t like mine. I’m middle-aged and my skin is not like that anymore. She is a teenager like we were and she takes good care of her skin, like the girls did, and how did my dad cut someone like that up? How do you cut up someone who is still just a child?
And I don’t know. I really don’t know.