I had an interesting night, I guess. I woke up sometime in the middle, very little, missing C again. I seem to be trying to make sense of this in my sleep. In daylight now, I still find it unexpected. I have been through so much, but the thing that is just really hard to process isn’t specific to trauma at all. And yet it is specific to my traumas: there were all these people that were absent, but their absences could not be acknowledged. They were dead and could not be grieved or alive and could not be remembered outside of the context in which I saw them. Yeah, that’s difficult. I needed to feel a continuity with people who were not really meant to exist.
Anyway, I slept again, only to wake up maybe around two am, this time a lot calmer. Sort of normal, even, but awake. I know why. C is supposed to be back in Y-town. I don’t know if she is or not. She does not answer the phone or reply to me. Her dad is supposed to be here also. I could find out from one of her parents if she is here or not, and that’s sort of the dilemma. I planned, initially, to meet her (step)dad when he came here, so that he would know me and feel some kind of trust in me.
But I don’t know how C feels at this point. We had a horrendous argument. Then, the next day I saw her and there was so much hurt in her eyes. She left the day after—we exchanged a couple of texts about ordinary things. Then she never answered the phone again or replied to anything. Her silence may have no particular meaning. It might be her friends were around, she felt self-conscious and didn’t respond, then later she felt guilty, then she was scared I was mad at her. She is an avoider and a delayer of problems. If we close our eyes, things go away.
Or it may mean something. It may mean at the moment she has deeply mixed feelings, that she feels betrayed and frightened and doesn’t quite know what to do and she is avoiding not my anger but her own confusion.
If the second scenario is the accurate one, then my meeting her parents forces her to confront her feelings before she has them really worked out, and she will not be able to say confidently, “I want to stay in Y-town.”
My inclination is to do nothing. If her parents want me to meet them, they can call me. C has my phone number. If there is no problem, they don’t need to call me. If there is a problem, it’s still possible C will tell me. She has before—not called, but gone online and messaged frantically. The first time things went down and she was not going to be allowed to stay, she did not, but after that she did. I think that has only happened once. It’s hard to extend that to a pattern, but when she has been in a state over problems with friends or boyfriends, she has asked for recharges so that she can call them. I feel she will never come to me for anything, but actually she does. She might this time also. She feels rejected easily, but maybe only within a narrow range of possible triggers.
So I am anxious, because I don’t think it is really the morally correct thing. It is not the responsible thing, but it might be the practical thing.
I have a strong sense of obligation about her. I think I generally do. Feelings that relate to conscience are not dissociated for me. I can’t cope with feelings of warmth and attachment for someone, but I can cope with a sense of moral obligation. I don’t know why that is, but it creates an uncomfortable pull between feelings for me, and it also makes me anxious.
The moral sense seems to be connected to dead bodies, as though assembling them was the morally correct thing to do and as though I had failed to live up to my duties as a friend in not being able to keep them together. It’s not guilt, this feeling, although I might also feel guilty. It’s more active than that, and it’s not really a negative feeling. I want to meet C’s dad. I want to assemble the bodies. It’s hard to describe, but it’s a strong feeling for me, this sense of conscience.
Anyway, it seems to me I woke up to think about it and to get it worked out before the day began and I started to feel I had to do something: at 2 am, you don’t feel any pressure to take any immediate action about anything. There is a sense that there is time to really work the issue through. The good that might come of reaching out is outweighed by the bad that could result from not reaching. Doing nothing is the safer choice, even if I don’t like it that much.
I think it is worked out. It makes me anxious. I will need to spend my day getting calm and trying to stay that way. That’s all.
But maybe it brings up something else for me, which is my attitude toward C’s situation generally. I have a very strong sense of conscience and moral duty, and it comes out with her quite a lot, but at some level I am also happy to disregard those feelings. In another sense, I don’t give a fuck. I just want my way. I want her in a situation where she is not spending most of her time being mother to her siblings, not cooking three meals a day for a family of six, not doing laundry every day, not being housewife after she gets home from school. I want a crack to open up in her life where she can see herself as someone who can do things other than cook and clean. I want her away from her dad, although I am really not clear on what the problem with him is. And I don’t quite care how I do that. I don’t even entirely care if it means she drinks her way through Class 9 and gets knocked up in Class 10 and drops out of school altogether, because that was probably going to happen anyway.
I have a strong sense of obligation to her parents: I have promised to them that I will keep their daughter safe and on the right track. But I also don’t care. I don’t care if C doesn’t actually listen to me and I cannot control her or keep her from doing stupid things. I don’t care if she no longer wants any relationship with me, but she wants to go to school in Y-town and she cleverly neglects to tell her parents the new situation. I just want her here, and a part of me does not care how that happens, whether it happens in an honest up-front, responsible way or through a kind of emotional sleigh-of-hand.
Maybe a part of me is shocked at this: it isn’t new. I feel the same way about being here, really. I told C I wouldn’t leave her. I don’t care how that happens either. Some foreigners complain—the ones who are here long-term and have spouses—about how difficult it is to remain here. Country X really does not want immigration at all. There is no concept of permanent residency. It is almost impossible for a foreigner to achieve citizenship status. You have to keep renewing your visa every year. It’s a hassle, and if you came here to provide something like quality medical care, for example, because the homegrown doctors are not really adequately educated or trained, then it’s discouraging and makes you feel unappreciated and unwanted. Well, I don’t care. Lying would not kill me, I think. I want what I want.
I use corporal punishment in my classroom here. It’s illegal, but everyone does it and I have found that I just don’t have the mental stamina to make more progressive methods of discipline entirely work. I lose too much instructional time trying to sort out the culture and methods and so on. I intend to get it worked out, but meanwhile I hit them. Sometimes, they cry.
Same mindset. It’s wrong. I know it’s wrong, but they need to learn maths and students don’t have time for me to dither around trying to figure out how to transplant methods brought from a place where rules are rules instead of guidelines meant to be broken at the first opportunity. Everyone hits them, but no one else can teach them maths and I might be able to improve their English while I am at it, but nothing at all good will happen if I stay worked up in my own conscience. I need to get on with things.
I seem to be the only foreign teacher with that attitude, but there you go.
The pragmatism of it may be something I need to face about myself. I am a moral person, except when there seems to be some kind of greater good involved. Then everything begins to slide. I won’t kidnap C. I won’t kill anyone or physically harm anyone. I won’t out and out lie about the facts. But I will lie in an emotional sense. I will say I can take care of her when maybe I can’t, when maybe the relationship won’t allow that to happen, because I want her out of that house.