The other shoe

I finally talked to C.

I’ll tell you how it went down first.

I was feeling tired and sort of wretched, like a black cloud had descended over my life. There was nothing to look forward to ever but pain. So I took a nap. It seemed best.

I woke up from the nap thinking about C. I have been imagining how the conversation between us might happen when I did see her, if I did. How will she face me and what will I say to her? I might have been running that through my mind. I am not sure.

But I missed her and I also this feeling, an impulse to force the connection. I thought to myself, “Am I warm?” I checked out my emotional state. Was I flat and dissociated? Was I hot? I was feeling distressed, but not overly so. I have an idea now of where an acceptable range of emotional arousal is. I can kind of feel it. I am distressed, but still thinking. Or, I am distressed and my brain just broke apart. It seemed that I was my brain was still working. I also thought about what the consequences might be if I did push things. Well, she might not talk to me for a while. She isn’t anyway. Big deal.

I sent her this really guilt-inducing text. Guilt gets a response from her. It’s not my preferred approach to relationships, but C is a special case. Direct communication is hard sometimes. She mistakes it for anger.

The text was this: I did not adopt you for time pass. I really really care about you. I know I hurt you, but I care enough to regret and not repeat. Why are you acting like there is no relationship and you don’t know me?

And I got back: Sry for evrthin sry

I wrote: It’s okay. I really really love you. Always.

And got back something about her file and not getting bus tickets.

Which frankly sounded stupid to me. So I called. No answer. I sent a text. Called. No answer. Sent another text. These were of the type: You need to talk to me about this. I want to understand. At some point I got a response that C was not there. Well, I think maybe she wasn’t, because it wasn’t her spelling mistakes. Still terrible spelling but not hers. I said Go get her. There was a further exchange. I got a lot of lies. This person was in the Capital City and C was with her parents in their new home. Idiotic. In the course of this, the person asked, “Who are you?” I said She is my adopted daughter and I love her a lot. Please get her. I got back, She told me about you. She love you too. That was nice. Anyway, eventually the person switched off the phone.

So I called C’s old number, which turned out to be with her aunt, who is in Y-town. Her aunt was very pleasant to me, confirmed that C is with her parents in their new home, and said she would find C’s number for me.

I called C’s mom and C answered. I didn’t recognize her voice, but I asked for her and she said, This is C.


This child drives me insane. We discussed her choice to go to a new school. I got mostly lies from her. Once she starts lying, it’s hard to get her to stop. I don’t really have any idea what the reason for her decision was, but I think it was her decision. Or at least a decision she does not want me to intervene in.

It was actually a strange conversation in some way I can’t quite define, maybe only because she was scared and trying to be brave, or maybe because something has changed between us. I felt warm then, but I don’t now, so I can’t really speculate what it meant. Just note it for later. What changed was a sense of carefulness—her shyness and my feeling that I needed to hold her with very soft gloves.

In the course of the conversation, she called me ma’am a few times. I hate this, partly because in the US we call strangers ma’am. It is not something we do to people we know. People we know we call by their names and a title if that’s appropriate.

At the same time, C is not a student to me. I revert to certain habits and assumptions because I feel outside the student/teacher set of cultural norms with her. But maybe also just because I do hate it. In chat, at least, she used to call me mom. Then it began to dry up. She began to say it only when she wanted something. Then not at all. I don’t know why that happened. I don’t think she stopped feeling as close to me. It was something else. Anyway, I told her how I feel. I said, “Stop it. Stop calling me ma’am. I hate it.” She did it again and I said the same thing. She said, “Sorry, sorry.” I said something like talk to me properly. She said, “Yes, mom.” I forced her, and that was different. I did it the last night I was in her house, the night of the terrible argument. Not about calling me mom, but the insisting. Before I left I insisted she tell me she love me, something that she has also stopped saying. I will say, “I love you,” and she will say, “Okay.” But that night I made her say it. I made her say it four times, so that she was saying it clearly and loudly, and I made her say, “I love you a lot,” because actually I think that is true. I think she does.

Before hanging up the phone, I told her I loved her again. She said, as usual, “Okay.” And I said that’s the wrong answer. Try again. She didn’t really understand that. She just said okay again. I said something else—I can’t remember what—and she got it. “I love you, too.”

I don’t really know why I started insisting. This is Country X, and one way to make someone feel welcome to do something is to insist they do it. Someone refuses tea, for example, and you practically arm wrestle them for the cup, because they are refusing tea out of shyness and not a lack of desire. This is hospitality here, so maybe I am thinking that.

So that’s what happened.

I will think about it more tomorrow, when my head again feels attached to my body and it seems possible I am thinking clearly again. But I am relieved to know what she decided. I am relieved to feel I did my job. I talked to her parents for her. The rest was up to her. I am also grateful she was there every day to make me keep trying to get my shit together when I was trying to deal with some of the darkest parts of my grief. I am better off because of her. I don’t know what I would have done without her. I don’t know how I could have done the work I did.


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