What hit me later was happiness. This was really difficult, because over the happiness was so much terror. I spent a lot of the night like that, I think. Happy and terrified. I slept sometimes, but whenever I woke up the happiness and the terror were both still there.

You might think the terror was about losing my happiness, but that’s not it. I am sure of it. It was about what might happen to the people who gave me the happiness. It was about what might happen to the people I felt connected to. The connection gave me joy. The people who gave me those feelings of connection were in danger.

It is extremely difficult to explain. It sounds like I mean I am afraid of loss. The loss was terrible, but I don’t mean that. I mean it’s terrifying to watch people die. Not everything is about the self, or what might happen to me. There is an echo inside us about the people we care about. We imagine what it is like to be them, and when they are dying, we imagine the terror of what it is like to die.

I thought I was going to die over and over again, but I don’t know that my own near-death experiences were half as frightening as watching someone’s real death. I don’t know why that would be, but I feel it. The murders of the people I loved were more terrifying than anything I can imagine.

It shouldn’t really surprise that when I think of meeting C, I wonder whether she might be dead. My sense of probability is skewed. The possibility of death is too real for me, too graphic, too intense not to make it seem more likely to happen than it really is.

The hardest part of this might be my own shock at the reality of what I lived through. People died. Repeatedly. The people I loved died. They were murdered. They were murdered by my dad or by Yuri or by someone I didn’t know and only heard about. We were like deer being picked off from a herd by hunters. And we were being murdered because our lives did not seem to matter to anyone. It was, evidently, okay to just kill us. The normal rules didn’t apply. We could be murdered and no one would notice. No one would care. The murderer had nothing, it seemed, to be afraid of. No reason to stop killing.

And it’s just so hard to accept. I feel like such an ordinary person. Just a math teacher with untidy hair who is clumsy sometimes. Normal. But I saw Nadia’s throat cut, I saw Ksymcia hanged, I saw Magda strangled and Stefcia stabbed to death with a pair of scissors. And I saw all of that before I was in 3rd grade. I saw Annusha suffocated or suffocated her myself. I saw countless corpses of people I didn’t know. Farzana died of wounds and Natalya was beaten to death with metal pipes. That’s seven murders. Seven people I knew and loved died, and I saw them die.

It seems to me some of the suicidal ideation I have is an expression of that. It is an attempt to communicate through behaviour, or an impulse to communicate that way. They are killing us. We don’t matter. We don’t have any value, and so they are just destroying us. Not metaphorically. Literally. We are dying. And it hurts. It is just so painful, to keep seeing the killing, to keep seeing death so close at hand. It is not just loss—that’s bad enough. I have to contend with death too closely.

It hurts.

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