Yesterday turned out to be another dramatic one. For years, my life on the outside was very quiet and uneventful. I taught. I came home. I dealt with some stuff. I went to sleep. I dealt with more stuff and off I went to teach again. All kinds of stuff went on inside me, but my life outside me was very quiet, very uneventful, even bland. Suddenly, I have all of these other people to deal with.
Anyway, I had the idea that I ought to call C’s mom. I had thought of having C do that herself, but once I was less angry about the situation I began to see that was a supremely bad idea. As ideas most often are that are borne out of anger. So I asked National Language Ma’am to do it. Which seems to have upset VP Ma’am, but that’s another story and I will touch on that later.
We decided she would come around to my house in the evening. Maybe 10 minutes before her knock on the door, I got a text from C asking me to check a message on her phone and something to do with Facebook. Well, her phone doesn’t seem to be working and I don’t have the charger for it. It was displaying some weird visual warning sign when I got it from her friend and I didn’t do much to try to revive it after that, but it seemed to be a problem beyond merely low battery. We exchanged another text more or less with that information and her telling me to try. Then nothing. I didn’t have any particular emotional read on it, maybe because I was already immersed in thinking about telling her mom. I couldn’t really give full attention to thinking what it might mean that she had messaged, if anything.
In the morning, I had sent a note up to her in the hands of one of her classmates. It said, more or less, for 2 pages, you are still you and I am still here and I still love you. And it seemed possible that this could be destabilizing to her and she might be reacting to that in some way. I didn’t really know.
Then National Language Ma’am came along with VP Ma’am and Maths Ma’am. The call was made. Evidently, C’s mom did not really say anything. I don’t know what that might mean. Then I argued with VP Ma’am about how she talks about C and the rumours she is spreading about her, and VP Ma’am left in tears. So I will need to clean up that mess today, I suppose.
After that, I thought about C and I had no clear idea what her emotional state was or what to do, but VP Ma’am is actually very worried about the situation and very worried for herself. It’s fairly selfish, but I think understandable. I mean, it demonstrates total lack of moral courage, but not everyone is gifted with that. Some people just get scared.
She encouraged C’s mom to send her here, it seems that perhaps it has not gone well, and VP Ma’am is busily trying to point fingers away from herself about who is to blame. And the thing is, not only do I not want to have anything happen to C, I don’t want anything to happen to VP Ma’am either. I can leave, but VP Ma’am has to deal with village nastiness indefinitely.
I searched around for a taxi, finally got one (someone had to make some calls) and went up. It was the student’s dinner time and after that is supposed to be “night study.” In reality, I don’t think much studying goes on in night study, but I had been under the impression it was more supervised and structured than it really is. Maybe. Anyway, the fact is I thought she would have unstructured time and I had better get there before that window closed on me.
At the gate of the hostel, I met another girl and asked her where C was. It was dark, and I had no real idea who the girl was, but it seemed likely I knew her. She said C must be up at the dining hall getting dinner. But then suddenly C was there, and she said something like, “I’m here.” She seemed maybe happy. She seemed like she might have given a little, happy laugh. “Did you bring my phone?” she might have said then. She asked me why I had come. I don’t remember how I answered.
Standing next to me, she was in lamplight, and I could see her face a little better. I couldn’t really gauge how she was or what mode I was talking to. It’s possible I was talking to Healthy Adult and I hadn’t seen it in so long, I didn’t recognize it. It wasn’t any of the modes I know about.
She told me to wait in the hostel with one of her friends. I suppose she was going to get dinner: her cup was in her hand. Her plate must have been in the other one I couldn’t see in the dark.
It seemed like an odd request to me, but I think it shouldn’t. I think she feels I need an escort. On Sunday, when I went to meet her at the hostel, she told me to leave with her friends. It seemed the same kind of thing. “You are precious to me, and I cannot leave you unattended.” Or maybe it is just a Country X thing. “People are not supposed to be alone. Since you are alone, I ought to attend to you, but I can’t. So I am going to assign duty to somebody else.” Something like that.
She came back with her dinner in hand (potatoes and rice with some cheese in the curry, but basically all starch, by the way). We sat on the bed for a while. Her mattress and pillow and all the blankets had been taken away. She is sleeping on a plastic mat on a bedframe made of boards—I mean, it is not even solid. They are spaced every 3 or 4 inches. It can’t be at all comfortable. They have left her with a sheet she seems to have balled up into a pillow, although it does get a bit cold at night still. It has been raining, and the rain is cold.
We sat on the plastic mat. “Did you get my note? Did you understand it?” She nodded her head. I asked her about her text. I hadn’t really understood what she needed. I guess her password had not been working, and she was trying to reset it. Having investigated it more today, it would seem her account has a virus. Her password refuses to change. Anyway, it may not have been important, or it may have just been she was reaching. She was reaching via Facebook and she was reaching out to me and we were on our way to cycle, rinse, repeat. Who knows.
I said then that I had told her mom. She immediately began to cry. She folded in on herself and cried like that, doubled over, and then collapsed back on the bed. Her friend had come to stand by the bed, looking puzzled and concerned, and I took her by the hand and pulled her gently to C, because I knew C was really angry at me and there was not much I could do to soothe her. After a while, C sat up, but she was still doubled over. She said if her dad got a disease and died, it would be her fault and she would suicide. Or something like that. She said she trusted me. I said it’s not her fault. Her dad will be okay but whatever happens to her dad is not her fault. I said some other stuff. Mostly a lot of, “It’s okay.” I said, “I know you’re really angry and you didn’t want this.” I said I knew she had trusted me. I explained her mom will find out in the end, and it would be better coming directly from me. I said a few times, “I know it’s not what you wanted.” I might have said, “I am here. It’s okay to be angry at me.” That would have been a good thing to say if I had, but I don’t know if I did.
After a long time, she recovered a bit and stopped hiding her face behind her hands. She began to talk to the other hostel girls. They said she should go to my house with me. I asked her if she wanted to come. No, she didn’t. She said at midterm, she will stay in some other place. I said, “It’s okay. You are going to go with your grandparents and help them.” I know the girls did not like what she said to me. They felt she should want to stay with me, and we all knew she said that deliberately to hurt me. I think actually there is something about my house that is acutely painful to her. It might be that she doesn’t live there, although she could live there. It might be the invitation to live there feels frightening. It might be it is too evident I live alone, and she is filled with fears about my vulnerability. It might be it is just too painful to feel that she is wanted.
She began to say she wanted to call her dad and say sorry to him. Or maybe her mom. Somebody. She was telling her friends this, and periodically I was asking them to translate for me. I know when she does this, she wants me to understand her, but she cannot tell me. She cannot tell me because it is too vulnerable and because it is in English and she struggles with being understood. By now, she was allowing me to touch her. I got my phone out and encouraged her. I said that is a good idea. She didn’t want to. I said it again. She refused. I put it back. She talked a bit more. I got the phone out again. This time she did call. As the phone was ringing, I said, “You are not alone. I am here supporting you.” She was really scared and vulnerable. I heard her ask her mom about dinner. There was a brief exchange. C was clearly frightened and crying, but managing to keep her voice a little bit normal. Small, but normal.
She put the phone down.
“What did she say?”
“Nothing.” Not really nothing, but normal. C had been saying her parents would disown her.
I said if she didn’t say anything, maybe she doesn’t know what to say just now, but she didn’t disown you. She took the call. She talked to you. She didn’t disown you. You are still her daughter and you are still my daughter.
The call made me think what it might be like to have a parent who also has disordered attachment, and lacks either the empathy or the impulse control to keep a check on those symptoms around her child. I think of the way my mind can go to mush when my attachment stuff gets activated and how that would play out if it just displayed itself in front of a child. I think of the modes and what they would look like to a child trying to interact with them. It really would lead to a child with the same issues, a child who feels no constancy about themselves or about their parents. I think of the parent who might be very frightened by differentiation, who would interpret that as rejection or loss of connection, and would then become very angry at the child, as if the child were a real threat.
It would make it very difficult to assert yourself. It would make it scary to have your own desires and opinions. I think of the parent who cannot maintain a sense of being connected to their child, and feels no urgency about returning, or who feels very frightened at loss of connection, and does not allow the child to leave them to live their own lives and learn to be independent. It would make the child very fearful of exploring themselves and their world, and it would also be very lonely. You would feel very unimportant and forgotten about.
Anyway, she was sitting there, still crying, and for a while she was in a very grief-stricken place. She was not totally cut off from me—I touched her while she cried against a pillow on someone else’s bed. But I could see she felt angry. I just commented on that. “You’re really angry.” After a while, she balled into herself again, but still not cut off from me. I kept my hand on her back. The girls were commenting on how lucky she is to be adopted, and she was in an angry, crying place. I said, “She is in so much pain.” It was hard to watch her. “There is so much pain in her heart.”
She cried some more and sat up again. She was quite a lot more calm now, it seemed, but still crying. I pulled her toward me. She put one arm around me—something she has never done before like that, not really. She has done it only stiffly before. She said something about my leaving. I said, “You’re worried because I am walking alone.” It must have been almost nine by then. She nodded. I hugged her again. I asked about the phone of the girl she had been texting from. “She gone now.” I asked if someone else had one. The girl sitting across from me did. I said she could give me the number and I would message her when I got to my house. I explained that C will worry until I reach my house. I left then. C walked me out. I hugged her, and said, “I love you so much,” which probably pushed her too far. That was my vulnerable child, reaching for her, and not my adult, thinking self who considers how much C can handle.
Anyway, when I got back to my house, I sent a text, as I had said I would. I said, “Tell C I am in my house and she is in my heart.” Something like that. A few minutes later, I got a reply, “K mom goodnight.” It sounded settled to me, not little girl. But big girl. I replied to that, “Goodnight dear.”