Last night, I saw C online at around 5:30 or maybe closer to 6. They have some downtime then before study time. I suppose she is using someone else’s phone. Or something. Anyway, I just said, “Are you okay?”

“Yap.” And she wanted a voucher.

I said no this time. That is what happens, I think. You need support and you keep asking for it, in different ways, until you finally run up against a boundary. Then you have to cope with the feelings you have about the boundary, your anger about it, and the fear of what will happen to you if you get angry. It seemed to be time to start saying no though, because I don’t know what she is planning to do with the voucher and whether it will be something supportive to her or something destructive.

She said it’s fine. I’ll go to the shop outside school and buy it myself. Which is, of course, against the rules. I said some other things. I love you and sometimes I need to say no to you. She read it and didn’t answer. After a few minutes, she disappeared, possibly because it was time to study. At that time, they study in the classrooms, and I think there is actual adult supervision, instead of just kids sitting on their beds studying or playing, as they see fit. This was around 6.

Anyway, I called the matron. I just asked what the boarders were doing. Going up to study. She had just called them to go up. She asked if I had something to say. I said, no, I just wondered where Chimmi was. I suppose she wondered, but it’s hard to explain the situation, that I was wondering what the odds were that she was bluffing vs. really going to bunk and also whether she disappeared because she was expressing something or it was just time to go. I just wanted to know if I was right, and it was time to go to the classrooms. It was. I thought she probably wouldn’t risk going to the shops.

They have dinner at 7 and are supposed to be studying again at 8, but no one actually checks on them. Some of them study. Some don’t.

It is about a 40 or 45 minute walk to C’s school. I heated dinner, ate a bit, and went. It sounded like she needed steadying. Whether I would be steadying or more dysregulating seemed like an open question, but basically it’s all trial and error anyway.

I went. When I got there, I sat on her bed. It took her a while to come down—she wasn’t among the first students to come rushing from the classrooms higher up the hill. Someone shouted to her outside something about my being there. When she came inside, she asked why I had come. I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t say anything. Probably I should have said something, but I couldn’t think what.

She straightened some things up and went to get her dinner. It was a hard evening. She cycled through distrust and anger mostly. She wouldn’t make eye contact. She frantically shouted to other people about getting a voucher. I finally said, “How do I help you?” I said, “It is hurting you so much you don’t even want to be inside your body.” She said, “You don’t want to help me.” So it was like that. The way she behaved reminded me of something I have seen before: an animal running around in a cage, maybe, looking in a terrified way for an opening to escape through. It was terribly difficult and painful to watch. I didn’t know what to do, so mostly I did nothing. I tried to breathe and stay calm and inside my own body. All I really had to offer was the fact of my body being there with her, which perhaps does help.

Later in the evening, there was a kind of gathering around of other students. Attention somehow came around to her. It was almost eight by then. They were talking to C, and asking about me. Where I lived was one of the questions. I suppose they must have thought I must live closer, because I had come the last 3 nights and I have been coming on Friday evenings every week for the last few weeks. C said, in the Regional Language, “Roka lekpala.” Roka is a pronoun. Lekpala I have heard before, but I don’t know the meaning. It seemed to be pushing her into a different mood. She smiled in a more relaxed way, something more healthy adult.

I asked what she was saying. I asked her and I asked the other students. No one would tell me at first. I didn’t think it was probably a bad thing. The expressions didn’t match that. Finally a girl I know from the lower school said, “It means good.” I asked a friend in the morning and she confirmed. The Regional Language is a very vague language, as is the National Language, but I think the Regional Language is a trade language that has become widespread enough in the last 50 years or so to become the mother tongue of many people. I am not sure. But the vocabulary is very limited, and words have a broad range of meanings. Lekpala can mean love or like or is good or is kindhearted. Someone was talking about some rings for sale, and used the same word to talk about the rings, meaning they were of good quality. So C was either saying that I am good or kindhearted. They talked some more about me, and I think it was in the same vein.

On Monday, when I came for their program, my friend’s daughter who is in eleventh grade there got a very bad toothache, and I walked her home. First, I tried calling her mom, but she didn’t hear the phone. Then I went with her to make sure she got home. There are these other things that students have noticed now.

Anyway, C got a little calmer after that, but it was still very on and off, and when I left finally, I did not kiss her. It seemed to be too much. When I got home, she was online again. I tried telling her some things, and she read a few comments, and then stopped. I think she was still in a state or in a state again.

Something is happening to me though. It is happening in my body. It is not my mind. I leave C and I feel immensely grounded. It’s a pattern. It doesn’t last forever, but it can last for hours sometimes or even until the next morning. Later, the trauma stuff surfaces again, and I have to deal with shame and suicidality and all of the usual shit, but the first reaction I feel is calm. I think it’s a hormone, and I don’t feel it as strongly when I am with her, because the trauma stuff is louder when she is physically present, but there is this balance between trauma and this grounded feeling and as soon as the trauma stuff subsides, this other thing happens in my body. It’s amazing. It’s not me intentionally grounding myself. It’s not me taking care of the little parts. It is nothing in my head, and it seems to happen whether the visit goes well or badly. It is physical. It is something physical that happens, and I think it can happen to some extent when the person is not there. I think I was leveraging this when I started really trying to work with the trauma stuff maybe a year ago. I had a lot of grief to contend with whenever I thought of various attachment figures, but this other, physical thing was helping me through it.