I met C. She behaved normally. I was so surprised, I couldn’t think what to talk about.

She was sitting alone on her bed when I came—she told me to come to the hostel. I said to check with the “captains.” I think these types would have been called proctors elsewhere. Or monitors. Anyway.

She said it was okay, so I came. It was raining lightly. I thought that could be a good excuse. People melt, you know.

She was playing one of those games where things slide down the screen and you have to get 3 in a row. I didn’t say anything about this. I thought she must need something to dull the intensity—something to hide behind. I was surprised that she was alone. Then I was more surprised I didn’t have a reactive child in front of me. Something happened the last week or so. It must have. It might have been the separations—going away and coming back. She was sick first and then we had a long holiday for voting. Or maybe my letters are doing something for her. If she was rapidly switching through modes, I didn’t see it. It was too subtle.

She wanted a new phone. I looked at the condition of her old phone, which IT Ma’am gave her about a year ago. It ought to be in better condition than it is. It is quite a nice phone, quite expensive. It is reconditioned, but still. She threw it in a fit of temper in the spring some time, and the screen I repaired for her (her sisters had done a job on it anyway), but she had broken the LCD and black inky things have spread across the screen. Her friend dropped it and the buttons somehow all fell off the side of it. I felt sad for her. The LCD is her own fault. No one told her to throw the phone. But IT Ma’am shouldn’t have bought such an expensive phone for her when she was only 13. A girl that age isn’t responsible enough to take care of expensive electronics. The other stuff isn’t really her fault.

She asked if I would buy her one. That was a vulnerable moment for her. She asked almost unintelligibly. I think she has parts, and this part stumbles through English. She talks like there are marbles in her mouth. I am not sure, but I think it matches the child who tacks a polite Country X word onto the end of things and wants to call me Madam. Once I understood what she wanted. I said yes.

“You will?” Very vulnerable.

“Yeah.”

So she told me what kind of phone she wanted, which always helps me. I hate shopping, but I can follow instructions.

When I left, she didn’t get teary and she didn’t walk me out. Instead, she withdrew some. I let her do this. I don’t know if that was for the best or not. She started to do something else, look for something on her bed or something. I went out.

The rest of the day was hectic. We had the song and dance show in the evening, and I had very little time to process.

Monday, after school, I went to the bank and got cash. Then I went to the shop I thought she said was selling them. They weren’t. She meant the mobile shop, which is in the same block of shops. I went there. I am starting to know the shopkeeper well. He has fixed my phone a few times, sold me a new one, and fixed C’s screen. We are almost friends. Anyway, I asked about the phone she wanted. It seemed he didn’t have exactly the one she wanted. There were 3 models from that brand. I looked at the medium-priced one that was also the closest in price to the one she asked for. I don’t know anything about phones. I don’t care to. They bore me.

I bought it. I sent C some texts about it going home or maybe just after I got home. It said she read them, but around 8 pm I got a text asking me if I bought the phone. So maybe the phone wasn’t with her and some friend read the texts. Or maybe some other part did and didn’t tell her.

She wanted a recharge. She said she wanted to chat with me. I don’t think she has ever said that before, and I felt tears come to my eyes. The Boy and I were getting ready for bed then, and I sent The Boy for the voucher. When he came back, I sent her the number, because I was already lying in bed. It didn’t work, she said, as sometimes it doesn’t. Mistyping on someone’s end of things. Anyway, she said in her best Detached Mode, “Recharge directly. It’s the wrong kind.” I thought of telling her it’s not a nice way to ask for things. I didn’t. I am sure that would not help things. She was feeling very vulnerable, and Detached Mode was reaching for control. I let her reach. She can pretend to be in control, but that doesn’t change anything.

The whole time, The Boy wanted to carry on a conversation with me. This seems to happen. When C is in a vulnerable place and needs my attention, The Boy becomes very demanding in some way. The last time C seemed very needy and I wanted to really concentrate on what was happening to her, he started making 2-minute noodles I had just told him not to make, because I was making dinner. This time, he wanted the phone. He wanted to call his mom. Then he wanted to play games. I let him call his mom—they don’t talk long. I said no to games. I told him I am using the phone. “How long will you use it for?” He had just told me he was feeling sleepy and had switched out the light. But he didn’t want me on the phone. My attention ought not to be elsewhere. I might forget about him if I did that.

It was exhausting, and I wasn’t able to attune to C well. After a while, I lost her. She stopped responding to me. It’s hard having two kids with trauma issues. They hardly know each other, but they respond to each other via their effect on me. It’s so difficult.

I was awake for a long time in the night, as seems to happen these days. I expected it actually, and I got up and charged C’s new phone, because I didn’t want The Boy to see the new phone. I think he gets jealous sometimes of the things I give her. He doesn’t really compute that he gets time and energy. He gets 3 meals a day, conversation, reminders to bring his stuff to school, and someone telling him to get up in the morning without yelling at him. C gets food and letters and a brief visit once a week, which I think rather fails. Also, C’s family is rich and doesn’t always share with her. His family is poor and has not always provided him with the basics. The sense of deprivation they have is different.

Anyway, the hour or so I was awake in the night thinking seemed to help. When I woke up in the morning, I felt quite different than I have before. I felt attached. I felt differently about myself. I felt safe. I felt I mattered. It was a fragile feeling and easily taken over by the usual cycle of fear, shame, anger, distrust, etc.

It’s interesting. C has done something to me. Or forcing myself to relate to her has done something to me. Probably both. The thought that comes to mind is that I know she wants me. She feels all kinds of things about me. Sometimes she hates me. Sometimes she wants to take care of me and nurture me. Sometimes she is very dependent and vulnerable and needy and demanding. But she keeps coming back. The want remains, because she is attached. I think she is probably attached because whatever mode she is in and whatever is going on with me, we find a way to connect. The connection doesn’t break over her being in a particular mode or my being in a particular mode. I don’t trust that she has empathy for me all the time. I don’t need her to take care of me either. That’s my job. I trust that she wants me and that I am perceiving that accurately.

The wanting, it turns out, is important. That wanting is the desire for connection and attachment. That’s what the wanting I perceive in her is. No matter what happens in our lives or what is going on in our relationship, that desire for connection and attachment is there. I didn’t know what that feeling was. I didn’t know what it was in myself. I didn’t recognize it in others. It felt bad and shameful, because the thing is that the want does not necessitate empathy. Empathy comes out of it, because at some point we realize if we want someone in our lives, we have to make adjustments. We can’t have things our way all the time. We have to care what happens to them and what impact our behaviour has on them. Want does not mean I care about you. It can mean I want to own you and control you. Want can be intrusive. But it is not inherently bad.

My want as a child was intrusive to my mother, because she did not know how to make adjustments for me or the developmental stage I was in. Nearly everything I did was some kind of disruption of her plan for things. I have a lot more empathy for my mother because of The Boy. Last night, I was trying to make dinner, and he wanted my attention. TW was there also, and she wanted my attention too. It was incredibly hard to get dinner made while balancing their needs for attention with the need to actually look at the vegetables I was chopping. Getting myself settled again after buying the phone was not even in the cards. It was so difficult. It was really difficult not to scream at them just please stop needing my attention. My mother did scream at me or at my sister, and we dysregulated and the whole family fell apart, because she couldn’t balance her goals with the needs of her children. She absolutely couldn’t.

Anyway, it makes a difference to know that C wants me and to have a confidence that I know what that feeling between us is. It is attachment. She came back at midterm and cried while telling me not to come to hostel again. What she felt was want. I also felt want for her. When she asked for the phone, she felt that. I know she did. She asked for the phone and felt very vulnerable and what came next was want. You aren’t mad at me for breaking my phone. You aren’t mad at me for asking you to spend a lot of money on me. I want you. Last night, asking me if I bought the phone, she wanted me. I am excited about my phone. I want to connect with you over that. The feeling she has is want. I know what it is now, and it isn’t bad. It just is.

I don’t know why it matters to know she wants me, but it does. She wants me. Someone can want me.

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