Seventy-One Years Later
Natalia stood inside the drawer looking for something to do. This was quite a common feeling for her, as she had languished there for years on end, no one ever remembering she was there. For Helen was older now, and she convinced herself she shouldn’t play with Russian nesting dolls anymore.
Natalia, like most Russian nesting dolls, was paralyzed and couldn’t move in any way, only think. For this reason, no one in society has properly respected the Russian nesting doll. Always a plaything. Strewn about, as if they don’t have feelings or hearts or souls. Well, they did, and Natalia knew firsthand. She was sentient! she could have sworn.
She also wished that she had her sisters with her, Olga and Tatiana. They weren’t perfect dolls to have around, but she could have at least communicated with them, or played with them. At the very least, they could have been there. But no, Charlie and Johnny had to lose Olga and Tatiana! They were dead then, and Natalia preferred it that way.
Natalia was keeping track of the days, and it was Thanksgiving. Back when Helen was young and people still remembered Natalia, Thanksgiving was the day for her to be loved. She didn’t think she would be loved this Thanksgiving.
As she stood in the drawer, suddenly Helen opened the drawer. Natalia rejoiced! Someone would play with her, notice her, do literally anything.
Meanwhile, Helen was with her grandson Dustin in the family room. Dustin was five years old and throwing a temper tantrum for an unknown reason. Helen didn’t know what to do.
Dustin’s parents, as well as the other people in their generation, were in the dining room drinking wine and playing poker, and didn’t want to be disturbed. Helen had tried to console Dustin by touching him gently and by singing a lullaby out of tune. Both seemed to enrage Dustin more. He cried more loudly and more loudly.
Suddenly, Helen remembered. What could always calm her? Olga and Tatiana, but especially Natalia. So she scurried over to the drawer, and opened it, but immediately closed it. This was not the Russian doll drawer. Eventually, she opened a drawer and found Natalia. For just a moment, she looked at Natalia, and inside her she saw her memories from her childhood, all the good days, and the bad days, gone past.
She took out Natalia and presented the doll to Dustin. Dustin, his anger temporarily quelled, took the doll, and forcefully removed the top.
Natalia’s entire body hurt. She knew this was how the smaller dolls would escape, but it still hurt so much. And no one knew or cared. This was a common theme in the treatment of Russian dolls.
After a few minutes, Dustin got bored with the doll. He put the top back on, but at a 60-degree angle, so naturally she pained more than anything else ever in her life, and she thought, thanks. Not.
As Natalia was put back in the drawer, she wanted to die. But as a Russian doll, she lacked that fundamental privilege. Her entire body was in intense pain.
How do you deal with an inordinate amount of pain? she thought. You compartmentalize it. So Natalia thought about something else: her experience outside the drawer. No, wait. That was when she got twisted. She couldn’t think anymore.
Gah! Why won’t someone take me out! she writhed.