‘Do you wish you’d been killed at birth?’

‘Do you wish you’d been killed at birth?’

I’d been walking around the grounds of the 6th Home for the Elderly with Masha and Dasha and one of the old ladies there asked them that question.

It got asked a lot.

As usual, Masha dismissed it with a joke, saying her life had been worthwhile for the pleasure of dancing on the graves of old biddies like her.

But Dasha was more thoughtful and once we were back inside, in the safety of their room, she told me that yes, she did wish they’d been killed at birth.

‘I’ve had more sorrow than joy,’ she explained as Masha scoffed and switched on her Atari. ‘I only find peace in the blackness that vodka brings.’

This conversation took place in the years before she finally stood up to Masha, reasserted herself and redressed the balance in their abusive relationship. She stopped drinking, took back control and they found peace and happiness. Both of them.

But it made me consider, for the thousandth time during my friendship with them, the plight of being conjoined when you are two totally different people.

One loved life and the other hated it. Dasha’s bitterness was etched into her face but Masha seemed to thrive on her own anger and resentment. Dasha had tried to kill herself many times and been prevented by Masha.

I sat with them while Dasha told me of the times they’d been betrayed by people they thought were their friends. Then they received a visit from one of the staff – a motherly figure who loved fussing over them. She’d come in with some homemade jam and sat down with a bump on their bed for a chat. By the time I left Dasha was laughing at her tales of life on the Outside, and spooning the jam out of the jar and into her tea.

I left them to pick my children up from their school but I remember that it struck me then, that we shouldn’t live a life of regret, but take happiness where it comes. In the moment.

And if there is something in our lives that causes us sorrow and that we are able to change, we should set out to jolly well change it. A few years later, Dasha managed to shift their relationship from one of abuse to compromise. She couldn’t change their body, but she could change her mind.

It’s called positivity and she cracked it. To start of with in little ways – and by the end in life changing ones.

If I’d asked her the same question then, I think her answer would have been different.

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