Women Who Bleed Colours

“Why can we never
talk
about the blood.
the blood of our ancestors.
the blood of our history.
the blood between our legs.”
– Nayyirah Waheed.

I

There was a woman who lived with my family between the time I was two and five. She stood behind the beige striped curtain that led to my mother’s room and played with my grandmother’s slick white hair when she sat at the dining table. I was the only one who saw her, who noticed the flicker in her eyes and her crooked one-sided smile. They took me for prayers in our church on a Friday evening after school. The church was dimly lit with two energy bulbs hanging from the ceiling. There were five of us kneeling by the pulpit: Martha Ojuri, whose pupils receded to the back of her head when she was sent on errands; Ifeko, who wet her bed; Samad, who stole meat from his mother’s pot; Kechi, who never did his homework; and I, the girl who saw a woman that was not there. I stared at them, studying the patterns on their house clothes. Someone smacked my cheeks and ordered me to close my eyes and say ‘Amen’. I bowed my head and left my eyes open to stare at the sturdy cemented ground below. The grownups prayed and sang hymns over us. They held hands to form a circle around us. In school, Ms. Agoro had just taught colours and every morning through the week, my classmates and I had to point out colours on various things in our environment: the board was black, our tables were brown, the swing set was yellow. I thought of colours as they prayed. I thought of the colour of grass in the school garden until it stretched my mind into a sandy field.

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