I don’t know now, as I never knew then, what hurt me the most. That I had to accept the status of being forever No. 2 or that it was indeed the reality. That no matter how much I fought, that was the world, or at least mine. I could never say no to the things that were despised. Bending was the silent language of the woman. Silence had become her weapon, her bitterness and her shame when her thoughts only made sense in her mind.
Sweet I was born rebellious. I started questioning my uncles’ unquestionable opinions when I was 4. When they commanded for things like going down to the river to fetch them water to take baths, my young mind quizzed. Aren’t they the ones who needed to shower? Why then are the women the ones to go to the river? I guess they had been bending long before I came.
I bet the river kept their secrets; long before my curious heart started hiding secrets that no one had told me. I think the river had revealed some of those secrets to me while I bent too. And it whispered to the other women as well. It must have heard so many secrets, collected gallons of tears and borne tons of stories from the women who came to draw.
I hear them when I walk by, as I had heard ever since I was 4 – catcalling, insulting when I didn’t turn and cursing when they knew I was not like the shy ones, or the bitter ones. I simply knew my worth, my name. Unless you called by that righteous name and respectfully uttered its every syllable, I was not going to ache my neck turning. I never did when I was a little girl, and even now, I don’t shed my tears for naughty and jobless boys to behold.
I walk on, as if that entire nuisance never gets to me. I take my sorrows to bed. My bed though, it has soaked enough tears. I guess I have turned it into that river, just like the one back in my hometown where women take their sorrows.
My mother sometimes insinuates that I will barely find a man with that attitude. That hurts sometimes, I admit. I really don’t know, once again, if the pain emanates from her words or the notions she represents. She is an outstanding woman. She doesn’t say women are any lesser than the men, but such words reinforce the stereotype. I love her deeply – let that not be in doubt. What beguiles me is why she settles easy with the subservience of her own. I hear some say, she is wise – listen to her or you could end up alone.
Is finding a man to marry the price for one’s happiness? When will I have no sorrows to carry? I imagine I will be carrying my babies someday, and then may be, with my hands full, there won’t be any space left for sorrow. My only prayer is that I don’t turn my babies into the river like those women in my hometown. My girls cannot grow up needing a river to cry to.
One of my friends once told me that I would end up conforming. That at one time I would have to accept it. Unfortunately, I was born free. When I was young, I used to ask my dad to do normal house chores when mom was away. I never knew in my little mind, that there was a difference. He did it sometimes, sometimes not. He’d ask me to wait for mom to come home. And I grew up waiting for my mother – because she could do it all. And I too now, can do it all. I am apparently supposed to. It hurts, as it did when I realized at four that my uncle could be reading a newspaper while my sneezing aunt labored with dinner.
We could have the infections, those were quite okay. But a man has to keep up with his ego – sometimes he was busy reading through the obituaries. And for my aunt, her kitchen, that kitchen was a sad one. You could feel the hanging tears and tales in the air. Her own kitchen was her river.
My river too still flows, still swells. It is my pillow, my phone, my music, my books and the many coded writings I put down on every surface I find. Silence – is the river that all the women I have known cry to. It is also growing within me. I used to talk much about my freedom. Now I am often silent. Am I free? How can you be something you never even experienced?