Kwa kwa(Knock Knock) Prisca please open, let`s shower together, echoed my 11 year old daring voice. Prisca raised her voice in a blatant “no” that left me feeling as if I had angered her.”Why?”,I retorted,“because I am throwing blood” Prisca answered.OMG! Throwing blood! What did she mean by that? My little mind could not understand. How could she be throwing blood? Did she kill a chicken?
One early Saturday morning, I overheard Prisca whispering to another big girl who lived with us ‘’this child would start seeing her flower anytime soon”, stealthily looking in my direction. Who has never seen a flower? I said to myself. I made a quick move and passed in front of them to make them know I heard their gossip. As I passed, their strong stares followed me. I knew they were looking at my buttocks as always. I hated being embarrassed by comments from strangers and family members about my body. They said I had the shape of a mature woman at my tender age. Whatever that meant. I felt terrible that my body had become my identity.
On the eve of the day I was to start secondary school, I was so excited to see my friends and the thought of being a Form 1 girl made me swell with so much pride. I could not wait for the next day. As I was lost in my thoughts, my mom walked in and asked me to follow her to her room. When I did, she asked me to shut the door and sit on her bed. "What is she up to again?'' I asked myself.
‘’Tomorrow you will be going to secondary school. Which means you are now a big girl. You have to take care of yourself. Keep away from from boys. Be very careful with them. You will soon start menstruating and when that happens, you have to be extra careful because from then, if a boy touches you, that`s all, you will get pregnant and you know what shame that will bring to this family. Remember you are our first child". “What is menstruation?” I asked in deep fright. Mami lowered her voice and said “Very soon, once a month, blood will start coming out of your woman skin. Once that happens know you are now a woman. If it happens when you are in school open that packet that looks like cotton in your box and take out one pad and put on your panties and wear. You will have to be careful so it does not stain you dress. Nobody is supposed to see your menstrual blood. You must do everything to make sure it does not stain you in public and keep away from boys”, she said holding her ear.
One day my benchie (Bench mate) stood up to answer a question during our Maths class and her uniform had a red spot that looked like blood! All the girls had their hands in their mouth in shock and someone rushed to her and whispered something to her ear. She immediately sat down, then took off her pullover and tied around her waist. The boys made mockery of her and called her eggs. I felt so sorry for her and prayed for such an embarrassment not to be reach me one day.For the whole school year, I didn’t get any visit from “Mbra”, so on the eve of our closing,I gave my packet of Indian bread to a friend who had been visited by “Mbra”
On a sunny Saturday afternoon during the third term holidays(June 1993), I was hanging around the kitchen hoping to be given a slice of cocoyam from the big boiling pot.Every time my mum`s hand went into the pot my heart raced hoping it will be the moment she will make up her mind to turn to my direction.Chum –chum –chum sounded the mortar and pestle that pounded the cocoyams into a smooth paste called Achu. Achu is eaten with a yellow spicy soup made with Palm oil, limestone and assorted African spices. Finally mami made the long awaited move, she stretched her hand towards my direction with a large slice of “coco” in her palm, I took it and gave her a swift thank you.
As I was about to take a first bite of my long awaited cocoyam, I felt a sudden urge to urinate, I dropped my precious coco in bowl on the kitchen sink and rushed to the bathroom. As I took of my pantie, lo and behold!!!!!! there was a brownish stain that looked like chocolate on my pants!. At the sight of this,I was drowned in a deep sea of sorrow. My mother`s words echoed in my mind “If a boy touches you, that is all, you will get pregnant “Fear and disbelief encompassed my being. I went into the kitchen and told my mom something had happened and I needed to talk to her immediately. She followed me into the bathroom and I showed her my pantie. She lowered her voice and said “Did anybody just touch you? “I said “yes, you touched me in the kitchen when you gave me the cocoyam.’’. Lowering her voice again she said “did a boy touch you?’’ I said ‘’no’’ ‘She gave a sigh of relief and asked me for the sanitary napkins she bought for me before I left for school. I told her I gave it to someone who needed it.She took a huge chunk of toilet tissue and wrapped it in the shape of a sanitary napkin and placed it on a clean under pants and gave me to wear.
It was so uncomfortable to move around with that thing(toilet tissue) in my pants. So for three days I made very little movements. When I saw boys I will shiver to the point of having goose bombs. The thought of any other person knowing I was having my period made me so sad. I never wanted to meet my friends or play with my sibblings.Finally the three days were gone and I was myself again. No more red flow and I could feel free to jump around. However every time I thought that 28 days later I will be visited by “mbra” again, I felt sad. If this happens to every woman every month then why is it such a mystery? Why is it a big taboo to talk about it openly? Why is it a shame if a woman is stained in public? Why is this blood treated differently from the one that oozes out of the wound on my finger? This gave me another reason to think women are cursed species. The only way to break this curse is to break the silence that protects it.
[Y1]My First Period