Author: YasuRan PM
More blood than bone.Rated: Fiction T - English - Angst/Family - Words: 1,033 - Reviews: 7 - Favs: 1 - Published: 09-16-11 - Status: Complete - id: 2952722
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The color I liked best was a shade of blue but I was born red.
It was neither hot nor cold on my birth day. November was never a month of extremes in the place where I first drew breath. What it was were shrouds of grey charcoal skies that held their thoughts to themselves, breathing out in rumbling breaths sparked with lightning's touch, and the roads were still dry and pot-holed. A month too early and my mother would have cut my cord over a Suzuki seat in the middle of a downpour. Monsoons ended in October; November was a month too late and shade too plain.
But I was born red.
"You looked like an apple," Mama told me in the wreck of one stormy tantrum when I was five. "Your cheeks were all red, blushing, like a rambutan. Even your hair was like one, sticking up all over the place. You screamed so loud I didn't know what color your eyes were at first, hm? Yes, you could howl like a yakka even at that size. You were big-boned and to top that, you were a week late. They had to break my water just to get you out before it was too late. You screamed until your face turned purple. I was scared you would gush all the air from your body. The doctor was so surprised, you being a girl and all. Your eyes were as black as a tiger's stripe."
When I stare back in the mirror, it is the brown-gold-amber I see, then the red. I am my father's daughter.
"You see that?" Mama points to the sliver of silvery-stone grey scraping its scales against the lowest rock-bricks of the garden wall as she carries me wailing and ranting. "That snake in the grass, he could have had you dead in two winks. Believe me, child, when I say I know all about serpents and their tongues. They don't see you when they come prowling. They smile because you can't see what's behind their teeth, sniffing for blood. Blood, fresh blood, I know a thing, what all women know about blood…"
When the time comes, it's she who stands over me in the bathroom pouring pot over pot of water on my head to carry the red away. I am cracked open, a hole between my legs that the wasted life flows from. When she was young, too young, my mother reached between her own legs and discovered my beginning. She was in labor two hours on the back of a good neighbor's motorbike. The hospital was as pot-holed as the road, every bump a stab for her bad luck.
And so I was bad luck.
"And bad luck you were."
The man that's half of me, he was nothing but black-purple skin and eye-whites the color of milk rice.
"That's all I could think of while he was bending over me, pulling down my night-dress. Couldn't even scream. There was the door blown open, the gunfire sound tumbling through the whole village and the dinner plates smashed on the floor, sambol and jaggery everywhere. I could still smell them, even as he…"
Bang, bang, bang.
I draw my nails deep as they can go, feasting on her bare, foolish skin. I reach for her mouth to quiet her but her hand closes in a claw over my fist and she laughs without joy. This is the part I'm beginning to understand backwards: her punishment divined from the fruit of weakness, that which was born from violent, wasted blood, red, red, red as the gleam in the Tiger's eye when it roars.
"He tried to shut me up too, you know. Though what use it was, I don't know. No one to help. The neighbors shot…"
One pot of water.
"My mother hacked to pieces…"
Two pots of water.
"My father dying, right there in the corner where he could see…"
Three pots of water. They boiled my blood, what happens when a baptism goes wrong. It does not cleanse my skin but brands it: a squiggling, squirming, ungrateful, thankless bastard child sprung from a sea of waste and a war-torn sky. The water beat down on me but wouldn't beat me down. The red was an endless tide and it filled my mouth to choking, burning, spiteful hate.
The water has run out.
I look at my reflection in the puddles and find nothing but the blackness of my eyes. And sometimes they glint at the corners in hues of fake gold like the sun through a glass, a lion's skin stretched with age. The blue I liked was the color of the sea, the color of the shirt he wore when he strode out to play with the other boys. The red on my skin is Mama's reminder of why I don't belong with him.
"Do you understand, my child? Do you now see, my girl? They are all the same and so are we to them. Man is the first sinner, the first to take a life. Your father was the one who planted that seed in me. In you."
I grab at the now-empty water pot. It slips from her hands, shattering into shards of burnt orange clay and they stab at my feet, they try to trip them when they do take me away from Mama.
"Do you not understand, child?"
I still hear her. When I am bent over my sheets, when my head almost lolls off my shoulders after a secret drag, when I am finally alone for the night. When I am breathing in the spice of skin and coconut oil from my child's head as he sleeps, when I am sitting up at night waiting for his father to arrive, when I am purging the excess of my smuggled alcohol into a gleaming white cistern.
I am listening. I still remember you and your words, Mama.
And I still don't understand.