It was few hours to my thirteenth birthday when Aunty Flo knocked hard on my door. I was young: an innocent mind, a flat chest, and a mind filled with the singular belief instilled in me by my mother and my teacher at school that pregnancy would happen from the moment I let my body touch that of an opposite sex. I hadn’t a brother, it was easier not to mingle.
It was the 31st day of March, 2008, in Mbiase. The weather was hot from the scorching sun absorbing the wetness of the earth. My house was lonely, for everyone had gone about their daily businesses and I was left alone with my cousins-one my age and the other younger. Being a loner, it was the very moment I loved most-the silence and the sweet tiny sounds of the birds of the earth who would immediately flap their wings and fly as far as they could when I got closer without knowing I was harmless.
The drama of the later hours of the afternoon of that fateful day unfolded with pains and aches an inch or more below my bellybutton. At first, I felt I needed to defecate and I rushed into the bush behind my house, some steps away from our pit toilet, cut off a large surfaced fresh cocoyam leaf from its weak tree, laid it on the ground and stooped over it.
I watched the squirrels run from one palm tree to another, the lizards scurrying around, going after ants and little grasshoppers, the ants going in a line or two peacefully, calmly. I watched green grasses and tree leaves dance and sway from right to left and felt the melodies of the soft wind. I listened to the cheerful sounds of the crickets from their hidings and soon I forgot what I had come to do until a sharp pain went through me-from atop my bellybutton down to the part of my belly where the aches had been boiling. In pains, I rose to see that the leaf was still as fresh as it was except for some drops of stained liquids which could’ve been either small drops of urine or sweat-I didn’t care to know.
I left the leaf at that spot hoping I would be back. Afternoon stayed and passed but the pains and aches grew. I had felt a stronger urge to defecate when I stood under a guava tree in ‘Okpulo’, my eyes searching for a ripe guava. Okpulo was the place where my father’s stepbrother lived before he died almost a year ago. It was always as quiet as a cemetary, like I’ve heard people say in stories, even though I have never been to one.
I had ran to into the bush at the right side of the pathway in Okpulo, bent over another green cocoyam leaf when I saw blood coming out slowly, trickling, and I was shocked. I felt fear, a huge fear building fences around me and, my feet began to tremble. I wiped my butt with another leaf, rushed home and lay on my Grandmother’s bed, awaiting her return from the market.
One of my cousins had heard my crying voice, ran inside the room and bursted into a laughter when she saw and knew the reason I was crying. I was stained red – the colour of fresh blood.
“Oria pad abiala gi o, Amara!” My cousin shouted on top of her voice.
Her words which loosely translates to Amara has got the pad sickness-and her laughter which never stopped-added greatly to my fears. I cried more.
It was my birthday the next day, April 1st and I had heard stories of how people died on days before their birthdays and on their birthdays and I cried more and more. I didn’t want to die!
My Grandmother came home from the Nwanyaa Market where she sold warm bottles of palm wine and met me stained, crying.
“Ijeoma, ndii ihe di gi-What is wrong with you?” She asked, bringing down her palm wine table containing her kegs and bottles and the wooden cups from her head.
She felt the skin on my neck, my head and exclaimed,
“Ijeoma nwam awoola nwanyi-Ijeoma my daughter has become a woman!”
I saw her lips part in smiles and I wondered if the shock she met were too heavy for her tears to flow. She helped me rise to sit despite the stains, called my cousin sister who never stopped laughing to bring tissue paper and fold into the size of a pad. She did.
After a while, I began to remember the lessons we were taught the term before about menstruation pads and pants and I remembered how much I had willed the menstruation to come so I could use the pad that was shared to each student after the lecture. My fears died, collapsed, when I remembered it was menstruation. What they never told us was where exactly it would come out from, the symptoms it pushes ahead before her arrival, how long it would last and later, I began to wonder why I grew more aggressive whenever it was due for Aunty Flo to visit.
I sat in the room with Mama, feeling refreshed from the drops of water dropping from some strands of hair on my head, from the coolness the cold water Mama had served for my bath gave to the skin on my body. I listened to Mama say I had become a woman. Those were the only words her lips knew to say. I knew I had become a woman even though my chest was flat.
Later, Mama said it was going to last for about three days but she lied for I kept counting until it was the seventh day. I willed the days to pass for yet another month to welcome Aunty Flo because it always came with this joy of knowing I have become a woman despite the pains and the aggressiveness until I turned eighteen.
Maybe because it seemed the pains and aches grew with every passing month. Maybe because I have grown a pair of breast and I feel I have become a woman and need no visit to be reminded every month. Maybe because I have grown tired of feeling uncomfortable for a whole seven days every month or maybe because two pads for a month now costs more than a paint of garri does. Maybe!
Amarachi Mbagwu Chilaka is a prolific young writer who started writing in 2014 after she lost her passion for singing to fear and discouragement. She has since written many unpublished articles, short stories and poems and a number of songs.She’s a co-founder of the Bleeding Pen Literary Society (BPLS).She resides in Owerri, Nigeria