My mother appends another day
Her first son had a mysterious disease and was run over
by a speeding train; the second son died in his sleep, he
was just five days old. She still looks at her womb and
wonders whether it was cursed and blighted...
P erhaps her womb was blighted.
The umbilical cord was infuriated too. Perhaps.
She often sat in a corner and looked at the seared line that ran through the brown skin just above her navel. The bruise was gone, the blot remained. The cut mark divided her belly into two, like two hemispheres of unequal proportions at odds. The belly button had disobeyed too - it had turned its nose up and looked like a little monster raising its ugly head from the navel's crater. The womb lay gently under the skin. Irate. And shabby.
The womb and Fate conspired the first time 45 years ago - a son, her first born. The house was filled with loud noises and the cot that he was born on creaked as she wreathed in pain. The blood on the mid wife's finger dripped onto the courtyard also - there was more blood on the cot than the flesh over the baby's bone. He was brown like her; the white skin of the father was saved for two more daughters that came years later.
He had big eyes and long curly eyelashes. Even though he weighed just a few ounces the family rejoiced - thank god it was not a daughter. In a patriarchal society it is brilliant when the womb hosts the heir first - it ascertains the lineage, the family name carried over to another generation.
The grandfather took out his rifle and fired in the air. The loud noise drowned the baby's little squeal, nobody heard that. Except her. There was something in the squeal that told her that the fetus had fed on absurdity for nine months. She was not even 20, but she knew it was ominous. She did not want to believe that her womb was blighted. But she had to - she now knew it was accursed. A little tear dropped down her deep black eyes; it fell on her breasts and trickled down. The baby's first drop of milk had a tinge of tear in it.
In the next 33 years, the mother and child would weep often - he stung by a disease that for long did not even have a name in medical journals; she on her nakedness against Fate. The closest the doctors came to defining the disease was some form of schizophrenia, they could not nail it, nor did they know of an antidote. He fed on hallucinations and whispers from nowhere. He played, he read and he learnt to love but when hundreds of warts grew on his face, she knew the doctors had gone wrong with the medicines. She knew the gods were angry and her first born had no future - except an entry in a medical journal as the title-holder of a rare disease.
She looked at the skin above the womb and wondered why. A tear would often trickle down on her brown stomach, as if to pacify the womb, to quench the blaze and to pray for the curse to end.
It did not.
The first born learned to crawl, say a few words. But he would often lean on silence after the regular electric shocks. The doctors thought it was the only way to heal, she did not know any better. Fate had made her vulnerable; she would now travel with Hope as far as she could. She did not probe much, she did not discern much.
All she could grasp was the fact that the skin on her womb was tightening again; there was another child on way. She prayed for the curse to end, she hoped the womb would not connive with Fate again.
It was a son again.
He weighed a few more pounds than her first born. This time there was no splatter of tear along with the first drop of her milk. She smiled, he squeaked in joy. Maybe he liked this earth; maybe he liked curling up to her breast. The mother and child smiled.
They would not smile together for too long. Just five days.
He died in his sleep. Just like that.
She did not know how to pray for the peace of his soul - she hadn't even given him a name. How do you weep for a nameless child? How do you pray for a child who died for no reason? She cried. Her second born was dead, the first born was hitting a dead end with a shadowy disease.
But that was not the last time she would cry.
Exactly 33 years later, the cops brought her first born's body home. He was run over by a train; his body sliced into two, the warts on his face red with his own blood.
She did not cry. She had intuited it in the first yelp of her first born.
It has been years since that Friday night when her first born left home only to return as a sliced morsel of dead flesh.
She no longer looks at the skin above her womb. It has wasted, the cut mark withered with age, her brown skin shriveled; her eyelids tired.
But when she sits in a corner I know she is crying; I know she is thinking of her cursed womb, I know she is reliving those 33 years and the windfall of five days - the moments spent with her first and second born.
When she hears my footsteps she turns and smiles. Another tear falls on her breasts.
My mother appends another day.