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November 24, 2023

The double door of oblivion

A few memories have been resurfacing and disturbing my mind these days. Perhaps it’s because of the cooler days? The birds’ singsong that I no longer hear? A sentence emerges and my mind moans. Could it be this insatiable need for love that torments me? Alone in an unfathomable desert, my old heart tries to survive. It builds houses of cards that the wind enjoys blowing down. Either way, I sow seeds in the deep cold and hope for an orchard. A rosy wink, a gentle smile, a microsecond of tenderness.

As a child, I knew nothing about life. My dad had a heart bigger than Everest, but all his love was spent trying to unlock my mom’s closed heart.

I remember one summer afternoon. I had just turned 12 and was sitting in a field, a notepad in hand. I could hear the bees buzzing on the flowers. A soft wind caressed my naked arms and traced words on them while my head filled with lines I scribbled down. In those days, nature was my mother, my sister and my best friend.

I didn’t know what love, happiness and celebration were or what my heart needed to feel fulfilled. I looked for big, important words, whose meaning was beyond me. Words I found in the dictionary, in the newspaper or some book I managed to get my hands on.

Sometimes I’d brazenly hide and document my mother’s crying: with her head down digging her huge garden, her tears watering the furrows; some mornings, unloading her heavy burden on our neighbour’s shoulder; and in the middle of the night, sobbing at the kitchen table, where she sowed our garments. Her hands were reddened by eczema, her heartbreak incurable and her courage unfailing. I loved her so dearly yet hated her too because she would never teach me anything.

One day, in the very same field, wearing my beautiful yellow dress, I laid down, closed my eyes and fell asleep. When I awoke, I noticed my dress was spotted pink. I thought I must have rolled on some wild strawberries.

I got up quickly and picked up my notepad and pencil. My eyes searched intently for strawberries but found none. What had caused the pink-red stains on my nice Sunday dress? As I made my way home, fine red lines were running down my thighs. I was terrified to tell my mom that I had gotten my pretty dress dirty, that I was bleeding.

What to tell my mom? What illness was this? No one had ever told me about it. I hid my stained yellow dress and my underwear under my mattress. I was the eldest of three girls, and it was only happening to me.

Mother was knocking more and more insistently on the bathroom door, but I didn’t want to open it. Streams of blood were rolling down my thighs, fear was getting the better of me, and I was crying. The neighbour finally forced open the door with a nail. When my mother realized what was happening, she started to bawl. “You’re too young!” she said, “too small and still ignorant of life.” The neighbour took matters into her own hands and drew a warm bath for me. While helping me to wash, she explained what to expect each month and how I had to be vigilant and careful to avoid staining my clothes from now on.

Every time a bout of loneliness casts a shadow over my day, a fairy godmother unfailingly sends me a memory. A necessary moment in my life that helped me to grow. I had completely forgotten about my first period and, this morning, the double door of oblivion flung wide open.

Writing is like a magic wand that everyone should pick up. The faithful ink stores our past, records our present and amuses itself trying to predict our future.