The World We Live In
For November, we are featuring a short story about a girl at an important moment in her journey to womanhood. Despite early missteps and fumbles, Omega tries to navigate this new terrain with grace. Happy reading!
“Omega, Omega, Omega! Wake up!” Mama yells. She shakes my arm, and I groan. I roll over into my pillows. Whatever she wants, it’ll have to wait until later.
“Girl, get up!” The pillows fly from under my head.
“What?” I mumble. This better be good. Mama always wakes me up for nothing. I roll back over to peer up at her, and I can tell she’s mad even in the dark.
“Don’t get it on my side!” She barks and flips on the lights. Jesus is coming. The light is too bright, and my hands aren’t enough to shield my eyes. The light shines through the cracks of my fingers, and I notice there’s red on them. Like paint, but not paint. They feel sticky.
“Get up! You need to clean up,”
“What you mean, Mama?”
“Look at yourself. The sheets.”
The red on my fingers coats my sheets and my pants, and I know what is happening. Texas Chainsaw. “Mama, we gotta get outta here fo’ that puppet kill us!”
“Girl, stop playing and get ya butt up. I’ll go run you some bath water.” Mama rushes out of our room. Maybe it’s not the puppet, but it’s blood. It’s mine. Sitting up, I glare out the door to make sure nobody can see me. I put my hand in my pants, and I check my poonanny. Something on it feels wet and reminds me of glue.
“Omega, come on get in the tub!” Mama yells. I pull my hand out, and it’s even redder. Bright red. I run to the bathroom to show Mama.
“Look this came out my poonanny.” I hold my hand up to her face, so she can get a better look.
“Don’t say that word. It’s ya privates. Who taught you that?”
“Uncle Troy. He said girls got poonannies like his women.”
“Damn, Troy! Take them clothes off, so I can throw them in the washer.”
“Mama, am I dying?”
“No, it’s your period. You a woman now.”
I fumble off my shirt and my pants and sit in the tub. My blood spreads in the water on top of the bubbles. Who knew it would be this easy? I didn’t have to do anything. Mama made it seem so bad when she talked about being a woman.
“Gotta clean up behind everybody and put up with shit all day,” I mock. I’m not doing nothing for nobody I don’t want to do. I’m not gone iron. I’m not wash everybody clothes. I’m not gone get up to cook for everybody like Mama do. I’m not gone fuss all the time. Woman or no woman. I don’t want to do everything for everybody. I’m gone say NO.
“Girl, wash ya ass and stop sitting there,” Mama demands, “Look, you have to put the pad in your panties like this.” It looks like a big, fluffy bandaid and reminds me of my pillows, which I miss.
“Mama, can I go back to bed now?” I smile.
“Omega!” Mama’s face twists into anger again, “Listen.”
“You have to change them when they feel full.”
“How will I know they full?”
“Trust me. You’ll know. It’ll feel soggy.”
“Like a diaper?”
Mama puts my pad panties on the shelf and walks out. I didn’t know women wore diapers too, but it is what it is. I finish up my bath and sit on the toilet for a while. Watching it drip. No matter how many times I wipe, it won’t stop coming out. I hope I won’t have to be a woman for too long. I don’t think I have enough blood for this.
Uncle Troy Say:
“What the hell?” Uncle Troy bellows, “Latasha, come here!”
“Boy, what do you want?” Mama yells back at him. STOMP. STOMP. STOMP. I can hear Mama making her way to the bathroom.
“Look at this,” Uncle Troy says, “I don’t want to see this.” FLUSH.
“It ain’t gone kill you, Troy.”
“Why you ain’t flush that mess?”
“It ain’t me. Omega must’ve not flush it good.”
“I don’t care! It’s nasty and I don’t wanna see it no mo’. Best tell her to look behind herself.”
“Look at this!”
“Fuck you too, Latasha!” STOMP. STOMP. STOMP. Mama on her way back to the kitchen. Uncle Troy and her always arguing Ms. Silvester say they have been fighting cats since they were born. Uncle Troy had the bigger mouth, but Mama’s teeth were always sharper. Ms. Silvester say Uncle Troy a fool. That’s why he can’t stay with her.
My diaper feels really soggy, so I think it’s time to change it. When I roll over, something warm feels like it is moving, and my pants start turning red. My stomach tightens, and it’s a pain I’ve never felt before. Worse than the time I pulled that scab off my knee by accident. Ouchhh.
My blood starts to run down my legs as I make my way to the bathroom. It’s more than it was yesterday. FLUSH. Great, Uncle Troy is done. He swings the door open, and his face twists in horror.
“Omega, you aight?” Uncle Troy mumbles.
“My stomach hurts,” I say and push past him, “I need to get to the toilet.”
“Latasha, Omega in here dying!” STOMP. STOMP. STOMP. Mama busts into the bathroom. She scans the floor and looks at me with disgust. I know Mama hates messes, but I didn’t do this on purpose. I didn’t ask to be a woman.
“Mama, help me,” I groan. Her face softens a little. She reaches up into the cabinet and pulls out a small bottle of pills.
“Take two of these,” she commands, “It will help with the pain.”
“Mama, do I have to go to school today? My stomach feels really bad.”
“Let me see if Troy is going to be at the house.” Mama leaves the bathroom. KNOCK. KNOCK. KNOCK. “Troy, can you watch Omega today?”