Fourth Time Running for Woman
By Nana Nyarko Boateng
A woman was what I thought I was.
Turned 18 years a week ago, last Saturday, and the constitution agreed I was a woman, I can vote. I was a woman, however, before the constitution said I was — at 12 years when I first menstruate, my mother said I had become woman; fertile, beautiful and set to bleed, month after month.
After my mother said I was woman, four years gone, my boyfriend said I was now a woman, once I kissed him and tasted semen for the first time. A woman three times already, I felt sufficient and puzzled simultaneously. Had I arrived? It turns out no. There are other levels to aspire to, getting pregnant, getting married, learning to cook, wiping feces off the butt of a baby without smearing crap beyond the crack of the ass… I had a long way to go.
Without any more endorsement of my womanhood, after my first time, which was also my last, something I had planned to change today, I am hoping I am still woman. But here I am looking at the sun through my window which is dirty with dust from our un-tarred road. I was watching him walk away. He didn’t look back. He wore a silky shirt. It was yellow, over a blue pair of jeans. He had left his beard to cover half of his cheeks. He was as attractive as I remembered him to be. His dimples were hidden beneath the facial hair but they were there I could see them when he talked.
The plan was to reenact the first time.
It’s been two years. He left for school in Ireland — he is back — I wasn’t waiting for him, my mother said waiting on
people for anything was a sign of weakness.
“You don’t wait, you do it now”, she had often said.
But how do I make myself a woman again all by myself?
In my room, he smelled of alcohol. When did he start drinking? I was particular about the smell of breath, another legacy from mama,
she said, “breath like water should be scentless, but for whatever reason a person chooses to flavor it, it should be with a scent not less of pleasant”.
I had never kissed someone who smelled of alcohol and maybe that would make me a new woman. The memory of a good kiss is always exaggerated by the mind. He was looking at me, playing with my fingers, just like the first time. I looked into his eyes, lacking the shyness of the first time — I tried to feel shy, I just wasn’t. I had watched enough telenovellas to play the part. My hands roamed his face; that was when I saw it, an open sore, tiny as it may be.
Once a sore on someone’s body makes you think about AIDS there is no way you can have sex with them. I had just returned from a three-day Ghana AIDS Commission organized workshop on HIV/AIDS. Images, statistics and fear invaded my thoughts.
An open sore?
You can never playback an event the way it happened, not when sores are involved. I am angry, horny and about to fake a headache. Why didn’t I notice this tiny sore on the left side of his cute mouth when I opened the gate? How come I am noticing it now!? Now that I have taken a shower, trimmed my pubic hair and not eaten so my stomach won’t be any bigger than it actually is. Why am I seeing the sore when everything I need to do is already done? Scanning his whole body with my eyes in a purported flirtatious way and oh shit! There sat another, another sore on his hand right in between his thumb and his forefinger. The hardness in my nipples had left. How do I tell him? That sores and anything that can discharge blood, apart from the vagina, which often gives warnings first, scares me.
“You have to go”, I said.
“I have a headache”
“Don’t worry, it will go away and never come back, after I’m done with you”, he said smiling.
I tried to keep my face blank. His alcohol breath was beginning to irritate me.
“You have to go, my neighbor might gossip to my parents if you stay too long”
“It won’t be long, I promise, quick and nice, that’s my specialty”
“No, not today, I want to rest, my headache is getting bad”
An angry less persistent man than I had known him for, walked out my house in his silky yellow shirt.
I told Adwoa about my fake headache the next day, she said I was now a woman, in charge, of my body and of my fears.
Nana Nyarko Boateng is a published poet and journalist living in Accra, Ghana.
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