“I was a good girl living with her aging parents… One day they went off to a funeral and never came back and I was left to look after our little hut. I sang that old song, I’ll marry the one my heart desires, and when a stranger kidnapped me the only sin I could remember was having eaten the meat my mother set aside for the gods. I knew it as soon as I put it in my mouth…”
I’ll write about peeing while standing up, and sleeping while standing up, and weeping while standing up. I’ll write about my body becoming my refuge, about the shit that became just shit once you got used to it. And I’ll write…
Because I’ll survive all the shipborne plagues
and the wounds unhealed by weeks under the stars.
It isn’t important that the story be my story.
Other people are always stealing strangers’ lives to make themselves into writers. What’s important is that fans of horror enjoy reading my story while snug in their beds.
I’m waiting like someone who doesn’t know what awaits her.
No, I’m waiting like someone who will live to tell of it,
someone free and trembling between fort and sea, while the Englishman takes photos of fishing skiffs and the grandchildren of those who didn’t become slaves sell cans of warm Coca-Cola and postcards of the Middle Passage.
Real life won’t let me play all the parts I rehearsed for myself while idling along with the tour guide. In the end, I’ll leave Elmina Castle through the same passageway over which they wrote The Door of No Return, and I’ll play the part of a tourist, soon to cross the sea of her own free will, into the new world.
From How to Mend: Motherhood and Its Ghosts
out now on Sternberg Press