The twins were born in the kitchen, while my mother and her older sister slaughtered a chicken for lunch. I heard my aunt screaming all sorts of foulness at her husband. And when my cousin and I tried to find out why, my mom shouted at us and sent us to clean the yard.
“Your mom’s hands were all bloody,” my cousin said.
“Babies are born messy,” I told her.
“Santiago, Jaime, Elias and Magdalena were very clean when they were born.” My cousin crossed her arms and threw all her disbelief into my face.
I got nervous. I had never seen a baby being born. I didn’t even have younger siblings, and my cousin had a tribe of them. “That’s because your mom licked them clean before you saw them.” I had seen cats clean their newborns. And to make sure my cousin was completely outdone, I added, “And she has to eat the bloody stuff that comes out of her, like the goats do. Maybe she’s screaming at your dad because his is supposed to help her eat it, but he doesn’t want to.”
My cousin shot me a horrified look before running back towards the kitchen. I followed.
One of my older cousins stopped us right outside the door. “Come on,” he said. “Auntie wants us to go to the river. Grab some oranges and mangoes. We won’t be back until after lunch.”
At the mention of river and fruit, I forgot about everything else.
We were starving when we got back from the river. We walked through the quiet kitchen and into the living room, where covered plates waited for us on top of a large wooden table. My aunt’s husband was standing over the table, eating from a huge plate of rice and meat.
My cousins and I walked past the food. We wanted to see my aunt and the babies before we sat down to eat. But as we reached the threshold that separated my aunt’s bedroom from the living room, an empty chamber pot flew out of the bedroom and struck my aunt’s husband in the chest.
“How can you eat?” my aunt yelled from the room. “Animal!” She began to sob. “You, damned animal. I want you out of my house, away from my children. You’re an animal, an animal…”
After my aunt felt better, we were allowed to see one of the babies. But whenever we asked an adult for the other twin, my aunt would resume her crying and we would get a glare or a smack. We never got to see the second baby.
That night my cousin and I lay in bed shaking in each other’s arms. She cried because one of her brothers had been born dead, and her mom had thrown her dad out of their house. I was terrified because my young mind had concluded that my aunt was angry at her husband because he hadn’t wanted to eat the afterbirth, but went ahead and ate one of the babies with rice.
Years later, after I was almost an adult, I learned that my aunt had gone into premature labor after her husband came home to sell some of their land, in order to leave her and their children for another woman.
I still wish someone would have explained the truth to us. I’m certain I would’ve had fewer night terrors growing up, if I had known that my aunt’s husband was just a soulless bastard, and not the rice-eating cannibal I used to see in my worst dreams.
for Sanaa’s Prompt Nights – Truth is stranger than Fiction