Mama’s Bag

I was in the fifth grade at the time,
When I remember seeing mama every month,
After buying the month’s groceries,
Giving my sisters a strange-looking bag.
My sisters would go to their rooms,
And store it away.
I never knew where they put it.
I was strangely curious about it,
But I couldn’t go through my sisters’ things without their permission.
I never knew why I didn’t get a bag like them.

Because of my curiosity,
I asked mama for one too.
“That’s for big girls only,” she’d say in an upset and serious tone.
My curiosity compelled me to wear the hijab like them,
Just so I could be a grown up woman like them.
But still she ignored me.
I kept secretly watching them,
Until I found out that they menstruated every month.
I knew very little information,
Like the fact that it happens every month,
And is accompanied by a lot of pain.
I used to pay close attention to their facial expressions,
And how mama treated them—
how badly she treated them.

I started getting scared.
I stopped wanting to be like them,
So mama wouldn’t treat me badly.
That was until the first day of the seventh grade.
I went to school,
And while I was changing my clothes for gym class,
I found blood.
I understood that I had gotten my period.

I remember sitting alone that day,
And not speaking..
I stayed away from my teacher and the girls at school.
I went to the bathroom,
Washed my clothes,
And directed the hose toward the floor,
The way the janitor does.
I turned my back toward the sun,
So my clothes could dry off.
I kept thinking,
About how I would enter the classroom,
Where I would buy the bag mama always bought,
And whom I would talk to.

I was overwhelmed with fear,
Until I heard about an impromptu menstruation awareness campaign that happened to be at school that very day.
As soon as I heard the news,
I ran to join the other girls.
I stood there in my wet clothes.
And frightened.
The campaign was held during gym period.
They gave out the same bags mama bought.
They talked to us about everything.
They were very nice.
They reassured me that I was normal,
And that this was something that had to happen.

The way the teachers treated us,
Made all the fear inside me go away.
I wore the pad,
Although not correctly
But it was better than nothing.
It rescued me until I got home,
And told my mother,
“I got my period.”
“Join your sisters.
Next thing you know,
You’ll be walking around with your chest puffed out,” she swiftly said.
It really upset me what she said.
I wondered what made mama say that.
I was always on good behavior.
And I didn’t do what other girls did.

Ever since then,
I avoided girls who behaved badly.
I ended up with no female friends.
There was no one I could talk to.
I was isolated at home,
And at school.
That’s when I decided to find out everything for myself.

Warning The stories on our story archive could contain potentially sensitive and/or triggering material. If a story causes you discomfort or pain, please remember to breathe and check in with yourself before continuing or stop reading completely if necessary.