Aicha by J.R. Slaoui

Women are not allowed in the graveyard.

That’s what they told me, so I follow from a distance. May’s heat promises a brutal summer; my cinnamon-milk skin glistens with the dew of early morning grief. And although a storm threatens from the depths of my body, my eyes have not yet shed the acid rain that incessantly corrodes everything within my delicate frame. “You need to eat more,” she used to say. In the shade of the oak I continue to burn. To ease the pain, I close my eyes and succumb to memory. I’m six years old and sitting on a seawall, scent of the ocean on my tongue. She sits beside me and I notice the details I hadn’t before: thick dark skin, much darker than mine with its immunity to age and life’s tribulations, decorated with green markings that her tribe gave her as a child; eyes warm but dry like her homeland; hair red and wild like her spirit, which burns with the endurance of desert brush fire.

And her laughter.

Laughter that rings like the songs of our people, with joyous melody but grim history.

And all I can do is watch. Watch them carry her body wrapped tightly in a white sheet, fire-red hair peeking through at me. Gone with her, the story she never told.

And as they buried her in the ground, I fell off the seawall and drowned.