I brought on the bleeding seven times over the years before it stopped altogether. Miriam down the road, then her daughter, would peer out from the darkness of the doorway and give me what I needed.
I could have got my husband to leave me alone, but I knew he would blame my first lover. My husband was a quiet man. The other men avoided him, walked by him as he stood in the dust. The shame I had brought him and he had borne. Forever the man who had married a woman who bore her first lover’s bastard.
I am one of those women who from the beginning of time have known when it was not time, not my time, not their time. I am one of the women who chose. I do not hide my face.
So my son was fed, and the others bled into the ground. I thought when he grew up and started to be a help to his father that I might have another child. A child I could kiss. My son never wanted to be kissed. He cried until I picked him up, then he would twist away and stare into the distance, at what I could not see.
Who am I, you ask? Who are these women? Who are the six thousand from your country who have to leave to find an end to the not -bleeding? Year on year, multiplied by all the countries in the world. Who are these women who do not seem to know what is right? Who, from the beginning of time, have committed this evil. Continue this evil, even as you march against them, stones in hand to throw at their glass houses and smash them.
It was my husband who would go to find my son when he roamed. We only heard of the trouble afterwards. People whispered our renewed shame. I bore it as I had promised to when I first noticed the absence of bleeding, the morning lurch, the heightened sense of the smell of the junipers. I worried long into the night, the thought repeating over and over; he is dead, he is dead. Then he was. It was a relief that there were no brothers and sisters to see his broken body.
I am the statue at the side of the road. I am the statue in your churches. My face appeared to you in France, in Portugal, in Mexico, in the West of Ireland where you pace righteously. I appear in the tree stumps and the gable ends of houses to remind you. I am not ashamed of what I chose. Let them choose.
You ask me to have mercy on you, you mouth it in your prayers; Hail Mary, Mother of God, have mercy on me. You pray to me in your cold churches, cut off from the world of heat, hunger and dust where I came from.
Have mercy on me, the woman who is now stone. Have mercy on those who are flesh and blood. They stand before you.
Here you can read other short stories by Aoibheann McCann: