Ninety Four – Five: by Asha Mohamed

I read this story once, of this man, bed bound for so long the sweat from his head left a lasting yellow halo on the wallpaper. There is a world within yellow. It’s hues are a weight only the dying feel.

When I was younger, I loved to mix paint colours. I would find the warmest reds, the brightest yellows and watch them disappear inside vivid greens and effervescent blues. Eventually my beautiful swirl of colours would turn a dull, unremarkable shade of umber. It would float off the plastic pallet and settle inside unprotected nooks within me, whispering into a chest that had long forgotten with hardship came ease.

Hooyo is fussing over the pillows again. I wish she would to speak to me, tell me stories like she used to when I was little, sat between her legs on the living-room carpet as she pulled, tugged and strained against my coils, reshaping them into waves less offending to the eye. Her voice could drown out Warrior Princesses, Charmed sisters, Malcolm and Homer. But these days, her tongue is made of stone. Its stillness kindles flames consuming skin and soul. The scent of unsi foretelling her arrival has been absent lately. A stranger visits my room; I feel her tyrannous presence with each intake of breath.

“Are you ok Ms Samatar?”

Hooyo grips my arm. She pulls the cotton bedsheets tight around me. Back home, there is a photograph in the miscellaneous items draw of our kitchen of her and I. She is in a hospital gown and I’m in her arms, cocooned in a blanket. My face is red and swollen. She once confessed to me she had wrapped me so tight a nurse had been called. It had taken a week to get the swaddle just so.

“Alhamdullilah. God loves patience.” she says.

“We still have one more test left to do.”

I call him BBC. Each time he speaks to Hooyo, he opens with I have some news. His entrance even comes with a jingle. His shuffle of a walk causes his feet to drag against the linoleum floors. Each step feels calculated; he moves in beat with the sounds drifting from machines determined to keep me chained to this room and to this body.

“We’ll test for brain activity in the morning.”

“Thank you Doctor.”

I wish they would stop talking through me. It makes my mind wander; melancholic memories, their hues a lemon yellow, now converse with me as loved ones should. I have created compartments for each thought, separated worry from pointless contemplation. I try to bring them out in turns. But instead, I craft halos of my own. I fade into thoughts I never even knew were there. Today I’m her. The girl perched high above her world; watching, from amongst the clouds, her very self burrowing deep into the ground below. Hooyo says there are locked rooms inside all women. How unbearable to be trapped in mine.


Asha Mohamed (@baahramewe) is an Illustrator and aspiring Writer studying for a masters in Psychology. She curates and co-produces Literary Natives, an organisation dedicated to championing Writers of Colour.

This story was published as a finalist of the 2018  AFREADA x Africa Writes Competition. Writers had to produce a 500-word response to a prompt from Warsan Shire’s poem, The House. It reads: “Mother says there are locked rooms inside all women.”  The winning story was selected by Warsan Shire and announced at Africa Writes 2018

Related country: Somalia

All rights to this story remain with the author. Please do not repost or reproduce this material without permission.