We were outlaws. Twice we had been expelled from a womb: first as boys, then as women. Jamaica had been calling itself a country for only 50 years when we converged on the capital in search of our destinies. We were soldiers — warriors prepared to die on the battlefield miles away from the homes where we were christened as boys. We smudged our war paint across broken faces and armed ourselves with our mothers' things — the things we snatched from them to remind the world of the women we came from. The women that we became.
We thirsted for color. A patch of golden sunshine. A splash of blue. Tinges of red and purple and orange. The sky was a brilliant canvas for our dreams in New Kingston. We hoped our present would be nothing like our past — intolerable. Some of us rode the buses from the lush countrysides of Hanover, St. Mary, Bull Bay, St. Elizabeth, St. Thomas, clinging to hope. Many of us came from the sandwiched lanes of the Garrisons — shantytowns in the East where we still remembered the names of our neighbors and the dons who brought our family Christmas gifts and foods they cooked and shared from their pots.
We wanted more. We wanted beauty like we wanted laughter. We wanted to float away, to soar into that colorful sky like the jets heading to America that Floydesha, whose eyes were always trained on the clouds (like those old ladies sit on their verandas awaiting the day of judgment), would point out.
"Look, look! Anotha one! Quick before it fly pass!"
Josie and Farika would come running from their sheds with the speed of goats being chased by schoolchildren, waving sheets and towels and rags over their heads as though the pilots could see them — dark specks in a sea of green below the clouds. Bobbett and Gia banged on Dutch pots in their shed with rocks the size of their fists until their palms blistered and bled. Each one screamed, "We deh yah! We deh yah!"
Even Lena and Krissa, who were perched on their rocks — one on each side of the gully bank to keep watch — joined in on the action.
"We deh yah! We deh yah!"
Pedestrians passing by would have snickered at the sight of eight rowdy sissies — all in women's clothing and barefoot, waving rags we wore or slept on, jumping up and down like the flustered market women from Rae Town in the presence of a political figure. But no pedestrian ever wandered over to where we hid in the gully. Only police officers came, wielding batons or stroking the lengths of rifles.
In this muggy heat, we smelled our rotting flesh in the gully where we hid. We were so skinny that our limbs resembled twigs. Some of us barely had anything to eat for days, sometimes weeks. We scrounged around the city looking for food, picking mangoes and guavas off trees. We savored every seed, every skin, for our hunger ambushed us like the nights that reminded us of our mortality.
There were eight of us. Girls between the ages of thirteen and twenty. Some of us appeared with our fingers still in our mouths. "Me want me mother, but she nuh want me." Others appeared with bad habits of wetting the bed. "Me dream seh dem catch me an' carry me guh bush fi hang me." Most appeared with nightmares that had us clawing at our own flesh in our sleep. Some of us ran away. Most of us were disowned. We were thought of as feeble-minded boys who probably came with cauls.