An old woman carrying a bucket of water came and sat down on a stool beside me. She lit a candle, and yellow light flickered over her wrinkled face. Reminded me of the elders at home. Pearly rings shone around the black part of her eyes. Her lips were sunken, and when she smiled at me, her mouth opened like an empty cave.
I heard a familiar sound, and when I turned toward it, I saw the old woman’s knotty hand sweep a rag through the bucket. The rag splashed, swished, fluttered. Then, like a dead bird, it hung, dripping water through her fingers. She gestured for me to stand up. After I did that, she lowered the sack off my body and wiped cool water over my naked skin. I shivered. She rubbed away the bad-smelling oil and poured a cup of water onto my feet. Caressing two crossed twigs joined with string, the old woman bowed her head and prayed.
In silence, another woman wiped me dry. Another slipped a patched-up, clean cloth over my head and slid my arms through holes in the sides. Another tied a rag around my hair. Motioning for me to sit, the elderly woman set a bowl of mush on the floor next to me. She lifted my hands with hers and placed the crossed twigs onto my upturned palms.
All the women and girls left. I was alone.
I didn’t know what that cross lying on my hands was for, but I knew it was important, so I set it on my lap, very careful.
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