I am Maya. At least, that is the name Momma gave me, even though she called me Saly. Just like Marie is Grace, Daniel is Jason and Jessica is Rosie.
Our names are ours… unless of course they are not.
Our faces are ours… unless of course, they are not.
And our voices are ours, unless of course, they are not.
Our blood is ours, until it is not.
Momma with her Roman nose that blushed at the tip when she drank a little too much rum. Momma whose iron will endured until aged 98 in loneliness and an empty three bedroom house that she filled with her treasured junk. She, with the persistent pursed lips and the broken brow. Her crease that never ceased. I was the first to try to smooth it away with my chubby flat fat fingers. My pink palms forced apart the folds of skin on her brow, but as soon as I let the flabby sides go, they sprang back into place – a constant crease that everyone saw and no one noticed. It was part of her face – that crease. And later, those lips.
I am Maya. Single mother to three beautiful children – although where they are now I do not know. Guilt flows through me like a muddy river; clogging my too skinny veins. Nothing is right, and I wonder, too late, if it ever was supposed to be.
I am Maya. I have a Caribbean sway that segues from life to love to hate; beauty to hard-stoned immoveable discipline. I love with a vulnerability that gets me hurt again and again and again.
And I am hard-nosed, ruthless and cruel.
I am hoarse from the blood-curdling screams of terror as I look out into the real world, and I roar with a hurricane in my throat to scare away the monsters before they strike, before they grow up hating and cursing me and screaming at me, and lynching me… before they even realise that they are the monster and I am their enemy. I eat the new babies raw before they can take their first breath, squeezing the buds of their future intentions out of their bulging, blood filled eyes, for I am forward thinking. I am smart and I get them before they get me.
I protect and serve. I preserve and swerve from the vicious beast that in my desperation to avoid – I become.
I am Maya. But when I awake, I find that I am Mary. I have eyes that are a sky blue colour, flecked with an emerald green – have I mentioned that before? I’m beautiful compared to last time. But I’m ugly. I’m pale and pathetic and static. I am milk when I meant to be cayenne. Before, music and rhythm used to tap dance through my veins, shimmey up my spine and my footsteps emitted a snapping sparkle that even in my dreams would make others stare in envy as I sashayed and shoe shuffled my way through life – an unusual one momma always said. That was before though. A long time before… when I was honestly and truly Maya. Even I can see that at 14.
I have blonde hair scraped into a high, high, high ponytail that swishes back and forth as I walk – and I deliberately swish it.
It sounds familiar, but not.
It’s new, but something about it is old. I know it. It’s at the tip of my tongue and refuses to budge.
I like the way it feels around my neck, the top of my back. So light, and soft and… new. I’ve a splattering of freckles across my ski-slope nose. But my lips still purse; like Momma.
I may be Mary; but I am still Maya. I still have my Caribbean sway that I will keep til the day I die… again. That’s something I won’t part with – not for all the tea in China.
I am Maya. But when I awake, I find that I am Mary. I have eyes that are a sky blue colour, flecked with an emerald green – have I mentioned that before?
Have I mentioned that before?
This is an extract from the author’s as-yet-unpublished novella, Maya.
Cheryl Diane Parkinson is a teacher in an Inner London secondary school, teaching GCSE and A level English Literature and Language. She is in the last year of a PhD at Birmingham University, part of the Russell Group, currently studying Creative Writing. A published writer of fiction and non fiction, she is currently working on her novella entitled Maya.