Precocity

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My heartbeat is in the broken, faux timber bookcase against my mother's bedroom wall. I am thirteen years old. Each afternoon, I return, palms moist, nerves alight, mind buzzing with the consequences of being caught. Every other sensation pales against the motions involved with retrieving my prize. In my hands is the rich, ochre face of a woman with all the colors of the rainbow painted on her eyelids. In my hands is a map to self, to affirmation, to a future of boundless potentials. This is what I risk everything for.

The treasure in my mother's chest was the novel Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga. This book rendered great clarity to ambiguous stirrings within myself. At an age when my inchoate understanding of prevalent issues such as patriarchy and inequality stemmed from mere perceptions, reading Nervous Conditions was akin to finding a clearing in the undergrowth that is adolescent thought. My mother was certainly unaware that her 'underage' daughter immersed herself in the raw narratives that were used as readings in my mother's degree studies. Much like the character, Babamukuru, she frowned upon my highly critical approach to existing systems around me: a typical 'masculine' trait. Much like the character...

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