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The Secret of the Wacka-Leaf Women

About the author: Tori Rego is a recent graduate from the College of Charleston in South Carolina. Her fiction and critical work has been published in KY Story and The Keats Letters Project. Her writing explores travel, art, philosophy, and womanhood in the 21st century. Likes: Offering warm beverages to friends and friendly debates. Dislikes: melons and miscommunication.

Dear Reader,

By the time this missive reaches you, I will have moved on to a new destination. I am sending this in order to inform those of you back at home of the wondrous and exotic practices of the people I encounter on my journeys. If this letter lands in your hands, please do me the service of conveying its message to a wider audience. It is my explicit opinion that the information I am written here will be useful (as well as entertaining) to many of our people. Do what you must to get others to listen: radio, telegram, fireside stories, pamphlets, generous bribing, etc.

To make one other point absolutely clear: please do not come searching for me. I am an experienced traveler. I can find my way around these strange and dangerous lands best on my own.

I thank you in advance for your kind participation.

Now listen: in a region to the East, and much removed spiritually, physically, and psychologically from our own societies, there lives a community of women who have discovered rare and unknown methods of alieviating themselves of unwonted pain. Because their primary source of nutrition comes from a plant often called the Wacka-leaf by other people in the region, I will call them the Wacka-leaf Women. I will do so for a simple reason: their language cannot be transcribed or described here. The differences between our various languages and their language are too great for the written word to accomdate.

The Wacka-Leaf Women are quite remarkable. Their community is entirely peaceful; not once did I witness conflict greater than rising petulance due to minor gossip overheard by the bathing pools. All the women wear long braids cinched with the throat muscles of local frogs, which are worn like rubber bands at regular interval along the braids. I participated in one of their braiding circles, and a woman with thick crows-feet and ochre powder rubbed about her eyes showed me the technique. Begrudingly, I am not permitted to disclose this technique to anyone outside the community.

What you must know about the Wacka-Leaf Women is that they are among the most sensitive of creatures. A moment of pain will send them into a fit of mourning from which they can never recover unscathed. It must be noted that their form of mourning pains is entirely unlike our own. For one, shrieks or verbal utterances of discomfort are hardly the norm. Instead, they have developed an entirely novel way of coping with pain.

Each incident of pain is followed by the crafting of an entirely new identity.

A woman I grew to love in my short time with the community was hit with a voracious sickness. She had stayed out late one night in a cold rain, innocently staring at the moon, thinking of lost loves and weaving a corn-husk doll for a little girl. She had been so absorbed in her task that she hadn’t noticed the storm clouds before they were giving full hell above her. Later that night, she broke out in sweats. That same night, her home was quarantined. After four nights of soaking with warm salted rags, copious use of essence of palmarosa, and a rosemary wreath placed above her door, she was almost entirely cured. But within her home, she had undergone a transformation more responsible for her cure than any of the ornamental rituals.

By the time she could once more walk among the other woman, she had crafted a new identity. She called herself a new name. She was shy when she once had been jovial; calm when she once had been boisterous. She sang with a new tenor and laughed with a new smile.

The other women informed me that this was the way. That this was the surest way to alleviate the hurt. I later learned that this was how the women dealt with natural childbirth. After they gave the child to the world, they assumed a new identity. They assumed the identity of a woman who hadn’t given birth to a child. In that way, it came to be that no woman in the community was considered a mother. This was a pain that no woman, not even the strongest among them, could tolerate without becoming someone new.

They assured me that this was the best cure for pain. They assured me this cure gave peace to their people. I believed them.

Do you?


The Traveler


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