The Circle of My Flesh

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I looked for myself throughout the centuries and don’t see myself anywhere.

(Hélène Cixious in Nikolchina 2004:2)

Shortly before my tenth birthday, I was surprised by my first menstruation. I turned to my mother who, with sudden delight -which I found inexplicable– took me to our home library to show me the anatomical female body contained in a volume of the Medical Encyclopedia. She told me that I had become a woman and warned me of the risk I ran of getting pregnant; before I could ask a single question, my mother closed the book.

The Circle of my Flesh emerges from a thirty-year process during which I felt I lived in a body-for-others and from where I gave birth to a series of writings in the form of diaries. From this intimate world, I deconstructed the binary, linear legacy to create a circular one. Subconsciously, these writings function like the womb where the images making up the body of this work are conceived. Through them I address the journey of a corporality seeking its individuality, no longer as a motherwife but rather as an agent demanding time and space for itself, and questioning the unrealistic ideal of the exclusive-loving-sacrificing-mother. Through this path and this time, I shaped, destroyed and rebuilt myself numerous times in an attempt to become a self-for-itself.

My mother’s grand design was completed ten years later when I became pregnant. It wasn’t until after two decades that I conquered a room of my own, to grow, create and reinvent myself. In The Circle of my Flesh all the moments and all the emotions, in my attempts to protect the beings that I engendered with my body, blend together. It is the same body that limits me, like retaining walls, through which I am also liberated. With it, I not only opened all the books I needed to read, but also rewrite them from the circle of my flesh.

October 12, 2018

I remember having lived many years with the idea that my childhood was a happy one. In my imagination, I seemed to have reduced the whole world into that house where I grew up and the whole universe into that city in the smallest Central American country, Santa Ana. In that imagined fantasy childhood, my early years appeared as a kind of Solar Oracle; a complete and sacred circle that no one from outside our cosmos could reach.

I was halfway into adulthood when I came to realize that what lived inside me was not that imagined childhood, but an underground city full of the most terrifying ghosts. In truth, the little 9 year old girl that I was, is still in that house in the corner of the cul-de-sac, standing at the edge of the swimming pool, stuck in the same day and time: March 6th, 1979, 4.30pm. As I embody that scene -which seems to repeat in my mind ad infinitum– I still experience that drowning sensation. It has been with me since that day, since that precise moment when our destiny was changed forever.

November 26, 1991

Quitting my marriage – quitting ‘him’ – and the need to face the consequences, has left me in a constant state of anxiety. I’m awoken by night terrors, believing him to be next to me until I realize that here, in my parents’ house, he cannot hurt me anymore.

Father’s rules have changed for me. I can’t do ANYTHING without his authorization. His intention is both to get people to forget the nasty rumor that the “unnamable” invented to dishonor me, and also to punish me for my new divorcee status. If we lived in the muslim world, I’d be buried alive up to my neck and then stoned to death.

My babies sleep next to me. The rhythm of their breath elevates my strength to levels I never even imagined I could reach. 

April 13, 2007

A couple of nights ago, I dreamt of mother. I saw her inert body lying on the road, where she had been shot to death. I woke up feeling a suffocating guilt. I felt responsible for having had that dream and for having similar thoughts in the past, as they offered an escape from her judgments and her constant rejection of who I am. It took me a long time to fall back asleep.

Anika has chickenpox.

June 1, 2002

Alexandra asked me–or better yet, reproached me–why I couldn’t be the same as all the other mothers. She was looking at me with a kind of fury and disdain, so I tried to reply with as much composure as I could muster at that moment. Nevertheless, I know she didn’t like my answer. Last night I thought about how naive I have been all these years, thinking that all my efforts to grow and transform myself into an independent woman, could serve as an example to my children. I thought that all these battles I fight and all the sacrifices I make day after day, would help them see that there are other ways of being,

Medea nunc sum!

In our last meeting, V told me that the experience of motherhood is as individual and unique as each woman is. That gave me some peace.

Note to self:

We are all thieves, we all steal from one another.

August 12, 2014

Conversation with my siblings about the day when the JC thing happened. They told me something that I had completely erased from my mind: as she was about to get into the car that was taking his little body to the hospital, Mother turned to us three (6,8, and 9 years old) and said–pointing at us with her index finger–that if something should happen to JC, it would be our fault.

May 10, 2005

Mother’s Day.

I hate being a mom.

March 25, 2008

Disturbing dream. I saw myself naked, in the mirror. My skin was immense, folds and folds of skin, one on top of the other, accumulating, piling up. In the dream, I saw myself more like a corpse than a living being. My body had stopped belonging to me and would not respond to my call. I saw myself as if possessed by desperation, impotence, and loneliness and all of a sudden, mother appeared. I started sobbing when I saw her, while she held me in her arms.

Anika dreamt on Friday that we were at a picnic: her siblings, her father and I. She said it had been a happy dream.

December 4, 1999

Swimming Day. In other words: Drowning Day. Although, now that I carry my baby inside, I try to only drown a little.  There’s a part of my brain that holds water (or is it my soul?). It’s inevitable. Water always comes towards me, and under the surface I see him, I mistake him for me.

I float weightless

I hold 

I rain

My silences have the same rhythm as the rain of that day. The rain that flooded that cosmos, that cradle of my lost childhood. All the birds’ rain, falling

And in that way…

I rain

You rain

He/She rain

and if I conjugate the imperfect tense, he would turn 25 today.

June 12, 2021

For the first time in 45 years, I had the courage to ask mother about the day of JC’s accident. I was surprised that she answered me not with pain, but with a peaceful remembrance. She told me that father had arrived earlier than usual that day, and that she had been very busy preparing lunch for the next day. She told me what had happened at the Hospital when the Dr told them that he had not been able to save their son’s life, and about the anti-anxiety medication that he prescribed, which dampened their awareness during the funeral. She described the prophetic dream that she had two nights before the tragedy, about the instructions she had received from family and friends so that she carried on with her life “as soon as possible”; how she tried to get pregnant again and the constant rejection from her husband, who always blamed her for everything that happened. She also told me that from that day on, I was submerged in fury and anger, which through the years I turned against me.

Text translated from Spanish by Karina Walsh.

Bea Zamora C’s “The Circle of My Flesh” was awarded third place in the Foto-Feminas 2022 Portfolio Review. 

@bea.z.c. on Instagram. 

Bea Zamora C. personal website.

VII Insider is pleased to partner with Foto-Feminas to bring these stories to our community.

See the other winners, Daniela Paoliello’s “Digging the Dark” and Luiza Kon’s “In the Name of the Mother and the Father.”