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People arrived and started congratulating me for coming home alive. Most of them either repeated what Solomon had asked me, or they asked my mother, who also repeated, “She’ll tell us later,” sometimes adding, “Yes, she is married but wants to hide it.”
I thought having survived, after having buried so many of my compatriots, would be enough.
Did I leave my mother, my home, and my family for a sweltering military training base with disgusting water? I asked myself that many times during those tough early days in the field. We drilled hard. I also missed the first fighters who welcomed me. The seeds of patriotism that they planted in me seemed so sweet in comparison, as did my family, despite our differences.
But a few months of military training made my soft body hard. I had muscles. My skin grew darker. I could run up and down the mountains. I sprinted over the sand. The oppression of Eritrea and especially of its women changed me into a fighter—far from a girl who was afraid to go outside.
Eventually, the memory of my family, and even of my mother, started to fade, recurring, rarely, only in dreams. I felt happy, like I was a child again. Fighting as a woman beside other women made me love my country. I loved and was proud of being a fighter.
In 1977, after I had been in the field for a year, the EPLF started to allow wedding ceremonies for soldiers. They made me laugh, most of all at myself for not really caring about getting married myself. Not that I didn’t have a lot of proposals. But I turned them all down. Still, every time I heard the words “marriage” or “child,” I remembered the song I had heard at the country wedding about the girl who carried a child instead of a gun.
She carried a gunBut she needs it no moreFull blooded and brown,She’s won the war— A lion with her cubWho grows with her love!
I smiled because as I remembered the scene of the girls dancing with the guys, each of them with a gun in his hand, I pictured myself as one of them.
One evening, our platoon leader told me to report to our battalion center. Maybe someone else was going to ask me to marry him, I thought.
“There is a fighter who’s come looking for you,” the batt