After “Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid
You’re facetiming with your son at college when he gets a nosebleed and the other face in his bedroom says matter of factly: Do you want a tampon? Stop. Be still and notice the casual discourse between your child and his girlfriend. Do not remark on this tiny miracle. Do not soil their cleanness with the image in your mind: you’re memorizing multiplication tables at a chipped blue desk that used to be your grandmother’s when the yelling begins out in the kitchen. Hear the father’s hard, angry voice as it hits the mother. My people used to put women in tents during this time. Listen to her go wounded and squirrelly, What do you mean? Pick a scab on your elbow while she plays it like she doesn’t understand, like they have not been over this before. Now wait for it, her crime. You’re on your period again, aren’t you? The words boom through the kitchen, down the hallway, then enter your bedroom. Hold still while they land on you at the blue desk, on your shoulders, like a pair of huge hands that squeeze hard then stay forever. Lick the hole in your elbow where it bleeds and endure her simper, I am not, it was last week. Next, the line that makes you want to die, If you want, I can go dig up something dirty to prove it. Swallow the words, something dirty. Or don’t. Either way they are yours now. What, you’re angry? Fine, nurse a small fury but aim it at her so the father will still love you. Vow never to become the mother. Long to be desired instead. Go to her when you get your period at thirteen, but only because you need supplies and to instruct her, Do not tell dad. Never let a white tampon string hang out the bottom of your swimsuit. Learn to shove the entire string up inside you. Hide your used tampon tubes and wrappers under the trash in the bathroom trashcan, and if there is no other trash, pull a length of toilet paper from the roll and hide it. Never mention a period to any lover. But what about that one time in the back of the truck, when I bled on his white shorts? Forget it, block his number, it never happened. This is what it takes to be loved. Bleach. Wax. Run until you are thin and lanky; speak only when your words are sweet and minty. Appeal to all men and earn the eternal passion of one. Probably, you will fail at this. Don’t be too hard on yourself when you become your mother, most of us eventually do. You’re facetiming with your son at college when he gets a nosebleed and the other face in his bedroom says matter of factly: Do you want a tampon? Stop. Be still and notice the cleanness. How long are you going to go on thinking you are powerless?
Amy Reardon’s work has appeared in The Believer, Glamour, Alta Journal, The Common and Electric Literature, among other places. Follow her @ReardonAmy.
Photography by: Deon Black