First Blood, Last Blood by Lauren Scharhag
I was more upset
by a particularly violent
expulsion of a baby tooth
when I was 9.
It was one of the last to come out,
so it wasn’t the novelty
that I found so shocking,
but the quantity of blood,
and I was a latchkey kid,
alone in the house.
So I pressed a cool, damp cloth
to the fresh vacancy in my mouth,
and watched Tiny Toons
until my shoulders stopped shaking.
The next year, during a tornado warning,
my class took shelter
in the girls’ bathroom,
and we were embarrassed by the way
the boys stared, with frank curiosity,
at the tampon dispenser on the wall.
We’d never seen anybody use it,
but word had it that Amanda Harper
had been sent home from school one time
because she’d bled through the seat
of her Jordaches, and everybody knew
that Tamika Williams started way back
in third grade, swear to God.
The year after that, mine started.
It was a snow day in January,
which was lucky. On any other day,
I would have been sitting in social studies.
But I didn’t think about that at the time.
I didn’t think about
the snow white/blood red connection.
I wasn’t even sure what I was looking at:
a little rust-colored stain on my underwear
that hardly looked like blood.
I spotted the rest of the day,
and was relieved when it stopped.
I did not have my period again
until late that spring,
and I bled and bled and bled,
for three weeks. I had to sit on towels.
I had to get a doctor’s note to be excused
from swimming in gym class, and then,
I was the girl always getting sent home.
I was sixteen when Pearl, Mississippi happened.
There was talk of not letting us carry
our backpacks to class anymore.
I told the principal flat-out,
I have a heavy flow, sir.
If I can’t carry a backpack,
I will walk around these halls
with a pack of Kotex.
It took 14 years for doctors
to figure out or even believe
there was something wrong with me.
They just didn’t understand
how something so small
could affect so much.
For God’s sake, honey,
it’s just your period, one told me
after ruling out a miscarriage.
It can’t be that bad.
It took another year for them
to come to terms with the idea
that some towels
must be thrown in,
that not every vase holds a flower,
that, unlike baby teeth,
there’s nothing to fill this gap.
But I don’t sit on towels anymore.
Lauren Scharhag (she/her) is an associate editor for GLEAM: Journal of the Cadralor, and the author of thirteen books, including Requiem for a Robot Dog (Cajun Mutt Press) and Languages, First and Last (Cyberwit Press). Her work has appeared in over 150 literary venues around the world. Recent honors include the Seamus Burns Creative Writing Prize and multiple Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize nominations. She lives in Kansas City, MO. She tweets @laurenscharhag. To learn more about her work, visit: www.laurenscharhag.blogspot.com