When Connecticut shuts down, so does my uterus. “Aah, you have pandemic period,” my OB-GYN says; I think about punctuation while her hand is inside me. Her first name ends in a soft a, like massage, like adore—like ally.
My first OB-GYN had a last name that ended in a y, like a question, so he should have been able to listen. As if his name wasn’t a trick, as if his name was a soothing why, as if his name didn’t shout he. His misdiagnosis should have resulted in my death. “That’s not cancer, that’s a clogged milk duct.” As if the body could not build twins and also try to demolish the mother.
“My period took off on vacation,” I tell Elena. She laughs and jokes back while her finger circles my cervix. “Where did it go?” she asks, paying attention. To myself, I answer, I hid it like treasure, like gold, like toilet paper, like yeast—flour. But to her I say, “Down to Savannah, on the vacation my husband and I booked but had to cancel. No one told my period. She’s been gone for months.”
In a preteen memory of my mother, she chooses sanitary pads from a grocery store shelf. The box is illustrated with a painting of a woman wearing a baby doll dress, skipping at the edge of the ocean like no woman in history wearing a giant wad between her legs, even if it is labeled Stayfree. As if being a woman has ever been free.
At the height of the pandemic, there are plenty of tampons: super plus, super, and regular. For some reason, there are no options with super plus and regular in the same box. If I was super plus for seven days, I’d be in the hospital—a word that contains spit so no wonder no one wants to be there. I hold in my abdomen, I leave without buying. As if I am storing up the blood so I won’t need a transfusion if or when the time comes. As if I am storing up the blood to donate to my children, the state, the entire world.
At the end of June, the moment Connecticut’s governor, who has a last name ending in a t like the tents he had set up in Hartford hospital parking lots, says, “Restrictions are being lifted, gently,” I will be in the city’s Elizabeth Park, in the middle of the rosebuds, bleeding right through my pants, oblivious, under the arbors, taking selfies—blooming. Returning to my car, I will find that I am saturated to my thighs. Turning the key, the gas gauge reads hard e like female, like scream, like money.
I’ll wrap myself in the towel I use to protect the car’s upholstery from my dog’s wet body after hikes by the stream, pumping gas with my lower half covered in a print of mama and baby goldfish.
On store shelves, there is Charmin, Fleischmann’s, and King Arthur, neatly restocked after the shortage. Everyone in the grocery is calm, in straight lines, properly masked, six feet apart—while my body spirals down into cramps. I will place two boxes of the dwindling supply of tampons in my cart when what I want to do is load box after box after box into my arms, catapult over the checkout, and steal out the store’s sliding doors.
But that is next month. Right now, Elena palpates, navigates. I’m leaning back like I just mowed the lawn, enjoying a nap in a hammock, but I’m busy writing inside my rawness, memorizing this moment of being heard. She’s reading me like my uterus is braille. A word that focuses on feeling—a word that ends with a listening e, like the one at the end of her last name, like the one at the end of my first, like the one at the end of circle, like the one at the beginning of earth.