My Body’s Not a Flower

I hate being fat but I hate being fertile even more. I hate that feeling in my body just before my period, like my body is a bag of swollen meats the keep incohering, with every brush against a table this feeling of something open, unprotected, a bodily vulnerability that I didn’t ask for and can’t shut down.

I count the ibuprofen as I pop them in my mouth. One two one two one two all day long. They keep the hot stones at my center quiet; the stones steam dully, never quite gone, until I sleep or forget to take the pills and then they are RED HOT HOT squeezing me open and shut until all there is to do is curl around the center of the pain and ride it, let it fill me, there is no way to stop fighting something that wants to wring you out from inside but you can hold yourself together with the muscles at your core, the world liquefied, the bed your raft. I cannot imagine a worse pain, although I am certain they exist.

I remember sitting in the library at lunch with my friends in middle school, reading the embarrassing stories in Seventeen. Story after story after story of the Ultimate Horror in Life: a period revealed to the world. I remember the second time it came, at a swim meet, my mother trying to explain tampons to me over the door of the crowded bathroom stall, the frantic hopelessness as I got it wrong over and over again, and later my race being called, climbing up on the block and leaning over to take my mark, MIDDLE SCHOOL IS FUCKING BRUTAL. And the split that opened over my breasts in the lining of my racing suit as my body slowly but assuredly betrayed me through the year, became something I did not recognize and did not want.

I remember thinking: I’ll never have a child. What if I had a GIRL? Thinking: I wouldn’t wish this torture on my worst enemies. Thinking: this happens to my worst enemies, actually. That didn’t make it better.

You can get used to anything, or so they say. I don’t know why they say that. Month after month and at 32 I am still not fucking used to this. I have to change my bra to run across the street. I buy Dear Kate period panties; I try a menstrual cup, but the learning curve is steep. Life is livable. Of course! But my body still does not feel like mine. It feels like a hostage to the promise of a child that will do an even better job of ripping me open from the inside, an even better job of taking the most basic parts of me and making it their own, I will not be my own again, not truly, not ever again, but it will be ok because I will love her, I will love her like she is part of me (I will love her much more than any part of me), and she will be magnificent, so magnificent it hurts me, and still, on top of that all, the bleeding will come back, like clockwork, to remind me just how much my body isn’t mine.