because the sugar opens your opiate receptors, which often feels like love” (Jackson Bliss, Spring 2010 Zyzzyva, p. 94)…a perfect line for this wickedly cold late May spring day, portable heater melting the top layer of skin off my ankles as I pop chocolate covered almonds into my mouth in my cabin in what must be a fit of p.m.s.
I come from a family of heavy bleeders. There’s a story of my mother, in the years before her hysterectomy, missing the curb and falling, one of her pumps flying into the street to land in front of a station wagon. Unbeknownst to her, menstrual blood had gushed down along the inside of her nylons, saturating the inside of the shoe.
When the driver of the station wagon got out to help, the race to the shoe was on. He beat her to it and she had a good deal of trouble convincing him she wasn’t injured, truly, she just needed to get to a bathroom.
Call it female virility, if you will—my family measures said virility by how much damage you manage to inflict during your period. I didn’t enter the fray with a story of my own until I’d left home for college (and thus it was cool again to talk to Mom).
That Thanksgiving, as we stuffed the turkey, I told my Mom about sitting in a lecture hall taking an English midterm, identifying passages from Paradise Lost, and having to raise my hand to get the TA to take my exam so I wouldn’t have to walk in front of 100 students to turn it in. Then I asked the girl next to me for a piece of paper to cover the grapefruit-sized stain on my seat (this in the era before pads with wings).
“Atta girl,” my mother laughed, and poured me a glass of wine.
By Christmas, as we wrapped gifts, I told her about the boyfriend who refused to go camping with me during my cycle. “He says the bucks, during rutting season, have been known to—like, mount a girl on her period,” I said, wrapping a pair of slippers for him.
“Horse pucky,” my Mom said. “I think you better save the tag on those. This guy’s not gonna last, is he?!”
She was right. We didn’t even make it to summer, he and I, parting ways after an argument over a comment made by my women’s studies professor (I’d asked her if she’d ever heard the “randy buck” theory). She had laughed and suggested menstrual blood could be dripped along the perimeter of one’s garden to ward off the deer; I guess that would be the does, if the boyfriend was correct, and hopefully the bucks would come looking for me, but leave the tomatoes.
Three years ago, when my youngest was one, my husband and I headed to Canada to attend the wedding of one of my husband’s high school buddies. Poorly timed, as I was mid-cycle, bleeding heartily. After several wrong turns down verdant highways laden with maple leaf insignias and waterfalls (half-hour detours each), and I’d reminded my husband for the 3rd time I needed to stop and use the bathroom, I felt that familiar rush and realized it was futile.
A vibrant blood bloom greeted us from my seat in the rental car when we finally stopped. I began to giggle, resorting to the old trick: donning my husband’s sweatshirt around my waist, I charged for the bathroom. On the way back, I stopped and bought a handful of cookies from the vets manning the rest stop in at attempt to appease my husband, then rustled up the wet wipes from the trunk. Not so much to soak the blood up, but to soak it down into the cushions, another trick learned during the college days, desperately trying to clean blood out of the boyfriend’s bed before he woke.
Back at home, I stood in the doorway, watching my six-year-old daughter as she slept: golden curve of her tiny summer tummy housing ovaries packed with eggs waiting to be doled out over her lifetime, and sent heaven thanks that she has another six years, maybe five, if she starts menstruating like I did at 11. Will she, like me, bleed for seven days straight? Fill her shoes with blood like Grandma? Atta girl!?
Drifting off to sleep next to my exhausted husband that night, I pictured the couple who rented the car after us. Maybe on their way to Vancouver, stopping at an overlook, the wife leaving the back car door ajar in her haste to get the perfect photo of the sunset. Both of them at the black formica rental-car desk, trying to explain the damage, turning their miniscule digital camera screen to the agent to show him the photos of the buck--with a full rack of antlers--tearing at the back seat with his sharp hooves in some kind of maniacal trance.
Photo credit: Robyn Beattie, www.robynbeattie.com