Christina is a heavy-set Mexican girl, who mostly communicates by smiling and nodding in agreement. Her hair is dark and greasy, but always nicely combed to the back in a tamed pony tail, with a butterfly clip put delicately above the hair tie. She is new to Parkway North High’s freshman class. As a high school with a class system according to year rank, the white suburban kids from West County make it clear that she is an outsider, and call her cruel names behind her back. Her parents just moved from Corpus Christi, Texas in the middle of the school year, and she has no friends. I understand her struggle, being surrounded by people who naturally considered themselves to be “above you.” Here I am, a freshman city kid getting bussed from the Southside, because I was one of the lucky ones chosen for the desegregation program of Saint Louis. I refuse to participate on the sports teams, because it is made clear the only reason they wanted us city kids is to boost their teams. I was never the type to be a token, even if the opportunity presented itself.
In my Rocawear backpack purse, I keep my tampons hidden behind my walkman in a purple plastic container. It perfectly fits two tampons at a time. The container came in the box of Tampax my Mom purchased from Shunucks, the grocery store. Being on your period is such a disgrace. For seven days, I’m bound to feel dirty, and go out of my way to conceal my scarlet letter. I swear one day I’m gonna have the courage to raise my hand, get a bathroom pass, and walk to the bathroom with my tampons in hand loud and proud. I wear a maxipad just in case I have an accident, and can’t get to the bathroom fast enough.
It happens in my history class, when Christina starts her period and bleeds all over the seat. It happens right after lunch, when I come into class and sit in the seat to the left of her, as I always do. She passes me a note, asking if I have a maxipad. I only have tampons and I tell her to ask the teacher for a pass to see the nurse. Poor girl was red in the face. I'm confused and wonder to myself, ‘how could she not know she was gonna start?’ My boobs always hurt right before mine starts. Isn’t every woman's period the same? Every 27 days right? After she leaves with her sweatshirt tied around her waist, I pass a note to my best friend telling her all about Christina’s mishap, and by the time the bell rings, ending history class, I have told everyone. On the way out the door, I glance at the seat to see the blood. Word gets out about Christina’s situation, and she has to continue the rest of the day like that. Some of the girls called her Bloody Mary, which isn't very original. The next few days Christina doesn't come back to school. Rumors circle around that she tried to commit suicide, but I don’t really know her like that to know whether or not it’s true.
In the days that follow, I have this lingering feeling of sadness that I can’t shake. I did her dirty, and I feel awful. I am convinced that if I never said anything, no one would’ve noticed her bloodied khaki straight leg jeans. When she returns to school, I can't look her in the face, yet she is still nice to me. I know it’s only because she has no clue that I was the one who told, and for whatever reason, she now considers me to be her friend. She keeps asking me questions about history homework, and I distance myself from her by rolling my eyes - ignoring her. When will this day end?
I get home just in time to watch Total Request Live on MTV. My best friend comes over and we talk about all of the gossip from the day. This boy likes her, but she likes another boy, blah blah. My mom arrives home from work and starts dinner. Ashley and I continue gossiping. I wasn’t worried about my mom over-hearing all the dirty details, because she never listens, but on this particular day she is. A fight at school between two girls is the hot topic, until Ashley brings up Christina. I do everything to avoid talking about it, I feel sick to my stomach. My mom overhears the story, gives me a look, and asks Ashley to go home. I knew then that not only did I shame Christina, I had shamed myself, my mom, and all women. My mom tells me about myself that night. She says that I was cruel and no better than the white girls that talked about my afro puff hairstyle, knock off Tommy Hilfiger bag, and full lips. I need to make it right with Christina.
Twenty seven days pass. My period always seems to start off very unlucky, I have cramps. OMG! I wish I didn’t have to go to gym 4th period. And why do they call them that anyway? Periods. Each class being called a period was a cruel reminder. I am very careful to pack all of my stuff in my gym bag. The teacher lets girls sit out if they were on their rag, because we're swimming. (Why do old people call it a rag? Gross, right?) I participate anyway, because my flow isn't heavy. The girls in my class say that when you’re in the swimming pool, the water stops your period from bleeding, but I think that’s a myth. I insert a fresh tampon, and tuck the string in my coochie, heaven forbid if it falls out while in a co-ed swimming class. In the shower, after gym, I don't see blood, so I leave the tampon in and continue getting dressed, since half of the school day is over.
It's a Friday, so we don't do much class work in history. We mostly watch movies and take notes. I'm leaving the locker room, heading to lunch when the craziest idea enters my mind. After lunch I go into the bathroom, take out my tampon, and don't replace it. I feel so naked, and feel unusually wet in my panties. I walk the long halls to history class quietly, and not feeling like socializing. I take my seat on the left of Christina, as I always do, and bleed all over the seat next to her.
After the movie, I raise my hand and ask,” Ms. Schwartz, can I go to the nurse’s office?”
Writing: Carmel Brown
Artwork: Singha Hon