Ten years old, Wednesday night. She pulls down her panties and says thanks that Mom gave the Girl Talk already, school isn't scheduled to bring it up for another month, and she's already bleeding.
She unwraps her first pad from its sticky packaging and prays it stays in place for a night; she has no idea how these things work.
She turns off the light.
Thirteen and she's bled through a pair of jeans in silent reading.
This time she wears a pad and a tampon, just to be sure.
Fourteen years old, her first time on birth control.
She cries at the drop of a hat. She cries and clutches her lower stomach at a family reunion while her grandma whispers and hisses to her, "Welcome to the Curse."
She curses the price of tampons as she changes it for the eleventh, yes, eleventh time that day.
Dad screams at her, "Hide your shame!" for there's a box of Tampax on the counter.
Perfect Wife hides behind and smirks.
Dad won't even look at the o.b.'s in her shaking hands.
Now look, her nose is menstruating too.
Dad hates periods.
Maybe because the eighteen missed ones in Mom's life resulted in me, and a brother.
Maybe because Perfect Wife is childless at thirty-six and proud when she bleeds.
Maybe because his girlfriend just told him she's just missed hers, and he knows what that means.
Dad hates periods, and maybe doesn't want to know that his only daughter can bleed, so he doesn't have to ever worry if she isn't.
Sixteen, she begs Mom to stay home, these cramps are killing her.
Mom rolls her eyes as the melodramatic teenager climbs back into bed and clutches her lower stomach.
An hour later she's puking up monsters into the toilet.
Mom goes to bed with cramps.
Mom's on three-week bedrest.
Somewhere in an industrial bin lies Mom's uterus and the complaints of cramps.
Her daughter's monsters slide up her throat and spew and still Mom tells her that her cramps are fine, go to school now, she must lie in bed peacefully and. Oh, and to please stop throwing up, you're disturbing me.
Daughter slinks off with a raw throat and leaking uterus.
Her first missed period, she's seventeen.
She knows what a missed period means.
After she comes to and gets home and curls up in bed with her ice cream and painkillers, she bleeds for two weeks and thinks to herself that for the first time since she was ten years old, she's happy, happy to bleed.
This novelty doesn't extend past the two week expected recovery time for the abortion.
A month later.
Another goddamn few days late, she feels sick.
This again, already, so soon?
"Well, what an IUD does, is generally induces a miscarriage. So your next period will just be heavier and more painful." Doctor explains calmly.
She stares wide-eyed.
Doesn't he know how painful and heavy they already are?
New job, she gets through.
Hourly trips to the bathroom.
Nothing but black pants.
Tampon AND pad.
Advil and more, she grins, and she bears it.
She works through her first and only miscarriage, and she feels accomplished.
Perfect Wife left at forty, still childless, only a few years left to bleed.
Dad's girlfriend had a daughter, his second daughter he can worry about periods with, chastise her on Tampax, watch her grow up all over again.
And I, like clockwork, once a month, still bleed.
156 times since I started, minus two missed periods.
264 times to go, times how many times I change my mind.
I'm almost halfway.