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And Then We Hit Traffic

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Rating: PG-13

We’re in line for the Caribbean Corkscrew when I notice a trail of rust-colored blood running along my inner thigh. I see no cuts, but then an urge hits. I must look at my crotch. So, I do just that—lean over and check the crotch of my swimsuit in the most nonchalant way a person can check their own crotch. It’s confirmed. There’s a Rorschach test of a stain.

I call out to Fatima, but her name comes out all wrong. Like I’ve never said it before this moment. She looks at me and then follows my eyes as they point between my legs. She interlocks her fingers in mine and tows me to the nearest bathroom. Shoves me into a stall, telling me to take my swimsuit off. I undress and wait there naked, my bloody Speedo in hand, my body covered in goosebumps. Someone has written L + R foreva on the door just above the lock. I wonder how long foreva will be as Fatima uses her polite voice to ask women for change. When the coins clink into the slot and the dial is turned, I realize what it’s for. It sounds just like those quarter vending machines with the round plastic capsules that contain gooey hands that stick to walls, bouncy balls, mini yo-yos, crap like that. Instead of the rolling of the plastic capsule, though, I hear the singular thump of a tampon.

Fatima whispers to let her in. She uses hand gestures to silently instruct me on how to put it in. It seems simple enough, but once the door is locked, I spend the next few minutes fighting with this object. I have no control over it, but I seem to have even less control over my mind. I remember the three-pointer I missed against St. Dominic’s, the Lisa Frank pencil case I stole from Genovese, Steven’s braces with the ugly orange rubber bands—how there always seems to be tiny pools of spit at the corners of his mouth. My body constricts.

We’re back in line for the Caribbean Corkscrew. It’s grown since we left. There’s now head after head in front of us and lots of shuffling feet. There’s also what feels like a creature inside of me. I picture a scene like the one in Space Balls: My tampon bursts out, sings “Hello! Ma Baby” through the line and scares everyone away. We stroll unobstructed to the mouth of the slide. It’s the best water slide Fatima and I have ever ridden. Of course, this doesn’t happen, so we’re ten minutes late meeting my Mom at the park exit. She’s still smiling as we run to her, a clear sign she’s not pissed. Fatima opens her big mouth, but my wide eyes tell her to keep her mouth shut.

The three of us make the pilgrimage through the parking lot to Mom’s Dodge. It’s been parked in direct sunlight all day, so it smells like cooked leather inside. The seat burns my thighs. The heat makes it difficult to breathe, so I roll down the window. I ask Mom if we can stop for ice cream sundaes at Denny’s, but she says we need to get home for dinner. She’s making cheeseburgers. I know if I tell her, she’ll change her mind. She’ll tell me I can have whatever I want on my sundae too: sprinkles, hot fudge, gummy bears, cookie crunch. All I have to do is say the words, but I don’t.