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  • teresatowey21

The color red

I’m the last student sitting in the hot, sticky classroom at 1:55pm, wishing I could return to 1:45pm - the time before Zero discovered the sploosh and before I felt the color red.

The class is English and Language Arts - the honors kind - and we are reading the book Holes - you know, doing that dreadful popcorn reading thing. I hate speaking out loud so when my classmate popcorns to me, fear takes over. My heart starts racing, my armpits sweating, my legs twitching, but I ignore these messages from my body and start reading, my voice cracking. It’s the part where Zero discovers the jars of sploosh.

Here I am reading about sweet juicy sploosh when I start to feel the color red. A wet warmth seeps out from in between my legs. I think my legs are just sweating or something but with each word I read, the wet warmth spreads rapidly. I have to stop reading so I frantically popcorn to David, the smelly boy sitting next to me. 

I peek down in between my legs. My glittery, light wash denim jeans that my mom just bought me from Aeropostale are stained a dark cherry red. I am mortified. Did I just become a woman while sitting in Mrs. Spence’s Honors English class reading Holes, sitting next to smelly David? This felt all wrong.

Fuck, I still have one period left after this - geography with Mrs. W. Of course it would be her, the mom of my older brother’s friend, Zach. Five foot ten, tanned skin, star baseball player at the high school, who all my friends and I have a crush on. Mrs. W would surely tell Zach that Anthony’s little sister got her period today and was clearly unprepared because she had blood all over her pants and all the girls were laughing at her calling her a dirty freak and all the boys steered clear of her in fourth period…

I just had to get through this next period, then I could figure out what to do about the remaining four hundred and forty nine periods that plagued my future as a woman. 

The bell signaling the end of third period and the beginning of fourth period rings. David stops reading. My classmates stand up quickly and fall into their usual cliques to head to the next class. I hesitate. I assess my options. Do I tell Ms. S? That would be mortifying but she might be able to discreetly find me a pair of pants or walk me to the nurse’s office. Do I tell my friend Lindsay? Has Lindsay gotten her period yet? Why didn’t we talk about these things? Do I march out to my orange locker as if nothing has happened? A death walk for sure, because even though I am the only one that can feel the color red, everyone else will surely see it. Do I carry my binder and book behind me, covering my butt and hope no one will notice the awkward way I am walking? Yes. That is what I do.

The blood hasn’t seeped fully up the front of my jeans yet…only the back. I have no idea why but I go with it. I stack my blue binder and Holes book on top of each other and casually hold them behind my back, extending downward to cover my butt. I walk out of the classroom. Mortified on the inside. Hopefully cool, calm and collected on the outside. 

I decide it's best to go straight to Geography class to minimize the amount of time out in the hallway. Less chances for middle school eyes to spot my red shame. I turn right out of Ms. S’s class, then take another quick right onto the carpeted floor leading to geography. The hallway feels longer than usual. But the ceiling feels shorter. I feel like I am growing taller and taller, my head inching toward the ceiling while everyone around me stays normal height. If they weren’t looking at my blood stain, they’re surely looking at me now because I’m a giant. I walk faster and faster. I am getting taller. The ceiling is getting shorter. I have to make it to geography where I can sit down. I’ll be safe in my chair. Faster, taller, shorter. The top of my pony tail starts to graze the top of the ceiling. I sit down just in time. The room returns to its normal dimensions. I am safe. 

Mrs. W drones on about South American geography. Something about Lake Titicaca being on the border of Peru and Bolivia. Suddenly I am Danny in The Shining and in my imagination, Lake Titicaca is no longer its normal deep blue but is now blood red. Everything in the classroom is red.

The bell rings and the classroom returns to its normal colors. I artfully place my binder and book behind me again. I walk quickly to my locker, which is usually orange but it now appears red. Some kind of sick joke. 

I manage to make it to the bus, where I place my binder on the seat so I can sit on it, so as not to get blood on the seat. I am riding the bus home from middle school while my blood is literally pouring out of my uterus onto my Aeropostale jeans and my binder containing my notes about Holes. I am woefully embarrassed…but also I feel deeply powerful 🩸

What was your first bleed (menarche) like? Where were you? How old were you? Was it celebrated? Ignored? Shamed? What did you need to hear from yourself or the adults in your life during this transition into womanhood? Speaking to yourself at that age, write a letter, or speak out loud, exactly what you needed to hear.

I’d love to hear your story in the comments below <3

blood on the earth

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