I was 8— just a tiny, little girl in the grand scheme of time — and I found a speck of red on my panties. I still remember that tight-fitting, pastel pink cotton singlet I wore: the material stretched over the barely noticeable slight swelling of my breasts and sweat-clung to my back from the merciless heat of my parents’ bedroom in the tropical haven otherwise known as Singapore.
When I stripped off my panties and handed it over to Mom with imploring eyes, she quite honestly panicked.
Wait, so soon? She asked hurriedly, before she rifled through her personal belongings in the grey cabinet of hers whose door never failed to creak every time it was opened.
Here, use this, and on that day, I received my very first sanitary pad. Mom offered no explanation as to why I was suddenly bleeding from down there, but I could tell she was perplexed from the crease in her eyebrows that was present for the rest of the day. I later heard hushed discussions from the back of my parents’ bedroom in the evening.
That speck of blood — just a teeny, weeny dot, really — meant a whole lot more to her than it did for me. It signified that I was no longer her little girl — I was a grown-up, fertile woman now. I didn’t understand her disconcertment at that point, but I do now and that day has become so much more precious because of it. But after a whole night of having the sides of the pad irritate, scrape and scratch me in my nether-regions, the pad turned up spotless the next day.
Turns out — you haven’t yet come. Ha, you got us good: joke’s on us!
I was 13, enrolled in an all-girls’ school where tampons and pads were readily available from the hands of helpful classmates, and you’d finally made your actual, grand arrival along with a raging case of acne across my jawline. Thanks for that, by the way: the scars, coupled with a few fresh surface pimples, are still prominent on my face to this date.
I learned all about you, what you were — the shedding of my uterine lining — and your little intricacies. There were many times you came unannounced (how rude!), stained my knee-length, grey uniform skirt and as a result, I had to spend countless first-half of my lessons in the toilet rubbing your brownish-red stains out with neon-pink hand soap and the tiny trickle of water that ran out of the school tap.
I eventually stashed a spare piece of skirt with me at all times and won the battle. You had the decency to never stain my skirt twice in a row, thank God.
I was 26, and you hadn’t made your usual appearance in more than a month. With each day that passed, my panic and anxiety surmounted. I never knew I could miss you that much: you with all your crimson red, bloodiness and messiness. Whenever I felt some kind of fluids being discharged from my vagina, I rushed to the toilet the first chance I got. But instead of your dark red, my black disappointment greeted me each time.
Was it stress? Was it over-exercising? Was it under-eating? And most of all, was I…? Could I be…?
No, it wasn’t possible. But the unease ate at me — I traipsed to the nearest drug store on the 40th day of your absence and hovered over the birth control section. Beside me, an excited, young couple (the lady with a dainty, shiny diamond ring perched on her fourth finger) picked out 5 different test kits, “just to be sure the first one wasn’t a fluke”. I might or might not have rolled my eyes at their evident happiness: they were ready, I was not.
I left the store with empty hands.
Despite all the unease and fear you put me through, I was nevertheless relieved when I saw a pool of red in the toilet water during one of my late-night pee sessions on the 43rd day of your nonattendance. Yes, I kept count. Thank God, thank God, thank God — there you were, and for once, your presence comforting.
You gave me quite a scare there, really.
I am as old as I am now, and as young as I would ever be for the rest of my life. I look forward to the day where I would be thrilled by your absence: the day where I would proudly wave my pee-stained test kit with two pronounced lines around.
Till then though, please do not disappear on me again.
With all my love,