My Body is a Destroyer
Previously published in b(OINK)
One night, after too much pink wine and cheap whiskey, my husband asks if I want to start a family. I do.
Together we pop what remains of my birth control pills into the garbage. One by one by one. Pop, pop, pop.
Early the next morning, just before dawn, the earth tremors here, here, and here, unlike anything anyone has ever seen.
And, later, I dig the pills out of the trash, swallowing them all, one by one by one.
We measure my basal temperature, figure out when I ovulate, fuck furiously. We do it doggy style because we read that it increases the odds. It feels feral and raw, natural and wrong.
The newscasters on TV tell us it is the hottest day in June on record. The house swells in the heat, and we sit in front of the fan, dripping sweat and semen.
We think, maybe, this time it has taken. I awake expecting blood, but there is none, and this gives us hope.
Hotter and hotter days keep coming. Bugs have taken up refuge in our home.
Finally, we buy a test and rush home, but something has beaten us there: something red and slick as guilt. We do not cry.
We just keep trying.
At this rate, the ice caps will melt sooner than expected. The oceans will swell with it.
I keep my legs over my head after we’ve finished. Not a drop drips out of me. We are conserving it all.
The doctor tells us it just takes time: each body is different. We ask if we should do a fertility test, see if something more is wrong. He assures us this would be premature. Creation takes time. Our world took millions of years, after all.
Our conversations are thick with the silence of things we cannot say. Doubts. Fears. Relief. Blame, worst of all.
If only you hadn’t wrestled in high school. Hadn’t worn such tight jeans.
If only I hadn’t taken all those pills. If only I would’ve let myself bleed.
People begin to talk. Too many cars, too much fossil fuel. No, it’s what we’re feeding the cows, don’t you know? If everyone switched to vegan diets, we’d have more time. Fuck the government. They did this to us.
Sometimes, we just can’t look one another in the eyes. There’s too much pain there. We fuck, and his hand covers my face, and I don’t move it. For the first time in weeks, I come. I come gloriously. No child should be made in that.
Snow begins to fall. This gives us hope. We play in it like children, dancing around the yard, sticking our tongues out to let it melt in our mouths like cotton candy.
We only taste ash.
The next time I think I’m pregnant, I keep it a secret. I don’t want to get his hopes up again. I see the way he looks at me and the way he doesn’t.
And, I’ll admit: I want to cradle this on my own. I want to feed this secret at my breast. I want to let it grow.
The moment I’m sure, something bursts forth from the ground. All those tremors. They shook something loose.
The newscasts are all in terror. Big cities evacuate. Small ones close in on themselves. Something has come, and with it our destruction.
Pastors preach end times. This must be an avenger. An angel of death. Antichrist. This must be a goddess of destruction — like Kali or Cailleach.
Once morning comes, whole cities have been leveled. The rivers run red. There’s no counting how many have died. Better to count those who lived.
He says we shouldn’t bring a child into this. What were we thinking? We should be praying instead. We don’t remember the last time we prayed. Did we cause this?
I ask him who we should pray to — his god or mine? And did he know that Kali is both the creator and destroyer?
I tell him about the pills out of the trash. I tell him about my secret, how it grows. I tell him that God must be a woman, to be so angry.
He looks at me and I know that he knows what a woman is capable of.
A Woman’s Body is a Mystery, Except for Mine
Previously published in Ellipsis
When Jason called to tell me everyone was meeting at the quarry to swim, I had to decline. There were extenuating circumstances, I’d told him. They had beer, he offered, but I just couldn’t go. I hadn’t stopped bleeding in months.
I haven’t stopped bleeding in months, I finally told him. He didn’t know what I meant by that. Men never do.
The first time I got my period, I tiptoed into my dad’s room, the brown, sticky evidence thick like guilt in my pants. I told him what was wrong, and he promptly took me over to the neighbor’s house, not a word spoken.
Our next-door neighbor was a single parent, too, though not by choice. She had two sons, and they both stared at me over their bowls of Fruity Pebbles while their mom searched her cabinets for stray pads or tampons.
Dad let me stay home that day because he didn’t really know how this stuff worked. Were girls supposed to stay home from school when they bled?
The morning after Jason and I fucked for the first time, I took a long, burning bath in my mold-spotted bathtub, letting the scalding water sting the most sensitive parts of me. The night before he’d said he’d never been with someone like me, someone so free of mystery. I was like an open book.
Now, I’m in the midst of a five-month long menstrual cycle, and for some reason I can’t stop thinking about my old next-door neighbor. What happened to her? Do her sons still eat Fruity Pebbles? Do they remember me?
The doctors can’t, or won’t, tell me why I can’t seem to stop bleeding. You’d think I’d have run out of blood by now, wouldn’t you?
I stop spending money on pads and tampons. I let it run down my legs, my badge of honor. Men avoid me in the grocery aisle. My blood offends them.
What do you mean you haven’t stopped bleeding? Jason asked me.
I mean just that. It won’t stop.
What’s wrong with you? he asks.
After the first month, I was ashamed. And scared. How much blood can the human body lose? The doctors told me it was probably just stress. The female body reacts to stress in mysterious ways.
After the second month they started running tests. Even the machines couldn’t tell me what was wrong with my body.
After the third month, I stopped caring.
After the fourth month, I stopped believing anything was wrong with my body after all.
After the fifth month, Jason called to tell me everyone was meeting at the quarry to swim.
Nothing’s wrong with me, I told him.
Every morning, I wake up in a pool of my own blood. I’ve long run out of clean underwear. But I’ve never felt so clean.
Hannah Gordon is a writer and editor living in Detroit. She’s the managing editor of CHEAP POP. Her work has appeared in (b)OINK, Maudlin House, Synaesthesia Magazine, WhiskeyPaper, and more. When she’s not writing, she’s watching Netflix or hanging out with her cat.