That Time of Month in America

“Kaleidoscope.” Acrylic on canvas painting by Barbara Codd. Published with permission.

I’m 68 years old and I am bleeding. Not bleeding like Jayland Walker, shot 60 times by police in Ohio last week. Not bleeding like the 30 plus people killed or wounded today in that 4th of July rah rah America, land of the free, parade in Illinois. Not bleeding like the elementary school kids and teachers in Uvalde, Texas, last month, or the victims of the 300 plus other mass shootings in this country.       Just. This. Year. 

No, I’m not Ukrainian soldier bleeding, or Palestinian child rock in hand bleeding, or back alley abortion bleeding. I’m not gay bashed bleeding, trans bashed bleeding, line all the homosexuals up in a row and shoot them in the back of the head bleeding. I’m not even a California Lovers Point shark bite bleeding, or a fall off your bike, or accidentally cut yourself making potato salad bleeding.

Nah, I’m just good ol’ lady business, on the rag, it’s that time of month kind of bleeding. Which millions of uterus-bearing folx all over the world do on the regular. Which I used to do on the regular. Which is totally normal, except that I am 68 freaking years old and Aunt Flo hasn’t come around for more than 20 years, so what the fuck is happening anyway?! Why am I sitting on the toilet now gushing blood, bright red blood, dark clotty blood, this is not a metaphor, I’m too old for this shit blood? 

Tikkun 2022 Highlights Cover
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And of course, I don’t have any gear, because who keeps that shit in their house anyway when you haven’t bled for, have I mentioned, over 20 years? But I do have plenty of gauze and bandages in the bathroom cabinet, and some two-sided carpet tape in my toolbox, so I jerry-rig some pads together and make do. Which is kind of funny because when I was a kid the neighbor boys and I used to sneak in to steal our mom’s sanitary pads and tampons when we got regular kid hurt because we’d discovered that, strapped on with a little bit of duct tape, they stopped the bleeding like nothing else. Until one day when Jack, who was the oldest boy, said, “Stop doing that shit.  It’s nasty.”

But now I’m old and I’m bleeding and there are no pads in the house, and I’m more than a little freaked out because I’ve never heard of this happening and, damn, are these cramps? Fuck, I haven’t had cramps forever. How the hell do people live with this shit every freaking month and just go on about our day? No wonder cis-men are so afraid of our power. Who else can bleed without dying, create other humans inside their bodies, and then feed those newly birthed beings. With milk. From our bodies. But I am not feeling particularly powerful and, once I get myself all McGyvered up with my jerry-rigged pads, I do exactly what I know better than to do, which is to go online and Google ‘post-menopausal bleeding.’ Which is a really stupid idea because who the hell wants to panic stress about endometrial cancer when the likelihood is that this is all about my sweet naturopathic doctor recently tweaking my bio-identical hormones. 

But now since I’m online I see they have a suspect in the parade shooting and I know he must be white because they are not mentioning race or terrorism. And yep, for sure he is because wow, they just took him into custody “without incident,” all alive and not bleeding, not shot 60 times like Jayland Walker, and oh look, what a surprise, now there is a photo of this white boy suspect at a Trump rally and reports of him casing out a synagogue back in April.

I wonder if the cops will stop by Burger King and grab him a snack like they did with Dylann Roof after he murdered nine Black churchgoers in Charleston. For sure they are not going to put him handcuffed, no seatbelt, in the back of an empty police van, then slam on the breaks, giving him a ‘rough ride’ like they did to Randy Cox last month, leaving him in intensive care, now paralyzed from the neck down.

And what is it about insecure guys and their penis guns and creepy rage anyway? And how weird is it that I am menstruating, or whatever the fuck this is, days after the sexual predator-infested Supreme Court overturns Roe v Wade, like some strange sort of social/psychic historical time warp bleed-through, as reproductive rights are once more under siege and a 10-year-old child rape victim gets denied medical care in Ohio, women are now referred to as ‘vessels,’ and there is talk of using ‘pregnancy sniffing dogs’ at airports and train stations to prevent women from crossing state lines.

And now, as I change into my third McGyvered pad, I think about that 10-year-old girl in Ohio, and I think about young Miah Cerrillo, the 11-year-old survivor of the Uvalde school attack, who covered herself in her friend’s blood and played dead so the shooter wouldn’t kill her, too. I think about her testimony before Congress last month and how it has horrified and haunted me ever since, and not just regular horrified for the obvious reasons, but deep cell body memory horrified because her story reminds me of me. It reminds me of the other damn story I’ve been trying to write all month, the piece about race, privilege, and police violence, about triggered, surfacing memories of sexual assault, the story that made me start to cry when I tried to read part of it out loud to my workshop group last week. 

Because I was once that terrified girl, and covering myself with blood was what I did, too. Except that it was not my friend’s blood that I smeared all over myself for survival in that filthy Iowa jail cell a half a century ago; it was my own blood, and not just the cut over my eye from that boot to the face blood, but also my own 16-year-old terrified girl menstrual blood. As those men assaulted me that day, ultimately it was not my kicking, spitting and biting, my yelling and screaming and physical fighting that saved me from being raped. It was my blood, my menstrual blood and my madness, smeared all over my crazed face and chest that frightened them off as I crouched backed into a corner snarling.

It was not some right-wing boy/man incel with an AR 15 that was the threat that day. It was the police that I needed to be rescued from, and wasn’t, the police who held the guns, the rage, the hatred and fear of all things female. Or not female enough. Or black or brown trans female. Or female like me, cis, butch and white, because sometimes even whiteness is not enough to protect when cops decide that “all that dyke bitch needs is a good fuck.”

It’s that time of month and America is bleeding, and bloodying. And Jayland Walker is dead. Amariey Lej is dead. Tatiana Labelle, Paloma Vazquez, Duval Princess dead. And in these times of intersectional bloodbath, rough rides and legislative assault, pregnancy sniffing dogs, and protected Proud Boy Klansmen in khakis and white gaiters, exactly who and what is being served and protected? And what ancestral wisdoms and visionary tactics, individual and collective, ancient and future, shall now be forged into resistance?

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Debra Busman is a writer and Professor of Creative Writing and Social Action at CSU Monterey Bay. She is the author of the novel Like a Woman, co-editor of the award-winning anthology Fire and Ink: An Anthology of Social Action Writing, and has contributed chapters to Combined Destinies: Whites Share Grief Around Racism; Readings in Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration; and Ways of Being in Teaching.

Photo by G. Luca Oake


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