I got my period for the first time, without warning, when I was in the fifth grade. Having requested a full hysterectomy mere months after squeezing me out into the world (no, I didn’t take that decision personally, nope, not at all!), my mom didn’t have any menstrual products in the house, so I had to sit on the toilet, leaking beef soup into the bowl, while she found a kitchen towel that she didn’t mind being sacrificed for the cause and folded it into my underpants to tide me over while she ran to the drugstore. And then, every subsequent month, or six weeks, or eight weeks, or sometimes for so many months that I wondered if maybe it had reversed itself out of spite, in the middle of a test during Algebra 2, my period would throw a surprise pool party all across the crotch of my thrifted lavender corduroys.
My period has remained this way for decades: hostile, elusive, disrespectful of the lengths to which I had gone to line up the adult human sex she was interrupting. I never get a sore-boob warning or cautionary twinge of back pain, and I cry at dog food commercials regardless of the state of my hormones, so I’m never prepared with a tampon or a maxi pad or a beach towel whenever she decides to show up and spend a week (or several) ruining my fucking life.
I flew to Austin in November for the Texas Book Festival. I’m not really a Texas kinda guy, but I have friends down there who lied and said that fall isn’t that hot, and like a fool, I believed them. I took a commuter plane from my tiny regional airport to Detroit; we pulled into gate A78, and my connecting flight was out of gate B437. I mean, not really, there aren’t really more than 400 gates in the Delta terminal at the Detroit Metro Airport, but skip-walking the two-plus miles across the entire airport in 10 minutes with a sweaty backpack full of trashy magazines jostling against my back, it fucking felt like it. I’m not a scientist or whatever, but I knew something in my body shook loose somewhere between the moving walkway and the Zingerman’s kiosk near the gate that charged me $15 for a turkey sandwich.