by Elsa Valmidiano
Between Water and Grief by Bea Hayward, 2020
Thirteen. Fourteen. Fifteen. Sixteen. Seventeen. Eighteen. Nineteen.
Each age a reminder when twelve eggs per year escaped from house arrest. Eighty-four eggs. Released.
Sent off with a warm red farewell.
Twenty. Twenty-one. Twenty-two. Twenty-three. Twenty-four. Twenty-five. Twenty-six. Twenty-seven. Twenty-eight. Twenty-nine. Thirty. Thirty-one. Thirty-two. Thirty-three. Thirty-four.
Each age a reminder when the pill was a prison guard to twelve eggs per year whose sentence has been commuted inside me. One hundred and eighty eggs. Waiting for release.
Oocyte. Ootid. Ovum.
I wOke up to the realization of the one hundred and eighty eggs waiting their turn after fifteen years, and I am wondering if it is fair to have cheated Mother Nature.
I consider the weight of countless childbirths and clandestine abortions—ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen—that broke the bodies of so many maternal ancestors.
As a twenty-first century descendant, there is phenomenal no-strings-attached sex. Not getting pregnant. Choosing my own life over the existence of a new one that could drastically change the direction of mine.
That could drastically change me.
Orgasm. Opportunity. Option.
I chOse me but did I leave my bOdy behind?
I used to think the pill was magical until I realized what it was doing to make my body stop.
I used to think the pill was magical until I realized whose bodies—poor / Black / Brown / institutionalized / incarcerated—were tested upon to make their bodies stop.
No one talks about the brain fog, the chemical numbness, or the sensation of watching your life play before you as if on a television screen on an indescribably slanted floor. This is not the solution either.
We’ve been allowed to go forward with our lives, direct our own paths, be ambitious in our careers, travel the world alone, take up lovers and leave ’em, and I’m still all for it, except a chemical wall I find hard to trust has my mind scrambling, while my body is telling me She is tired of waiting.
And when you decide to stop cheating Mother Nature, the eggs are ready to go.
I don’t mean getting pregnant but ready to do what they have been waiting to do—finally release.
But the blood has been dissipating.
At fifteen, a warm gush would happen between my legs, when pads used to get soaked and I would have to change them every four hours. Twenty years later, the chemical wall has laid out bricks of unsullied pads as if waiting for rain.
No gush. No warmth. No rain.
If only we could have our cake and eat it too.
Complaints continue with the hassle of the period. The heaviness. The cramps. The bloating. The mood swings. The headaches. The leakage scares. The body’s natural way of cleansing itself every month and starting anew.
The aborting of an old self at the end of each month.
Or maybe the birthing of a new self at each beginning.
Now as each month rolls into the next, days become one month, two, three, and then fifteen years—for ambition, career, sex, travel—while the body is left weeping like a five-year-old abandoned on the swings.
Elsa Valmidiano is the author of We Are No Longer Babaylan, her debut essay collection from New Rivers Press. Her work has appeared in Cosmonauts Avenue, Anomaly, Cherry Tree, Marías at Sampaguitas, Canthius, and has been widely anthologized. She holds a JD from Syracuse Law, an MFA in Creative Writing from Mills College, and has performed numerous readings.
Bea Hayward is a mixed Ilokana and white trans girl. She is a self-taught visual artist and musician who lives with her Assyrian and Greek writer-artist girlfriend. Her work has appeared in The Brown Orient, Briarpatch, The Believer, The Washington Post, Heated, and more.