I locked the white door behind me and tucked the spare key behind the hardware box and yellow bubble wands. The girls' laughter still rang in my ears. They didn't say much of a goodbye when they left for their friends' houses, but they probably didn't realize the extent of it. Children are never good at foreshadowing. I envied how much they lived stubbornly in the present and how innocence didn't bother them. I already missed the smell of their house, like laundry detergent, a bag of candy and something else. Something elegant and expensive and motherly.
An hour later, I sat in my apartment, eating pistachios and watching reality shows. I purposely dropped shells on the floor so I'd have to get down on my knees later to clean it up. I liked to clean up. It gave me the sense that I was doing something important. I would probably never see them again. I babysat regularly for several different families and while some children were just likable, those three I loved unconditionally. Every thing they said and did enthralled me. I felt most complete with them sitting on my back as we watched television, sharing chips and cereal. Their soft brown hair on the crooks of my arms, their paint-stained fingers on the back of my neck, their big eyes and unconditional smiles so close to my own.
By the time I turned eighteen, I had realized that something was undeniably wrong with me. All my friends already had their periods, had been having them for years. Every time they moaned about cramps or bloodstains, I wished I could switch places with them. I'd stand behind the group of them applying mascara and would pick one and stare hard. I stopped breathing and concentrated on where her soul might be. I was amused by my own desperation.
Ironically, the first person my mother took me to see was a pediatrician. My mother wasn't the smartest woman. That Sunday made me depressed, looking at all the flushed, pregnant women, proud grandparents and giggling toddlers. A particular woman caught my interest. She was short and no more than a twig. Her belly was so round and hard that it looked fake, like she glued a basketball to her stomach.
The other girls always looked so flushed and round, even those skinner than me. There was just something about the way they held themselves, the way they flung their hair and thrust their hips. Their bodies oozed of sexuality and their eyes shone with maternity. Within me, I felt a disconnection between the organs located in my abdominal area. It felt like a void, bigger than an ulcer, a place where my skeleton hands liked to reach in and finger the edges in my dreams.
I rolled my eyes at my reflection and picked up the keys. Don't think about it anymore. Go out. Look at the sky. Smell the roasted nuts in the air. I slammed the door behind me hard and it awakened me a little. The air tasted murky and the sky shone bluer than normal this late at night.
On the subway on my way to nowhere, a guy watched me. He wore a stained red shirt and smelled of grease and fries. He reminded me of a 600-piece puzzle. I used to do those for hours, lose myself in the vibrant colors and straight edges and different shapes. It healed me, made me forget the year I was fourteen.
That year, my parents had to hire a tutor for me. I religiously failed every math quiz during eighth grade. The tutor was a college student whose head almost touched the fan hanging from the triangular ceiling of our living room. He had lovely blue eyes and he was nice. I almost told him about how the day that I stayed after school to talk about joining math club, my math teacher locked the door and slid his hands up my skirt. "How did you go from Bs your whole life to Fs?" my mom had asked at the end of the quarter. "How did you miss more than half of the classes? Where did you go? What did you do?" She shook my shoulders as if it had to be my fault.
The subway stopped at City Hall and a guy in a white suit with headphones walked in. I looked at the way he leaned against the metal pole and dug my nails into my palms. Make me a different person, if only I can spend the rest of my life with you, carefree and lively, the way I know you are, the way she should be, rich, clean, motivated, full, and beautiful beyond belief.
At fifteen, I thought I got my period. It was thick and I was on the floor with pain. When I woke up, I was staring at bland walls with muffled television voices drifting in from the next room. Every inch of me ached. My mom wouldn't talk to me for weeks. We never spoke of it since. I remembered staring at my doctor's tongue as he talked but I had no recollection of his words.
That day after several examinations and tests, with my mom hovering near the doorway, my doctor asked me, "Where's your uterus?"
The guy in the red shirt followed me out of the sliding, metal doors and I let him. We walked up the stairs, the people going down parting for us like a sea of blurred, mundane colors. I almost wanted to slow down and slip my hand into his, tell him it was okay. He looked lonely, uncomfortable, left out, and passively angry. I maneuvered around the police officers and soldiers with their big guns, being careful not to lose him in the chaos.
I walked down fourteen blocks until the streets turned empty before I turned into an alley with motorcycles parked to the right and sturdy crates stacked to the left. I sat down and waited for him. The ground felt wet and warm. My heart vibrated, almost like excitement. I wondered if he'd tell me what he was missing if I asked.