A Desperate Georgia O’Keeffe by Christy Kato

I have a gynecologist appointment today. I’m scared, strangely. And I’m just now realizing that I’m not scared of my doctor per say, or the sterile smell, or the plethora of expired magazines, or the bubbled-bellies of the women sitting next to me, or the crinkle of the paper under my naked lower half, or the way my youthful blue toenails look next to a graying head, or the way I feel I’m being pulled open and explored like a crime scene often disrupted. But I’m just now realizing that I’m scared of what lives between my legs. We share a heartbeat.

I remember all of my friends getting their periods. I remember girls whispering about how Sarah uses tampons, not pads like the rest of us – of them. I remember girls shuffling off to the bathroom with their little purses wrapped around their bodies, like sashes of womanhood draped across their chests. How desperately I wanted to wear the same, display the same.

It’s almost comedic, how many times I’ve told men I believe I’m infertile. It’s just a feeling, I say – to myself or to them. It’s because I don’t understand what shares a heartbeat with me. And if I can’t understand that, how would I ever understand a child inside of me?

I thought getting my period would make me feel in sync with my body. It might help me understand. Why do my elbows ache when I put my weight on them? Why do my thumbs swell up in the morning? Why do my teeth feel scratchy when I chew on ice? Why did my body tremble when I climbed the rope in gym class? I quake at the thought of anyone else exploring the part of me I share a heartbeat with. You don’t have to do that, I always offer. Maybe it’s more so Please let me understand that part of me before you do; let me explore this uncharted territory on my own.

My aunt and uncle have a big house on the outskirts of the city. Old and beautiful and complete with additions. They’ve owned it my whole life, and yet I still have dreams where I’m exploring dark corners of the house. I never manage to construct a complete correlation between corridors. I think I idolize its enigmatic appeal. But if given the opportunity to pass through each doorway, I’m unsure if I would.

My period has never been normal. “You’re lucky,” I recall my friends telling me. “It’s always once a month for me, and like floodgates.” They wanted the way my body rarely decided to mourn its loss of possibility. And somehow I found myself sobbing in back bathroom stalls because my body refused to evolve. I don’t understand why I still find myself crying, though I’ve achieved this sense of womanhood I so desperately cried out for. Why do I suddenly stumble upon myself sitting in the shower like that? Or why am I standing at the gas pump like that? People can see you, I have to tell myself. And still, I’m crying. I’m happy, there’s nothing for me to be stressed about. And still, I’m crying in the grocery store. Maybe I need to talk to somebody.

“I had my period every other week when I was living in Florida,” I told my gynecologist once while staring at the porous ceiling tiles, looking for a pattern when there was only chaos.  She didn’t have an answer. “No real reason to be concerned,” I recall her saying as she closed my legs like she was done with her afternoon reading.

Perhaps my fear of that part of my body could be attributed to a violation. Or violations. I wonder if there’s a place they’re piling up, like parking tickets on a dusty dashboard. Like a dusty dashboard left abandoned in an otherwise empty lot on the edge of a dense wood. Like a dense wood that holds a needle in the haystack, abandoned and waiting to be sorrowfully discovered. A body once kissed and touched and held and loved, now swinging like drying meat on display.

I keep desperately trying to pay these violations off in whatever ways I can. Three glasses of Hendricks and a desperately generous tip. A desperately warm smile at the stringy girl waiting in my therapist’s office. A collected face and back turned to the funeral, desperate handkerchiefs stashed up my sleeves. The desperate clown. Desperate to understand and possibly distract.

I think I’ve digressed. I’m terrified of the creature that lives between my legs, the thing I share a heartbeat with. The monster and victim all in one. I want to love it, to proudly march down a crowded D.C. street for it. But here I am, telling myself I’m scared of the sterile smell that tugs to attention the hairs on my arms, of the magazines haphazardly stacked waiting for someone to make a move, of the tiny babies struggling to win their little wars in the womb, of the vulnerability of my station on that damn paper, of the practically faceless who’s searching for the details of my personal fortress, of the tool being prepared to pull me apart, of the way I’m being held open and explored like the crime scene I am. All instead of admitting I don’t understand the thing that supposedly defines me. We share a heartbeat.

Christy Kato is a 2018 Acting and Theatre BFA graduate from Towson University. She maintains a “very personal” blog that serves as a cathartic outlet for herself, but was created to encourage others to share their personal stories of struggle and growth. This is her first publication.

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