I knock over a little cardboard box, a pamphlet flutters to the floor. I unfold the diagram, then quickly lock the bathroom door. I’m eleven years old and I feel like I’ve discovered a treasure map. The instructions are for tampons, the kind with no applicator. A cartoonish illustration shows a cutaway of a finger guiding a little cotton bullet up a tunnel. I sit on the toilet and poke between my legs and slip my finger upwards. There’s a hole there!
I grab a handful of the pellets, fold the instructions into a tight little square, then bike over to my friend Misty’s house. Showing her my contraband, I tell her we have holes between our legs. Misty calls me a dope, her mom already told her about vaginas. Running into the bathroom, she comes back with some of her mom’s tampons. These are a lot longer, the cotton is on a cardboard thing, and we try to figure out how that works.
We lay on her bed, pulling the covers over our heads in case someone comes in. “You go first!” “No, you go first!” we shriek. We decide to go at the same time. The little tubes push in between our legs, the white cardboard slides out tinged pink with blood. “I think I just got my period,” I whisper. Misty tugs on the dangling string, then I do the same. Peeking out the door, we run to the bathroom and throw them in the toilet. We watch them bloom into big white puffs then flush them away.
The rest of the summer we have sleepovers. We hide under blankets, sliding tampons into each other. Sometimes we blow on each others flat chests, or lick our fingers and touch each others tiny nipples. Once we even try kissing, but decide that’s what you’re supposed to do with boys, so we don’t do it again.
Another lifetime later, I run into Misty at the grocery store. We go out for beers and talk about the old neighborhood. She asks if that summer really happened, wonders if she imagined the whole thing. Then Misty tells me she’s bisexual and she blames me for it.