She always kept track of my cycles, although conceiving a child was the farthest thing from her mind. She need to know how her body was doing. She needed to know what her body was doing. Just as some women watch their cycles to determine the best time to try for new life, she watched her own flesh’s movements to determine the course of her oncoming life.
Paying attention to her cycles, she found:
As she neared her bleeding time, her mind cleared, and much that had been murky in the last 30 days came clear.
As she bled, she had to slow down, taking things resolutely, with much forethought and consideration.
As she finished bleeding, she had to be careful she didn’t rush too quickly into new endeavors, for her body was still taxed, her judgment not yet clear.
And when she was ovulating, she had energy enough for an army of her’s; it was a good time to write letters, plan her business for the next month, and launch projects I’d been planning for the past two weeks.
But whenever she ignored her cycles, she paid dearly.
Once, when she was just finished bleeding, she went looking for a new job. She landed a position she didn’t want and knew better than to accept. The kind of work didn’t suit her, but she accepted the offer, ignoring her better sense that told her, You don’t want this — you’re not mentally clear. Three weeks of professional conflict passed, before she realized the problem wasn’t with the job, or her new employer — it was with her. She found a different, better fitting position later, when her body was less inclined to compromise her mind.
Once, while she was in the midst of bleeding, she started the exercise regimen I’d vowed to take up after the holidays. Her zeal lasted all of a day. Too much was draining from her, already — she couldn’t spare that extra pint of sweat. Sitting, depleted, in the sauna after running three miles on a treadmill, her body wilted inward and cramps set in. The same thing happened to her mind, a few months later, when she started reading a new book in the midst of her menstruation — lying in bed, peering intently at the book propped on her chest, her mind gave one last yelp and closed down. She put the book aside; it gathered dust on her bedside table for months before she shelved it in her living room bookcase.
Right before she bled, she got into trouble, too. When she was about to menstruate, she couldn’t chance speaking to her parents. They inevitably wrangled, tussling over the phone about stupid, petty shit nobody cared about. If she made any attempt at communicating with anyone — friends, family, co-workers or neighbors — when she neared her blood, her meanings fell flat, confusion reigned, and she frightened people away with her intensity. She got too cocky, too brash, and if she wasn’t careful, she was prone to accidents. No matter how clear she was in her head, her body thought itself drunk and wouldn’t follow her brain’s directions. Her speech slurred, and she dropped or bumped into objects that normally gave her no trouble. People took her for intoxicated, when she was on the verge of bursting. Like a rubber ball left too long in the hot sun, her body pushed against itself, stretching skin, bloating tissues, nagging-nagging-nagging, while her mind raced.
But when she was ovulating, she had to be most vigilant, for her body and mind joined in a formidable alliance. A different kind of pressure built inside her, vital, virile energy swirling at the base of her skull, traveling the length of her frame. Little cramps set in to the left/right of her navel, a twinging that meant her body was shoring up the blood that would give new life to the egg traveling in her belly. Blood gathered in her womb, undulating with possibility, urging its employ in the creation of new life, carrying the substance of the species itself, into the innermost reaches of her solar plexus. There, just beneath her belly button, as her body recovered from its latest draining and reserves grew within her gut, Spirit tightened in a labyrinthine coil, waiting to spring free.
If she wasn’t ready for it, a vulgar Impulse could sneak up on her, take her by surprise, get the best of her before she realized. When she fed too richly on coffee, chocolate, and bags of oil-soaked chips from the vending machines at work, she fed the Beast.
And when she fed the Beast, she ovulated with a vengeance. Shored up by rest her womb had in the past two weeks, her body sought union with another. But that drive didn’t ask to be probed and filled, in the wise of the woman of myth, but to be the one probing and filling the other. This body of hers, which her ob/gyn assured her wanted to make a baby once a month, was driven to create — but within another, not within herself. Her desires tumbled over one another like puppies in a basket… then grew into rival dingo sibling pups, the male becoming increasingly aggressive, shoving at the female, until she gave in at play or gave up her place at a fresh-killed carcass, and let the male have his way in all things. The male prevailed.
In her body, that active impulse waited, pressed up against the boundaries of her flesh with the patience of a practiced voyeur. On the face of every woman she passed on the street, she seemed to detect a shade of hunger, just the slightest hint of undernourished female libido. It lurked in the distant stares of passers-by. The smallest ineffectually resigned wave at a disappearing taxicab signaled a lacking love life. The most mundane turn of a heel was an open invitation. The women she passed on the street looked like animals at feeding time, awaiting their keeper to toss slabs of dripping meat to them, safe on the other side of the bars of their cages.
Her eye instinctively sought them out — the ones who looked so sad and injured and endangered in their wafting skirts and thin-heeled, impractical shoes, who adjusted their hats in the indifferent wind and looked apprehensively at their reflections in the plate glass windows they passed. Who reached instinctively for lipstick or blush to cover a flaw, a weakness, an oversight, who gazed with longing, if only for a fleeting moment, at the glamour of department storefront displays — transported for an aching instant into the midst of the mannequins, in their minds becoming one of them — cold, aloof, untouchable, oblivious, adored. Those women, the ones who paraded their wants without knowing it, were the Other, the objects of her desire, every 28-30 days.
It came like clockwork, her awareness of willing women. She could all but set her watch by her burgeoning desire, the shortened intervals of her blood-to-loins rush between attractive women she passed. One day, she felt the egg move while she was sitting in traffic, and her stomach jumped at the sight of a gorgeous, honey-tressed woman sitting across from her in a yellow Mercedes. The other driver looked over and smiled, and she blushed as the blood ran to her fingers and hips.
The sight of that stranger’s smile stayed with her the rest of the day, and in her dreams that night, she came to her, carrying a leather wallet filled with parchment sheets. When she opened the package, the woman smiled wistfully and disappeared. Painted in broad brush strokes on the fine, tawny paper was a map of a land filled with rugged terrain, swamps, and expansive valleys. She ran her hand over the paper, feeling raised mountains, depressed valleys, feathery fields. And as her fingertips brushed the paper, it burst into flame at her touch, not burning her, but sending currents of energy through her fingers, up her arms. The electricity lodged where her skull and neck joined; spinning in tight circles, humming quietly, then traveling down her backbone and flashing at the base of her spine. She woke in a sweat, the sheets damp and clinging to her. She wanted to reach down and melt into the heat the dream had started in her loins, but sleep pulled her back in, and she barely noticed her alarm clock’s shriek, spinning and spinning and burning as the landscape mapped out before her did was not reduced to gray ash, but glowed in a solid ember of untraveled, inviting wilderness.
To be continued…