I didn’t tell him I wasn’t actually on period when we were last together. The blood he saw wasn’t menstrual. Though, he might have known it himself, I wasn’t too sure. I always assumed that men were clueless about these female stuff but for a man who had cohabited with a college sweetheart for 8 years, he might have been able to tell I was lying, that the stain on his bed sheet was too fresh and red to be menstrual. It was red like the lipsticks I wore that night and the two nights earlier.
I think I need to tell you what had happened the two nights earlier to help you understand this story. My life since I turned 23 had felt like a perpetually fast forwarded video tape. Things happened quickly and I was constantly in the middle of something major, which left me little time to process my emotions. Maybe I’d just been so overwhelmed by it all that I could no longer register the magnitude of the pain I was supposed to feel. Or maybe I just had nothing to feel at all.
First, my grandfather passed away after a three-year battle with cancer. I was closer to him than to my own parents. The anticipation of his death, however, meant at least I was rightfully prepared for the event. I didn’t cry during the funeral. I kept my mouth and feelings sealed. And since it helped, it just sort of became a convenient habit. Like, two months later when my so-called bestfriend of five years got married and didn’t send me a word, I nonchalantly watched it happen from her social media without so much as a double tap. What’s worse is that I didn’t even know if I’d actually cared.
I didn’t know if I’d actually cared about a lot of things then. Shitty things hit me one after another and I just stared at the phone screen with two lazy eyes. Popping up on it was a long text. The man I’d been seeing, Matt, told me he wasn’t looking for a relationship with me and he would like us to be friends. I’d only been with him for less than a month so there wasn’t much to discuss. Surely we had some lovely moments and I was disappointed they had to end but I genuinely didn’t have any real reason to hold onto him either. I said okay, thinking whether I should also cheekily tell him to shove the word ‘friends’ up his ass. But I didn’t because he was a nice guy and it would sound bitter and I wasn’t bitter. I was just cool.
To be honest, it alarmed me a little to fully take in how cool I was about the whole situation. My anxiety didn’t even bother to show up anymore and weirdly enough, it made me feel uncomfortably less human. It’s not like I wanted to have anxiety. But right then, being able to say okay so lightheartedly, I was just like the rest of them. I was just the textbook modern day chick who has mastered the business-like approach to love and life, who scoots from one dinner table to another until she finds someone worthwhile, and while it’s not a bad thing — heck, it might be the best thing one could do, it was just foreign to me.
There’s something unjustified and slightly disturbing about being able to indifferently let emotional events pass you by. I felt like a machine that might have broken down somewhere. Or I was just a machine. Though I suspect this might just be the way things should be as you age and are accustomed to the occurrences of life. This might be the carefree, smooth sailing world I’d never got to see before while being clouded by anxiety. And it was okay. It was great. The only thing I had to do then was to accept it. To not be afraid to be a different me, more evolved me. To learn to handle this new hardened identity at the trickily young age of 23.
Slowly to my realisation, I started to see my behaviours and intentions clearer. I started to break attachments. I started to be the kinda girl who did things and found few reasons to look back. I didn’t really look back. Even when I found myself at square one again, I forced myself to be at the emotional place I should be and kept putting on my favourite lipsticks and getting myself out there. I kept looking for pieces of me and the expansions of them in conversations and drinks and dinners and deep kisses. It was just in my instinct. My instinct didn’t have anxiety. I didn’t have anxiety, at least not as much. And without anxiety, my acts were clean. I was cool. I just had… habits.
At 10 pm on a random Tuesday night, I crawled back to the bed of Steven, a man with whom I knew I had no business to be, yet had formed a habit. I craved. I was 23 and my life seemed kinda messy in a no nonsense way. It was still new to me that without anxiety, I didn’t care about a lot of things. I didn’t care if people left or if my texts were unanswered. I didn’t care if a negative outcome would ruin many associated moments in my memory. I knew for a fact that each moment was always complete and whatever I felt was valid. I honoured it. Sometimes I unknowingly settled for it. I was in bed with that man and I felt like I couldn’t get any better. I might be wrong but the moment was always right. Even the next one when I excused myself to go to the bathroom and found a cloth of dark brown blood in my panties.
I told him I had to go. He was confused and naked so he couldn’t stop me. I was gone fast. My instinct led me to see my local doctor. Slightly raising my eyebrows, I was told I had a chemical pregnancy. Well, a very early miscarriage. My doctor asked me gently if the father knew about this. My answer, not surprisingly, would officially mark another, if not the most, shitty event of my 23, to which I didn’t know how to appropriately react. Well, it was what I meant by ‘what had happened the two nights earlier’ — the context of my bloodstain. It worried me that I had been so calm, that the next day I had gone to work like normal, still wearing my favourite red lipsticks, then the evening after next I came back to see Steven and casually told him, sorry, I’d just had my period, and there was nothing to worry about.
He seemed to believe it as he saw the blood stain on his bed sheet. I hoped he didn’t find out it wasn’t actually period blood but was in fact my nosebleed. Sorry, the plot had just thickened. I wasn’t exactly calm. I was more numbed by the excessive alcohol and drugs I’d taken within those two days. I was aware they weren’t the best coping method, I just didn’t expect them to get so bad that they would cause the nosebleed. I didn’t know where my instinct had gotten me into. I didn’t realise I was so tough but also so hurt, so weak, so lonely, so tired, so desperate for genuine love, for a bestfriend. It hit me so blatantly hard that I’d grown out of young things, of instincts at 10pm and I was done with being told ‘I don’t choose you’… especially by myself. I might not be anxious but I did care very much after all.
Actually I had known that for a long time, I just hadn’t got the wake-up call I needed until then to break out of my own vicious patterns. I was a good girl. I just had a lot of bad habits, which at the time had felt like they were the only choices. But they weren’t, and I wanted to be good. See, kids like me, we went on these journeys alone and it wasn’t easy. We just had to consciously choose ourselves and choose to do better things all the time. 10pm was cool, kinky sex was cool, cuddling with good men who were only meh about me was kinda shit but also cool. I was and would always be up for fun, crazy stuff, for taking chances because it was in my DNA. I just wanted to do it with a same-heart person who chose me and chose to be in with me, to whose life I would be a long-time witness and vice versa. And eventually, I wanted to stop having to come to my local doctor alone, especially when it involved, well, blood.
Soon enough, I put a stop to my habitual trips back to Steven’s. I would never again want to accidentally open his second bedroom’s door while he was in the shower to find out his college sweetheart’s stuff still cluttered in there and got a weird jealous feeling — definitely not after the bloodstain incident. I also deleted a lot of numbers in my contact list. When it came to Matt, for a second, I considered telling him that perhaps we could enjoy each other physically as I remembered the magical butterflies attached to his kisses and embraces. However, I was instantly reminded that his body had only felt so good at the time because of the believable possibility that he might have chosen me, which as we all know, wasn’t the reality. So I was cool with not having anymore of that. I was confident I could be patient and do better.
It dawned on me that growing up isn’t necessarily learning new things. Sometimes it’s opening your eyes to things you already know in a more meaningful, multi-dimensional way. It’s like unwrapping an old idea to find new brilliant ones at the very core of it. It’s like waking up with a clear head from a long dreamy sleep. It’s like being a brand new person just by being truer to the human you are.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. All names and events are fictitious.