what is a girl?


six drops of blood. the girl stands above the toilet seat, one leg on either side – an uncomfortable stance, but one that she must hold a little while longer. crouched on the ground, knees red and prickling from stillness, is her mother. the girl focuses her gaze on the painting in the hotel bathroom, tiger lilies against a black backdrop, as if even in the dark, their vibrant orange could be visible. her mother’s heads hangs down. as she examines the debris in the toilet, she tugs between the girl’s thighs. almost done, her mother says quietly. the girl cannot respond in language, but grunts a reply to both the tugging and to her mother’s comment. she gazes into the illuminated lilies, holding back the question that repeats in her mind, why didn’t you help me sooner? then a sliding sensation between her thighs, a filling up.


five drops of blood. the girl sits on the toilet seat, the bottoms of her thighs red and numb from stillness. she runs through her list of options, but each one sounds worse than the last. she feels something dripping out of her, but is too afraid to look at what it is. unable to focus her gaze, the girl taps her fingers on her knees, ten times on each side, then repeats it until she reaches sixty taps. a dull pain swells inside of her abdomen and she leans down, torso touching thighs. without meaning for it to be so, a muffled groan moves past her lips. a knock on the door, is everything okay in there, sweetie?


four drops of blood. the girl watches her mother fish something out of her backpack. her mother’s cheeks are flushed, so the girl’s cheeks flush in response, meeting shame with shame. the car pulls into the hotel parking lot. her mother finds what she was looking for and asks, you know what to do with it? the girl stares at the cylindrical object in her hand, wondering if she is no longer a girl. she nods, opens the car door, and jogs to the hotel room. she knows she must go to the bathroom, she knows she must remove her pants, but after that, she does not know.


three drops of blood. the girl’s legs carry her along the trail but her mind feels absent from her body. the trees become a dizzying, green blur. the smell of the woods overwhelms her nostrils. she wants to sit down and rest. she wants to find a warm pool of water to lay down in, wants the water to clean her, wants the warmth to ease her pain. her mother stops moving ahead of her. the girl refuses the act of eye contact as she takes tiny steps forward but keeps her body facing toward her mother, not looking but not turning away. her mother says, we’re almost back to the car. are you okay? the girl takes several steps. she is close to her mother now, close enough to whisper, i have something i need to tell you.


two drops of blood. the girl staggers up the hill. as soon as her mother sees her, she begins to hike again. the girl stands still on the trail for a moment and looks down at the earth cataloguing what she sees: a small grey stone, a flattened pink flower, and to the left of her feet, a bright yellow banana slug. holding her hand to her abdomen, she watches the slug pull itself away from her on the trail. her mother calls back to her, hurry up, sweetie! the girl’s face grows red and hot. she says nothing, takes a step forward, then hesitates. she looks down, hoping to see the slug one last time, but it isn’t there. only a glittering trail of mucus remains.


one drop of blood. the girl loves the smell of the woods in this state. it’s much wetter in washington than it is in colorado, so the smell of hiking is less pine and more dirt. dull pain suddenly explodes in her abdomen. she presses her hand to her stomach, hoping the pressure and warmth of her hand will ease it. bladder filled, the girl asks her mother to wait and heads down a hill to find a private tree. pants pulled down, she crouches near the sweet smelling earth and begins to piss. as always when in the woods, the girl imagines the worst – a bear behind her, a snake beneath her. having frightened herself, she stops pissing before she is finished and stands quickly. she wipes herself with a wad of toilet paper that was stashed in her backpack. Looking down, alarm replaces the pain in her abdomen – a drop of blood on the toilet paper and while she has a vague idea of what it means, she has no idea how to proceed.



before the blood, the girl is just a girl.

Lauren Samblanet is a poet who is working on her MFA at Temple University. Her poems have been published in the Vassar Review, Walkabout and Adanna, and a dance-radio collaboration with Skye Hughes was published on Colorado Public Radio’s website.

Submit a comment