You like to discover little details about me, no? Here’s one. I wash my crotch twice when I’m on my period. I’ve been doing this for so long that it’s automatic now, no thinking required. The lather is always pink on the first rinse, and a little rotten-smelling (yes of course I sniff at it, I’m a sniffer — thought you knew that detail by now). Anyway, I soap again, the lather is creamy white the second time around, I wash it away and get on with the rest of my bath.
And now (lucky you) a bonus detail — for some months, not long ago, something splendid wedged itself between rinse one and rinse two. I was lathering vigorously today when the memory of that other, short-lived habit rose up through the suds.
I would do the first rinse as usual, cleaning away the oxidized maroon gunk from in between my thighs. Then I would take a deep breath and slide a finger into my vagina for some of the fresh stuff, the bright red sauce my finger would come back out coated in. And then I would bring that up to my face and take another breath. The deepest breath of all time. The first inhale of the day hits the hardest, the first inhale of the month doubly so. That same briney wallop of a sea breeze, only less salty, more rusty, ah how do I say it —
— wait, let me run to the bathroom to sniff at the primary source — no it’s too late, my sixth day, only a sour hint of pee now — reaching back into memory then —
— a deeply ferrous tang, I guess you could call it. Seductive like flowers or the night air, but think richer, funkier — like sweat-drenched silk or too much attar. I would breathe that in, over and over and over, and it would fill me with a pleasure that is proving visceral to remember but impossible to describe.
Perhaps this would be easier to convey if you were living as I was at that time. Imagine: you spend all your time in what can be called a colourless, odourless apartment. You may interact with another human for around sixty seconds this week, and if you do, it’ll be with two masks on. All you smell is the freshness of laundry, and the dull creaminess of bottled curry paste (in which you cook vegetables that smell of nothing). The only produce with any bouquet is a bunch of mint. You stuff your face into it, and immediately regret doing that because it hasn’t been double-sanitized and left out to disinfect overnight. This is the sort of spare scent-scape in which you stand a heightened chance of observing and appreciating the twang of your own menstrual blood.
It amuses me that I plunge into my vagina for this delight. You know I don’t otherwise go there in pursuit of pleasure. My lips have been gloriously sufficient for as long as I can recall, for longer than I’ve been menstruating, and up until now, my periods were only a dampener when it came to my rich finger life. If I ever did play around during that time of the month, it was in spite of my period, because a daydream or a conversation with you snowballed into something luscious and unrefusable. I would likely pause long enough to spread a towel out below me, and would certainly run to the sink and wash up afterwards, holding the bloody fingers aloft until I did.
But now I find myself here, in this white-tiled bathroom lit with slant rays of mild spring sunshine, reaching inside time and again for one last hit, no, one more final hit, of this bottomless ruby glory that presses me up against the wall, that arches my back, that undoes every knot of tension and boredom in my belly. It is a full release and a reliable one, and I find I can plumb its depths for a good deal more. I tell myself to only ride the magic wave, not question it — but of course I will question, because I want this, this pleasure that I have discovered all on my own, that I pursued without anyone telling me that it is something I might or must like, I want it to explain something intrinsic and virtuous about me.
There surely isn’t any virtue involved here, but at least there isn’t any murkiness either — a kink for me to treasure, it seems, one so untethered from any sense I have of myself that it comes with no connotation, positive or negative. Someone else may tangle this up with desires to birth, to mother, to nurture, but I know enough of myself to understand that isn’t it — it’s an alive-and-kicking-ness for sure, but one that’s all mine. If anything, it conjures visions of some deity, Kali dancing atop the world.
Now many moons later, I roam the scent-ient world with a mask stuffed into my back pocket, and my period is once again a minor nuisance instead of a major sensation. I luxuriate instead in the silky salty note of your skin after a game of badminton, or (sincere apologies for the juxtaposition) in the ripe bouquet of pig’s blood before I slurp from my bowl of boat noodles. For now I lean back, my pleasure powering past the discomfort of the cold hard tile wall, and soak in the scent for a little bit, before I start the second rinse.