Sixty Search Dropdown Menu

Hawaiian Red Punch

12 uterus sheddings, 11 pm sneaking, 10 years crushing, 9 times kissing, 8 numbers blocking, 7 apps downloading, 6 partners in counting, 5 years of being active, 4 lap dances, 3 shrinks’ therapy, 2 assaults, and a motherfuckin’ partridge in a pear tree.

Image: Above a teal and olive green checked floor, a nude Black person floats in the air, their limbs akimbo, with a long red ribbon curling around their body and through two clean square cuts in their chest and in their hips. One ribbon also curves through their mouth and eye. Image by Summer Mills.
Image: Above a teal and olive green checked floor, a nude Black person floats in the air, their limbs akimbo, with a long red ribbon curling around their body and through two clean square cuts in their chest and in their hips. One ribbon also curves through their mouth and eye. Image by Summer Mills.

TRIGGER WARNING: This piece contains mention of sexual abuse and rape.

In fifth grade, I became a ‘woman.’ (What the fuck does that even mean?) Right before recess, my teachers Mrs. Abdo and Mrs. Frazzini-Kendrick (who probably hyphenated her name to prove that she’s a feminist) pulled me aside. All the other children went out, wild and free, to play outside while I sat in a cold metal chair in a stare-down with the teachers. Am I in trouble?

Context clue 1: both teachers wanted to talk to me instead of one. Immediate red flag. 2: I’m isolated from the pack—vulnerable like a gazelle chased by a cheetah. 3: The dreaded phrase: “We want to talk.” Ding, ding, ding! I’m in big trouble and there seems to be no way out of it. My stomach churned to the point of aching, the metal chair heated up suddenly and I began to perspire, and the lump in my throat formed. Am I being punished

“We pulled you aside to tell you that we noticed something different about you and wanted to share what we noticed with you,” they leaned in. “It seems that you’ve got your period.” It took a moment to set in. I processed things in slow-mo: echoes of “Congratulations” and “I’m so happy for you!” bounced off the walls before I could process them. I ran to the bathroom. The stall feels smaller than normal. I inspect my underwear and turn around like a dog chasing their tail to see the Hawaiian-Punch-red stain. When I get back, they hand me a black faux fur hoodie from the lost and found. I wrap it around my waist. My teachers call my dad and he picks me up.

Memories of my favorite Thanksgiving and Christmas concoction by my great aunt that included ginger ale, sherbert, and Hawaiian Punch felt like a distant memory. A memory of innocence and childhood. That part of me sank to the bottom while period stories rose to the top. That’s when I realized having a period had nothing to do with womanhood. On one hand, my body announced its grown-ness once a month, but it remained underdeveloped in other areas.

Years later, I prayed for my red stain. When I was sixteen, it disappeared. In the back of an apartment complex on E. Genesee St, I made out with a guy I wanted to be my boyfriend. Daring to sit on top with my cut-off denim shorts frayed at the edges that chafed under the weight of my thighs, I flirted with danger in the daylight and made out while straddling fully clothed. He whipped out his penis like a pistol in a Western. He said I should put my mouth around it. This is something I’ve never done. When my mouth filled up with semen, I spat it into the parking lot. He told me ‘real ones’ swallowed. I wanted to get it right so I revved up the engine for him to ego-jaculate onto my stomach and thighs. A rumor from youth group (Yeah, I was a church girl, what about it?!) swirled in my head: sperm can swim upwards, through the skin’s terrain to the uterus. I remembered that story when my period STOPPED.

My spiritual counselor grabbed a pregnancy test from the store and I grabbed an M&M McFlurry to take the edge off. Anxiety and lactose intolerance—my personal Romulus and Remus—raged in my stomach. We went to the church basement and I huddled into the individual bathroom in the kitchen. The toilet seat was cold. The minister knew too much about the intimate parts of me—that a penis got me in this predicament and the smell of my McFlurry-induced shit. When the test settled and the room stopped spinning, the test was inconclusive—worst nightmare—PERIOD!

Because of trauma, 18-19 felt like static—those years are a weird mix of fast and slow. Sometime in the static, that guy drove me around the Eastside before I went back to college. Mascara smeared like my judgment drunk on power—the power to leave my hometown and be missed and desired—my head bobbed over his dick while he cruised the car. I felt every turn and pothole.

I felt the jerk of the car STOP.

He parked on the street, away from the light. The darkness closed in. He clawed for my pussy. I lifted my head up for air.

But he pushed my head down until my larynx burned. He couldn’t hear my screams over my choking. I should’ve bit his dick. My pussy was raw and sore. There was a repeated wounding. 

This is the point of the story where you may think that I say what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger and that I shook off that trauma and kept it moving. That would be glamorous and sexy, wouldn’t it? There’s no nevertheless-she-persisted bullshit. I bawled my eyes out at my next sexual encounter. I even got a vibrator as a prescription from my therapist. Now, like a car in my rearview, I wake up drenched from nightmares. Perhaps, I fight in my dreams because that moment I froze. But I’m empowered because nothing and no one can take or own my pleasure! 

**This piece was half-written while in my burgundy huggle matching the color of my flow and the other half written to Bikini Kill.

About the author: Ruby Red is a July cancer who writes about coming of age as a queer Black woman. She loves one-hit wonders like TV shows: Why Women Kill, Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies, A League of Their Own, and Hollywood. Her writing is as if Dear God, It’s Me, Margaret was written about grown escapades with unflinching grit and the feeling of clicking Dorthy’s dazzling red slippers to escape in search of a safer, accepting home. And a dash of Sexing the Cherry!

summer headshot

About the illustrator: Summer is a printmaker, illustrator, and graphic designer from Chicago. Her work is inspired by the art nouveau movement, religious/spiritual imagery and concepts, music, and various types of literature. For her, the enjoyment of creation is the patience and trust it requires her to practice.

Related Articles