That thing.

That thing we don’t like to talk about. That thing nobody wants to hear. That thing that grabs my insides, and twists them until I’m curled up like a songololo. We all have at least one – a thing – that in families is rewritten until obliterated from our history. Except it sits, like a rotting toad in our bellies, fermenting until our gut sours, making us ill. Yes, that thing. Whatever it is for you, and it might be more than one thing, or six, or ten.

Me, I’m not supposed to talk about my pain. Every month. It rides in on my monthly menstruation, making me want to vomit. I get the runs so bad, and it even hurts to pee. But everyone keeps telling me to be quiet; that this is just a normal part of being a woman. My big sister Bianca rolled her eyes the first time I tried to say anything. “Don’t be so dramatic. Take a Panado and you’ll be fine.”

Clutching my belly, I penguin-walked over to Ma. She looked up from her phone and gave a big sigh. “Melody, you’re fine. Quit whining. What do you think will happen when you have a baby? Now that’s pain.”

So I keep quiet, and try to bear it. Even when I feel my eyes crossing, it hurts so much. And every month I have to scrape together my change, because Ma never buys enough pads.

“These are expensive, hey?” Ma said. “You should only be using seven to ten a month.”

I stared at her, opened mouthed. On my heaviest days I can go through three in an hour. “Ma, I need more.”

She shook her head. “You want to use them like toilet paper, then you need to get a job.”

“But where would I get a job?”

“Go ask the tannies. They need errands done all the time. Maybe they’ll have work for you.”

It was humiliating, knocking on doors, asking these little old ladies, and big old ladies, all alone without husbands or children around, if they needed anything. “You want money just to do your Christian duty?!” Mevrou Phillips screeched. “You kids should be helping your elders, not trying to take money from people on fixed incomes!”

I was so embarrassed. But if I didn’t find a way to get more pads, I would have blood dripping down my legs. How would I go to school on those days? How would I play hockey?

So I kept knocking and knocking, and getting yelled at, or scolded. Or, with poor Mevrou February, so confused, who just kept saying, “But I paid the municipality. My bank, my bank has it all set up. I tell you, I go to the bank …”

“Yes, Mevrou February, yes. I’m sure it’s fine,” I had to say, as I slowly backed away.

Last tannie to try was Mevrou Jacobs. Everyone says she’s a witch, because her eyes are this blue-milky-white. But I knocked on her door, because there was nothing else I could do.

“My dear,” she said, “I already have somebody who comes in twice a week to help me. My son arranges it.”

I couldn’t help it. I tried not to cry, to just say, “I understand,” but my voice cracked on the last syllable and the tears leaked out.

“Now, now,” Mevrou Jacobs said. She tilted her eerie blue-white gaze at my face, but it was slightly off, like she was focused on my ear. “Come, come. Maybe I need to hear more about this over a cup of tea.”


Tell us: Have you ever had a parent not ‘hear you’ about something important?