by Indira Ganesan
You remember to take it back, but not until you are sitting in detention. Your anger has lasted that long. When after gym, someone peeked over your stall while you were changing your pad, already feeling clumsy and inadequate and wanting to speed up the process, you shouted. The girl wanted to know who was in there, and maybe she was looking for her friends but found you, back when there were no quick adhesives but the flimsy elastic band with hooks, the threading through, and now, a privacy violated. So you hurled back some words. Did you really say, I’ll get you, when I come out? I’m going to get you; did you say that? Like a gunslinger? Because when you did come out, the matter already forgotten in your mind, because all that apparatus occupied you, and you were washing your hands, the blows came. One after the other, from the girl, her friends, and there you were, getting beaten up, and you were told, when the teacher separated you, that you started it, because you did. You were marched to Room 4, someone, the principal, had the two of you sit there in quiet. And you apologized, you said, I’m sorry, because you got scared, you recognized the consequences, and how your parents would most likely be called in. The girl didn’t answer, already sussing out what a weak-willed girl you were, teacher’s pet, but all that happened was that you were let go. Was this in junior high? Yes. Were you twelve? And later, in the staircase, the friends tried to trip and shove you and succeeded, and a teacher intervened, this time, making you blameless. And you thought that was the end of it until the spring, walking home from school with a friend, you laughed at someone and some other girl thought you were laughing at her, and began to punch you as you walked away. You did not resist or taunt, but kept walking, and she kept coming at you, punching your back, and you thought it would stop, but she kept coming and coming, and hitting and hitting. Your back flinched in anticipation, but the blows came as surprises anyway. And your parents when they heard thought it was time to move from the neighborhood and buy a house, and though by the next year, the girl who was a friend said to you and to the other girls, though you didn’t know that, said so-and-so doesn’t hate you anymore, and that meant that something had shifted. But you moved anyway, the plans having been made. You loved your friends, you knew some from third grade, but mid-term, you moved to another town. You weren’t innocent: you had been in fights before that gym incident, but only one, with a bigger boy, though you were a girl. But then you tamped it down, refusing to be angry, for years and years, but it all came barreling out one year, when you were mad at the world and the world, curiously, wasn’t mad at you, merely baffled. Life intervened, and the years went by, and though you still have a temper, you try not to show it. Did it really take menopause for the roar inside of you, the hurt roar, the angry roar, to transform? You still try to balance the need to voice your opinion and diplomacy, and your roar comes and goes, and if you are lucky, finds itself on the page. It awes you still, the roar of a woman’s voice. You are still amazed at the power of a woman’s roar, even those of the girls from so long ago. Because it seems you were all fighting for a chance to be heard. Just the other day, a woman let open her mouth and sang into a stairwell, making the walls vibrate with sound. You stopped, listened, half-afraid for her being reprimanded for singing in public, but she just continued, full throttle.