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April 21, 2024

You (a Lady)

Sarah Bradley

You (a lady) got your period at ten years old. You were in the fitting room at Ross Dress for Less. You looked in the mirror and saw the sticky red bloom growing between your dimpled thighs. You didn’t tell your mom. You put your clothes back on and left.

You (a lady) got your first boyfriend at thirteen. One Sunday you took the bus to his house. You wore a tight, low-cut shirt. You thought you looked like a woman, not a girl. When he opened the door, you knew you were right. You spent hours rolling around on his plush beige carpet, rubbing and grinding ecstatically. The sun was going down as you walked back to the bus stop, your face on fire from his pimply teenage stubble. You didn’t know the bus stopped running early on Sundays. It spit you out in a strange neighborhood, miles away from home. A man in an old Ford pickup kept circling, rolled down his window to offer you a ride. He had a nice smile. You still don’t remember how you got home.

You (a lady) were fourteen and home alone (your mom worked nights). You were getting ready for bed when someone knocked on your front door. You waited for them to go away, but they kept on knocking. You threw a robe over your flimsy t-shirt. As you approached the door, you heard them say not to open it, that someone was watching outside your bedroom window. They said to call 911, so you did. An officer came to check out the scene. There were signs of disturbance outside your window. Your blinds were closed, but the officer told you they were turned the wrong way, you could see right through them. He said it like you should have known this, like it was all your fault.

You (a lady) were fifteen when the boy who sat behind you in English II reached forward and put his hand on your breast. You were wearing a tight red sweater. You knew how it looked. He touched you very gently, not squeezing, just stroking your nipple. Eventually he withdrew his hand and passed you a note: “Is this okay?” You read it and said nothing. You didn’t really know him. He put his hand back.

You (a lady) lost your virginity at sixteen, on prom night. You mistook cliché for destiny, not for the first time or the last. You felt very little, aside from relief—like yanking out your last baby tooth. You tried to stay quiet; your mom was asleep on the other side of the wall. You remember a sense of pressure, a mild discomfort. You wondered, afterward, why there was no blood.