Ella stifled a groan as she saw the unmistakable sign of her monthly visitor (a whole two days too early). Mumbling under her breathe, she reached for the handy little purple and pink box she kept under the sink full of the essentials; tampons of various sizes, personal wipes (which felt just great in lei of regular old toilet paper), and thick, bulky overnight pads. Ella fumbled for a whole minute before realizing there was not a single tampon in her handy little box.
Resolving to pick up a small box of Tampax at the bodega on the corner, Ella begrudgingly peeled the paper off the back of one of the bulky overnight pads, stuck it in place, and threw away the wrapper. Ella exited the bathroom, closing the door behind her. The last thing she wanted now was Fluffer-Nutter, her tan and fluffy Main Coon, getting into the trash and pulling the paper wrapper out and tearing it to pieces in her living room. She grabbed her keys, debit card, and iPhone as she headed out the door.
Stepping into the late fall breeze awoke Ella in a way her morning tea never could; suddenly, she was regretting her quick exit from her apartment without a hoodie.
The five-minute walk to the corner bodega only took about three minutes, as Ella wrapped her arms around her and stubbornly forged ahead. Once, she almost ran into another pedestrian, but moved aside just in time as he barricaded down the middle of the concrete sidewalk. Ella seemed to always be the one to move aside for others in this city; especially the men, she thought.
The tiny bell over the door rang annoyingly as Ella opened the door to the little corner store. The store keeper leaned ever so slightly over the counter to see who came in, saw Ella, and leaned back, his head disappearing behind a tower of stacked chip bags. While only three other customers occupied space in the store, Ella had a hard time navigating the aisles to get to her desired section.
Every square inch of the little store was utilized to its fullest potential, and then some. Three aisles were crammed in to a space that could really only hold two. Each rack of the aisles were stuffed to the hilt with chips, candy, snack cakes, and beef jerky. The side wall opposite of the check -out counter were freezers and cooler units holding soda, milk, eggs, what could pass as fruit, and some questionable sushi. Shelves hung half -heartedly on the back wall of the store held just about every basic household item one could buy including very specific personal care items.
“Excuse me. Sorry, ‘scuse me” Ella mumbled as she attempted to squeeze past each of the other customers pulling her arms in to make her as small as possible. Stopping at the small section of teal, pink, purple, and green boxes at the back of the store, Ella paused to find the brand she preferred. The section did not boast many options, but enough to cause Ella a minute of visual inspection to find just the right box she needed. As she reached for the familiar teal box, she felt a hand on either of her shoulders. One of the other customers was walking past her by way of holding her shoulders and slightly moving her out of his way.
Are you freaking kidding me?
Ella turned around and opened her mouth to protest this intrusion of personal space. As she saw the large man who had now moved past her, she promptly pressed her lips back together. No one else in the store saw this intrusion, and if they did, they saw no problem with it. Quickly, Ella thought of the possible repercussions of raising any kind of protest. Most likely she would just be told it was “no big deal”, or to “get over it”; probably even asked to “stop making a big deal over nothing”. But at worst? Who knows. It wouldn’t be the first time a woman was hurt after protesting a man’s touch. Ella didn’t think she would be hurt in this bodega, but she did have a good walk to take to get back to her apartment. Where she lived alone. Not to mention, there were more than a couple little alley ways between this bodega and the safety of her warm living room.
It shouldn’t have to be like this.
With her adrenaline pumping, and anxiety kicking in like an Epi-pen injection after a bee sting, Ella picked up her box of tampons and headed to the counter to pay. She considered a pint of ice cream for a couple minutes, until she realized how much she was already going to pay for her tampons. She knew the total of her purchase before the shop keeper rang her up. She’d spend close to ten dollars for just a couple days’ worth of tampons; at least it would last her until she could make it to a big box store.
“$7.98” was all the shop keeper said as he rang up her order. He pushed her box towards her over the counter, wordlessly expressing a lack of plastic bags to put the small teal box in.
Feeling a warmth spreading over her cheeks as she walked back to her apartment building, Ella attempted to tuck the essential little box under her arm to hide the (shame?) evidence of her time of the month. Failing miserably to remain semi-warm, and cover the tampon box, Ella gave up on both. Climbing up the three floors to her door, Ella wondered just why it had to be like this. Why hide something you can’t control? Or the supplies needed for that something you can’t control.
Walking into her apartment, Ella immediately noticed the bathroom door ajar, and her Main Coon joyfully going to town on something suspiciously pink, crinkle-y, and made of paper.