Trapped in a Trailer


Note: I’m working on a book and it’s got me road-tripping back and forth across my childhood. One road led to this post.


The Forest and The Trees


When you’re 12 and locked in the bathroom of a trailer in the woods, a lot of crazy stuff runs through your mind. How did she lock the door from the outside? Why is the window so small? How the hell do I use this tampon?


My mother had told me the month before that she was done buying pads (“sanitary napkins,” for the technically inclined) and that I would have to start using tampons for my periods. She said pads were too expensive and she didn’t like them, so I shouldn’t like them either. (Can you say “textbook narcissist”?) When that month’s period rolled around on the calendar, there were no pads to be found. She pushed a box of tampons into my hands, shoved me into the bathroom, somehow secured the door from the outside and yelled, “You’re not coming out until you know how to use those Tampax!” That’s how I found myself in that trailer’s locked bathroom, sobbing.


I banged on the door, tears flying, for a full 10 minutes. I begged to be let out. I begged for help. (Seriously – how was I supposed to use a tampon?) I begged and begged until I realized that my mother had probably left the room and wasn’t even listening to me anymore. Sometimes even a 12-year old is led to wonder how in the world her life could have turned out this way.


Looking back, I can see how complex and fractured that day was. How afraid that young version of me was feeling, how belittled and disrespected she was. I can also see my mother’s ignorance and shortcomings as a parent. How unprepared she was, how her own fears outweighed the well-being of her daughter. I won’t claim to not judge, because I do – in spades. But the thing I think about most is how I wish I could have helped my young self. How I wish I could ease her through that day and help move her forward, beyond it.


So in my mind, I’ve decided to send her some help. And I’ve done it in the only way I know how: I’ve replaced those janky paper instructions in that box of tampons, the instructions with the anatomical renderings that benefit no one except those with medical training. In their stead, I’ve left a handwritten note. It reads:


Dear Little Mikki,


I know it doesn’t seem like it, but you’re going to be okay. I promise. I’m gonna take you through this, step-by-step, so just follow along.


First, make sure you’re sitting on the toilet seat, like you’re ready to use the bathroom, while reading this. Take out a single tampon and tear the paper away. Throw the paper in the toilet. Now look at the tampon. See the end with the string? Notice how that cylinder fits inside the slightly larger cylinder on the other end. Place your index finger over the string-side opening and press. See how the inner cylinder presses the tampon through the outer cylinder? Neat, right? Drop that tampon and the cardboard cylinders into the toilet.


Now, with your fingers, reach down between your legs and find where the pee comes out. Once you find that, slide your fingers back just a bit to where your vagina is. That’s right – the “hole.” This is where you’re going to insert the tampon. (Stay with me. You can do this.)


Take another tampon from its wrapper (tossing the wrapper into the toilet) and practice pressing the string-side and pushing out the tampon. Do this as many times as you need, until you feel like you’ve got it down. Throw all those practice tampons, their wrappers and their cardboard cylinders into the toilet.


Take one last tampon from its wrapper (yep – wrapper into toilet), and place your index finger on the string-side opening. While holding the cardboard cylinder, and keeping your index finger over the string-side opening, place the other end of the tampon into your vagina. You only need to push it in about an inch. Once the cylinder is inside your hole, press the string-side cylinder and push the tampon into your body. If it doesn’t quite work, it’s okay. Just try again.


Once it does work and the tampon is inside you, that means you did it! You figured it out! Oh – and that string? That’s how you’ll pull the tampon from your body, once it’s time to replace it. (You will get the hang of this. I promise.) Wash your hands, make sure you’ve thrown all the various tampon wrappers and cardboard cylinders and practice tampons into the toilet, put the lid down and have a seat.


Now. I know this has been hard. But there’s still some ugliness to get through. When you leave this room (when you’re allowed to leave, that is), you’re in for a bad surprise. Your mother has invited a former boyfriend over – the one you never wanted to see again. And she’s done it today. Right now. He’s out there, with her, waiting to see you. And it doesn’t matter how puffy and red your eyes are from crying, it doesn’t matter that you’ve been held hostage in the bathroom. None of that matters, because that woman is going to make you go out there, sit down across from that boy, and act like everything’s fine. Little Mikki – everything is not fine. So here’s what I think you should do. Dry your face. Go out there and sit. But you don’t have to talk to that boy any more than you want to. You may have to sit in a room with him, but you don’t have to pretend you want to see him and you don’t have to pretend you’re happy.  You just gut through this visit, and I promise you – you’ll never have to see him again. I swear to beans.


You did good today. And you really are gonna be okay. Hang in there. I promise you’re gonna get to grow up and live far away from this trailer and these crazy people and you’ll get to decide the kind of person you want to be. No one else will ever get to decide that for you. Okay?


Now, flush that toilet, go out there and sit across from that boy until he gets bored and leaves, then go right outside for a walk in the woods. You do not want to be here when your mother finds that stopped-up toilet.



Big Mikki