Tuesday nothing happens again.
Nothing has happened since the beginning of July, reproductively speaking. I have not had my period since the week I arrived in India.
I’ve been nagged by this fact but choosing to ignore it, put off thinking about it, worrying about it, but on Tuesday there is nothing else to think about: nothing but this lack, this emptiness, this maddening nothing. I keep waiting and waiting, but nothing happens.
I tell Scott about this on our morning Skype call. It’s nothing, he’s sure. It’s just my body freaking out because of the time difference and the travel. It will all be fine once I get home, but I’m worried it won’t be. What if it’s not?
By the time I get home from work, I’m shaking like I was the day before. I can’t name the reason, but I know it in my heart. It's a dark shadow that's been tracking me at a distance. It's a diffuse cloud of anxiety that is now seeping into my room. I try to think about something else. I try to read, but I can’t concentrate. I think today is the day I need to face this thing down. It’s been coming to get me and now it’s here. I need to acknowledge its presence in the room. I remember my mother telling me something about early menopause years ago, but it can’t have been this early. It can’t have been. Or can it? I should call her, but I don’t want to know. I don’t want to hear it. It’s just a few missed periods. Everything will be fine. But I’m afraid that it won’t be.
I look up the symptoms of menopause on the Internet. For the first time ever, it doesn’t seem like I have what I’m afraid of--or is that just a refusal to admit what I'm afraid of? I haven’t been feeling hot flashes, or have I? How would I know in the hundred-degree heat and humidity of India? I have had spells where I begin to sweat profusely in the air conditioning. But that can’t be a hot flash, can it? I look up the consequences of early menopause: more years spent with an increased risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, gum disease, incontinence, forgetfulness. I can lose my teeth and my hair will grow thin. Basically, I’ll be the crypt-keeper a year from now. Basically, I’m drying up from the inside out and getting ready to die.
What kind of cruel joke is being played on me that I just start beginning to feel like I could handle having a child and the physical capability to do so is taken away from me? Why does every baby I see suddenly look at me with adorable, longing, big wet eyes and wait for me to smile at it? How could this have happened?
Maybe it didn’t. Maybe Scott is right. It’s nothing. But it doesn’t feel like nothing. It feels like Nothing.
I decide to walk to the market, and maybe I’ll see Mister Kandhari or pet my dogs on the way. Maybe they’ll make me feel better, or at least distract me. Mister Kandhari isn’t home and the dogs are busy getting fed by a boy on a bicycle with a metal can full of something they apparently love.
I’m not hungry so I do a few laps in front of the shops. I go to the chemists and buy a pack of Mebex: the medicine Susie told me to take for worms.
A voice inside my head repeats, “Nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so. Nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so,” and I feel better. I feel the kara on my wrist and think, “How can I be so worried about myself when there are so many other people in the world? Why don’t I just think about others?” I am comforted just by looking into the faces of the people passing me by. Things could be so much worse. I am so privileged. But even if I weren’t, I would still be me. I would still be okay.
I think of this book I read by the Dalai Llama on a plane trip down to Florida. It said the human condition is one of suffering. Every human being suffers, and every human has in common with every other human the want to escape this suffering, the want of enjoyment and happiness. I feel bound in this way to everyone I walk past. We are all bound.
The lump in my throat smoothes itself. I walk to Sagar and the doorman greets me. The waiter seats me. I start to order but the waiter interrupts and asks me how I am. It’s the same waiter I had yesterday. He smiles when I tell him I’m good.
I order a sweet lassi and paper masala dosa. It’s the giant, crispy pancake that comes with all the dipping sauces. It’s not my imagination that my pancake is extra big today, like three feet long. The woman sitting next to me orders the same thing and hers is only two-thirds the size of mine. I think they made me an extra special pancake. I feel bad when I can’t finish it.
I buy some paan at the counter that I figure I can either share with or drop off at Mister Kandhari’s place on the way home.
The dogs aren’t out tonight for me to pet, and Mister Kandhari isn’t home. His daughter-in-law is on her way out of the house as I walk past and she tells me I can just give the paan to the guard. It was sweet of me to bring it.
Back at home I think of calling my mother, but my computer is ringing before I have the chance. She tells me all about how the cousins from Texas were staying with her because they were evacuated in the wake of Hurricane Ike. Their kids are so cute, she says. And so polite. She tells me about my niece, Kathryn, and how much she’s eating now.
I tell her I have a question for her.
“Uh oh,” she says.
“When did you get menopause?”
“Really early,” she says.
“When?” I say.
“Why?” she asks.
“How old were you?”
“Thirty two,” she says. Thirty two. That’s two years younger than I am right now. I tell her what’s happening to me and she says that’s exactly what happened to her. Her period just stopped. She’d get it once every couple of months, then it just stopped altogether. But it was kind of nice not to get it, she says.
“Yeah, but you already had kids,” I say.
“Oh, did you want kids?” I’d always said I didn’t, but lately I’ve been thinking about it. I’ve always kind of envisioned myself adopting, but I thought as a back-up I could have my own kid. Now I have no back-up plan.
She says they can do things. They can give me hormones. I should just see a doctor when I get back. I’ll be fine. And I will be. But I’ll be different. When people told me India would change me, this was not one of the changes I had in mind. But at least I’ve been able to make an occasion of it. At least I have this wealth of new experiences to enrich me instead of just feeling impoverished, instead of just feeling grief and loss.
So I may not have a child, but I do have India.