Red Sea

Tammy Delatorre

I drip on the granite tile, step in it and leave partial toe prints in red. A traceable lineage. A small spot absorbed into the terry bath mat. I have marked my territory.

*

I come to the blood drive to provide moral support to a co-worker, but one of the phlebotomists stands with syringe and a rubber band ready to strap my arm. He eyes the pulpy blue vein in the crook of my elbow.

*

The red tide returns. I feel the trickle. I’m shifting and transforming into something else, a woman in need of a tampon. Silk pearl. Slender. Baby pink wrapper. After use, pull the string to see the cherry truffle surprise.

*

Predatory beasts smell in stereo, each nostril discerns a slightly stronger scent to track down prey. When I’m on the rag, the neighbor’s dog sniffs the air, claws at my thighs, won’t stop until his nose is buried in my crotch.

*

During P.E. class, the teacher stands on the cold cement, instructs me on various strokes. I swim in a two-piece borrowed from my cousin. The surfer boy with hair lightened by the sun leans against the wall near the shallow end. When I pause to catch my breath, he stares at the brown hair on my navel.

Later in his bedroom, after he’s finished, he pulls on a pair of shorts from his dirty pile. Gives me a button kiss to seal the act. Hands me a towel to sop up the runny mess. I remain, even after I'm gone, a red streak in the sheets, soaked through to shame the mattress.

*

A newborn is left in the last stall of a women's restroom. Scrawled on the wall above its bloody fetal body: For a good time call Martha. The babe survived. The female body has a biological imperative to continue the species, even if it’s not there to nurture the child.

*

In the neighbor’s backyard, people mull over grilled pieces of meat. Mosquitoes swarm, but only me. Bites up and down my bare brown legs. I don't condone this behavior, but when I consider the nutritional demands of laying thousands of eggs that turn into larva and pupa, I think, come, let me be your blood orange.

*

To remedy necrotizing fasciitis, maggots debride the dead and diseased flesh, where the blood has gone black. In medieval times, patients with high fever were bled with leeches. Something ails me, deep and unresolved. This is who I am, a bleeding animal looking to procreate, an instinct as continual as spring, as deep as the sea. Reconstitute the womb with red meat. Fertile carnivores must breakdown flesh to boost iron reserves for the sake of progeny.

*

Water retention, indigestion, constipation. My body holds on to it all, wants what she wants, and won’t negotiate. But finally, she lets go: oceans within me, gas and solid matter, and desire. There are things some vessels are not meant to hold, despite the sacrifice of blood.

Author Portrait

Tammy Delatorre is a writer living in Los Angeles. She enjoys paddleboarding, photography and culinary delights. In previous lives, she’s worked for a Nobel-prize-winning biochemist; helped to design, build and race a solar car that won the World Solar Challenge in Australia; and danced the hula despite being teased of stiff hips. Her essay, “Out of the Swollen Sea,” was selected by Cheryl Strayed as the winner of the 2015 Payton Prize. Her writing has also appeared in Los Angeles Times, Salon, The Rumpus, River Styx, and Many Mountains Moving.

View the website of Tammy Delatorre