Every night as soon as the sun set, my mother went through the same routine. Check the three locks on our apartment door, which were always engaged unless the door was opened.
Then the windows. We were on the third floor but as soon as the sun set all windows need to be closed and latched. During the day the windows could be open but never at night.
Then the salt that we just have to vacuum up in the morning. Mother puts a line of salt on all the window ledges and across the latches. In front of the sliding glass door in the kitchen before closing the heavy black curtain with silver crosses. A line of salt behind the front door then along the doorways as we go to our room.
When I was little my mother and I shared her queen sized bed. For my tenth birthday I asked for my own bedroom. I went to school and when I came home there was a full size bed in the corner of our room for me. Now with two dressers, a full size bed, a queen size bed, and two doors that open into the bedroom there is barely any room to walk. The closet door gets a line of salt too. Then the matching curtain is closed over the bedroom window. When we climb into our beds my mother turns her bedside lamp down to its lowest setting. The room is still fully if dimly lit. The lights are left on all night in the kitchen and bathroom too.
I awoke in the middle of the night with stomach cramps. I got out of bed and hurried to the bathroom. I stepped carefully over the lines of salt so as not to disturb them. Once, when I was very young, I broke the line of salt leading into the bedroom when I went for a late night drink. My mother scolded me all day long and every night for a week.
I entered the bathroom and glanced at the tiny window which long ago my mother covered with stained glass stick on. During the day it made pretty geometric shapes on the floor. I lowered my pajama pants and they were soaked in blood. I sat down hard on the toilet. The pain jolted my brain. I had gotten my first monthly. Not that a big deal.
I stripped off my pajama top and threw it into the hallway. Then I took the blood soaked pants and threw them into the shower. They made a wet sound when they landed and left a blood stain on the linoleum. I needed to clean myself up first. I could feel the blood continuing to flow out of me.
I stepped into the shower and closed the curtain. Then I dragged down my blood-soaked panties, smearing blood down both of my legs. I turned on the shower and with the flexible hose sprayed down the bloodstained clothes as the water heated. The water was red as it ran down the drain. When steam began to rise I sprayed down my privates , causing another gush of red water.
Then I took the washcloth and the bar of soap and scrubbed. When the water began to cool again I used the bar of soap on my panties and pajama bottoms until the water ran clear.
I shut off the shower finally. Then I wrung out my pajama pants before flipping them over the shower curtain bar, making a wet slapping sound. Drops of water landed on the floor and the blood-stained toilet seat.
I pulled a pair of my mothers emergency black panties from the bottom left drawer under the sink. I stuck a thick pad in them and put them on. I put my panties on the shower curtain rod too. Then I scrubbed the floor with the washcloth.
I stood and started scrubbing the toilet seat when I heard a scraping sound outside on the bricks. Then a raspy, hissing voice called out “I smell blood. It smells like my blood. Where is my blood?”