Have you ever cried during an interview
because you started talking about your family,
or while serving tables in Virginia
when a man’s hand lands on your ass.
Have you ever had your boyfriend
tell you he wanted to go celibate,
which meant no kissing or holding hands,
or ever been pulled over for tailgating
a cop who called you stupid,
to which you agreed.
Have you ever been 9 weeks pregnant,
barely able to pay for your tiny apartment,
and searching for something,
anything, you don’t know what,
amidst sites asking
Where are all the good women?
Why do they sin?
They’ll take your money and break your heart
and you think good but feel sick.
The pill you order
arrives in a yellow envelope.
It looks like it came from someone’s basement,
and you cramp for days.
The bleeding never stops, not like on your period.
When you pull down your underwear,
a blood clot falls onto the bathroom floor
of the gas station.
This is when you are driving west
and you ask your phone:
Does coffee make anxiety worse?
What are to-be verbs?
How long will 18 mg of Adderall last?
How to stop yourself from crying?
Answer: distract yourself with pain.
Sink your nails into your thighs.
Slam your hand in a car door.
Slap your jaw with a tightened fist
and laugh at how easy it used to be
to make yourself cry on purpose.
All you had to do was think
about your dog dying someday
and now you think about your dog dying
two years ago and there is nothing.
There is nothing
until you leave the bathroom
and the man behind the counter says
Slow down, child. At least buy yourself
a pretzel melt first.
Then, perhaps, there is something.
First published at Diode.
Susan Nguyen’s writing is often interested in the body: how geography, history, and trauma leave markers, both visible and invisible. Her current work also explores the challenges of living in the United States while claiming a multilingual and multicultural identity.