The virgin was out of sorts.
For days she had been possessed of a jangly anxiety, a tightness in her belly. Her intermittent migraine auras, which created a floating blind spot at the center of her field of vision, had become nearly constant. Her body ached vaguely, diffusely.
It was springtime. The snow in the luxury resort town where the virgin resided was melting. Skiing was newly over; the rivers were rising.
The virgin was uncommonly cranky.
The virgin could identify twelve overlapping reasons for her malaise. These were:
The virgin was badass.
The virgin was iconic.
But oh, she had so many complaints.
And she was scared.
She carried cop-grade pepper spray in her purse.
But this didn’t come close to making her feel safe.
The virgin felt like shit.
* * *
The virgin worked as personal assistant to a wealthy citizen of the luxury resort town. The wealthy citizen had made his fortune designing and patenting a kind of life vest that cruise lines had adopted en masse. The vests had special waterproof pockets, so that the cell phones of castaways wouldn’t short out while they were bobbing in salt water.
The wealthy citizen had sold off his life vest business. He was pivoting to yurts.
The virgin’s job responsibilities were diverse. She read the wealthy citizen’s mail for him. She summarized his messages.
When the wealthy citizen wanted to convey to someone that they were not worthy of his personal attention, he had the virgin make the phone call on his behalf.
“La virgen sirvió como traductora, cuando fue necesario, para los empleados peruanos que trabajaron en las propiedades del ciudadano rico, y que lavaron su ropa.”
The virgin was not Latinx, but she had serviceable Spanish. This permitted her to make quiet jokes with her fellow employees about their employer’s eccentricities.
When they were in the same room, the wealthy citizen stared frankly at the virgin. She tolerated his gaze, because what else was she supposed to do? She understood that her virginity intrigued him. He commented on it, but didn’t chase after it.
The wealthy citizen was, when push came to shove, primarily in pursuit of youth.
And the virgin was far from young.
* * *
The miracle began on the virgin’s day off.
She was spending it alone at home in her apartment. She was listening to Albert Ayler on her very carefully assembled stereo system, and reading a biography of Emily Dickinson.
As she read, she kept thinking that the very act of writing a biography of Emily Dickinson seemed insensitive…invasive…kind of a little rapey.
But surely she was wrong about that.
Surely, that was the malaise talking.
Perhaps, she thought, she would re-watch Breakfast at Tiffany’s later.
Then she had to pee.
Because she was constantly having to pee.
As she sat down on the toilet the virgin was annoyed, as ever, at how her pee came out. Which was: differently every time. How it sprayed sideways, or would run down along the side of her thigh. How she never knew what to expect. She was annoyed at how difficult all of this made it to wipe herself properly. At how often her vulva seemed to smell faintly of urine.
Once in a while she achieved the clear, strong, unimpeded stream that parted the waters below her loudly. Moments like that were a gift. It was all she wanted: to contribute more productively to the emblematic soundtrack of the women’s room.
Honestly, she thought, it had been easier to sound like she had a vagina when she hadn’t had one.
Not that anyone in the women’s room was listening.
Not that anyone but the virgin cared about the sound of the virgin’s pee.
The virgin wished that peeing were not a thing that had to occupy her thoughts at all.
* * *
As she was peeing, the virgin looked down at her underwear and saw the stain.
An indeterminate color…brownish, reddish.
She thought: huh.
She rubbed the stain between her thumb and index finger. Had she unknowingly shit herself a little? The virgin smelled her fingers.
No, it wasn’t that.
She ran a finger around the inner rim of her vagina. Wet. She looked at her finger. Bloody.
She pushed her middle finger farther in. It was absolutely, nonsensically, bloody inside. Was there an open wound? Had the seams of her sutured neo-organ somehow, after all this time, come undone? Was this the latest symptom of her not-quite-healing?
No. Everything felt the same as ever. Too tight, with lingering spots of granulation tissue. Normal. For her.
As she removed her finger, blood dripped out of her softly, into the toilet.
The virgin had bled from her vagina before, of course. Constantly, in the long months following her very-important-and-life-saving-procedure. Frank blood, old blood, all kinds of blood, mixed with all the other goop that exudes from a body’s not-quite-healing. She’d worn pads for a long time to catch it all. She’d stained through many pairs of panties.
But all of that had stopped.
Now she was, as her healers put it, pretty dry in there.The virgin sat for a moment in silent contemplation.
* * *
Was this a medical situation? Should she contact her healers?
Fuck that, the virgin thought.
She was done with their palpations, their collective depersonalized gaze.
Plus, part of her self-harm regime involved passively allowing potentially bad things to take their course.
Probably, the virgin thought, this was just another in the long series of pointless, painful, discomforting anomalies that constituted her existence. Probably it was nothing.
* * *
It was then that she heard the voice.
Hey, it said.
It was a guy voice. Penetrating and deep, resonating from the chest.
Great, the virgin thought, now I’m hallucinating.
This was not an entirely surprising turn of events. Having been raised in a visionary cult from which she had long ago, and at great personal cost, extricated herself, she was always half-expecting moments like these.
The voice cleared its throat impatiently.
The virgin said: what.
She couldn’t quite tell whether or not she was speaking out loud.
Don’t be scared, the voice said.
Don’t tell me how to feel, the virgin replied.
She said: who are you and what to you want?
You don’t recognize me? The voice sounded butt hurt.
Why would I recognize you, the virgin answered?
Reasons, the voice replied annoyingly.
Get to the point, the virgin said.
You’re bleeding, the voice said.
No, I mean…you’re bleeding.
The virgin considered this for a moment.
But I’m a virgin, she said at last.
I don’t really understand, the voice said, how you’re defining that word.
There are all kinds of ways to be a virgin, the virgin replied.
So which of them are you?
Many, the virgin said. But the relevant one right now involves my having no uterus. No secondary opening from which blood might flow. My cunt ends blindly.
Ugh, the voice said. You don’t need to be all graphic. I get it.
Look, said the voice. I’m just the messenger. And I’m here to tell you that you are going to bleed.
But it makes no sense, the virgin said. I’m almost sixty. Even if I were capable of menses, I’d be well within its pause.
Dude, the voice said. It’s a miracle. Just roll with it.
The virgin absolutely hated being called dude.
But if there was one thing she had learned in her impossible life, it was how to pick her battles.
* * *
The virgin went outside onto her small deck. It had grown dark out. She took a cigarette from the pack she kept beside the sliding backdoor. She lit it, inhaled several puffs, then snubbed it out. She placed what was left of the cigarette carefully back in the pack.
The virgin wasn’t particularly fond of smoking.
When she felt confident that the voice was going to leave her alone, the virgin went back inside and got ready for bed.
She ran a shower, let the too-hot water wash away the faint odor of tobacco.
She forgot about Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
She scraped off her makeup, took a Xanax. She put in a new liner, put on her nightgown.
She thought: when I wake up in the morning, everything will be back to normal.
* * *
But the virgin woke up soggy. In a girlpool.
Jesus, she thought, as she stripped the sheets and sprayed the stains with Shout.
* * *
She washed herself then put a thick pad in a new pair of panties. She laid a towel down on her stripped bed. She sat down to think.
Obviously the comments section was right: she was completely delusional.
Regardless, the stained sheets were stained.
She had, conveniently, many pads of all sizes left over from her very-important-and-life-saving-procedure. Plus the boxes of tampons that she bought now and again simply because the act of buying them eased her malaise.
She started with pads. But she leaked through even the thickest. So she got out a box of tampons. Realizing, despondently, that she was going to have to read the instructions.
* * *
For seven days and seven nights, the virgin bled.
For most of that time the flow was fierce. As if her body were releasing all at once the blood that for her entire lifetime had been disallowed.
She retired to bed. She closed the curtains. She put on gloomy music.
She couldn’t bear to see herself. She covered her mirrors.
She left a voicemail for the wealthy citizen telling him that she was having a medical emergency. Let him make of that what he would.
She bled and she bled and she bled.
She imagined that outside her darkened room, villagers were dancing.
Eventually the bleeding slowed. Eventually it only left spots, identical to the mark that had revealed the miracle to her in the beginning.
Most of her underwear was soiled.
She didn’t mind.
She didn’t mind the pain, the cramps, didn’t mind the inconvenience.
She complained about it, sure.
But she didn’t mind at all.
And did anyone else learn of the miracle?
Did the virgin have, say, a paramour who needed telling? Was anyone fucking her? Did she have to place an extra towel down, for when the cock came out bloody?
No, silly. She was a virgin.
Nothing besides her own fingers and her healing wands had been up in there.
* * *
And did she ever seek a scientific explanation? Did she have herself scanned, in search of the source of her miraculous blood?
She did not. For she was exceedingly weary of being scanned.
She told no one. Ever.
For the virgin knew, with certainty, that her story was unbelievable.
As stories told by virgins always are.
* * *
When the bleeding finally stopped, the virgin went out.
It was late at night. She drove to a bar at the hotel favored by the wealthiest vacationers visiting the luxury resort town. It being off-season, the place was mostly empty. The only patrons were staff from other bars in town, who had gotten off their shifts and gathered there to debrief.
Also a retired ski instructor, who was drinking by himself.
Neutered jazz played non-intrusively over expensive speakers.
The virgin drew no attention as she took her stool and hung her purse on a hook beneath the bar. Even the retired ski instructor ignored her.
The handsome bartender was standing directly in front of her. He seemed lost in thought. She gave him a little wave.
He looked right through her.
At first she thought he was simply being rude. In the manner of handsome bartenders who are displeased at having to be seen serving virgins like herself.
She batted her eyelids, greeted him: hi!
The handsome bartender was non-responsive. He began idly rinsing out glasses. After a moment, he started up a conversation with the retired ski instructor.
The virgin waved her arms at both of them.
They didn’t look at her.
She slammed an open palm down on the bar.
I’m here, she announced.
But though she could hear her own voice with clarity, the sounds she made appeared not to penetrate beyond the boundaries of her own perception.
The virgin was perplexed. She stood up. Walked around behind the bar. She approached the handsome bartender, who continued not to see her.
She put a hand gently on his shoulder. Her breast brushed lightly against his upper arm.
He continued drying the glasses he’d just rinsed.
The virgin felt herself growing a little wet.
She thought: huh.
She pulled away from the bartender, took a glass from behind the bar and turned to face the bottles on the back wall. She selected an expensive bottle of mezcal. She poured herself a drink. Neat. Took of slice of lime from the bin, squeezed it in. Then she returned to her side of the bar.
As she sipped her drink, she listened in on the conversation between the handsome bartender and the retired ski instructor. They were discussing the period of grieving that transpires at the end of every ski season.
It was important, they reminded one another, to have other activities toward which one could turn one’s attention.
Kayaking, the former ski instructor said, in a voice meant to manufacture enthusiasm where none existed. Creeking.
* * *
For a moment then the entire bar went weirdly quiet. And in the sudden silence the virgin recognized the voice from her hallucination.
It was, of course, her own.
It was the voice she had so painstakingly abandoned.
Her motherfucking deadvoice.
The recognition gutted her.
* * *
Sound returned again to the bar. And again the virgin had to pee.
She shouldered her purse and picked up her drink, carried both with her to the bathroom. A younger woman with a pixie haircut was coming out as the virgin went in. The younger woman looked at the virgin’s drink, then deep into her eyes. She gave the virgin a sweet and knowing smile.
Inside the women’s room, one stall was occupied. The virgin took the other. She set her drink on top of the sanitary bin. She hoisted her skirt, pulled down her panties. She felt them with her fingers. Slightly damp. Smelling faintly of her arousal. Unbloody.
She took a sip of mezcal. She tasted smoke.
She released her pee, which flowed loud and long into the water beneath her.
As she peed, the virgin had an inexplicably powerful urge to speak to the woman in the adjacent stall.
But she felt herself unmoored. If she opened her mouth, whose voice would speak?
Would she have a voice at all?
And what would in god’s name would she say?
As she contemplated these matters, the virgin heard a rustling in the other stall. Then a hand appeared from underneath the wall. The middle finger of the hand, whose nails were painted a pale turquoise, bore a thin black band. In the hand was a tampon.
Thank you, the virgin thought, voicelessly accepting the offering.
Of course! The other woman’s voiceless voice chirped back in reply.
The virgin felt suddenly less afraid.
She thought: the world is magnificent.
She opened her purse and dropped the tampon in. Then she gazed for a moment at everything else she was carrying. She considered her pepper spray, attached to the zipper of an inner pocket on a breakaway clasp. She pulled the canister off, deposited it in the sanitary bin.
The virgin lingered in her stall a little longer. She was unready to leave.
She heard the unseen woman beside her flush, wash, exit.
When the virgin emerged, she found herself alone.
She approached the marbled sink. She opened a tap.
She let the warm water flow over her hands.
She looked up into the large, well-lit mirror in front of her.
She saw herself, staring back.