Why Is The Blood Brown?

“For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”

Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”


After getting home from school, I put my lunchbox and homework on the kitchen table and went into the bathroom to pee. Next to the toilet was something new: a blue box with the word “KOTEX” on it. The top of the box was open and inside were long white pads. I peed on them a little and the top ones swelled.

I went to my room and made a fort out of my blankets and nightstand. Later, my mom stood in my bedroom doorway and asked, “Why’d you pee on the box next to the toilet?”

“I wanted to know what’d happen.”

“Today your sister became a woman and she needs those. Don’t pee on them.” She left.

The next morning, I found one of the pads wrapped in toilet paper in the bathroom trashcan. I opened it. The inside of the pad was stained brown. I wrapped it in more toilet paper, put it in my jacket pocket, and went to school. Before class began I showed my teacher, Mr Collins, the inside of the pad and asked “What is this brown stuff?”

After school let out, my mom was waiting for me outside of my classroom. When home, we sat at the kitchen table and she tried to explain what the brown stuff was. I don’t remember everything about what she said other than being left with the lingering question: Why is the blood brown on the pad?

After dinner, I asked my sister why her blood on the pad was brown. She pointed to a scab on my elbow and said, “Blood turns brown when it dries.” We went into the bathroom and she pulled the scab off my elbow. Red blood droplets formed. She pressed a white pad against my elbow and the red blood soaked into it. She rolled it up in toilet paper, gave it to me, and said “Check it tomorrow.”

In the morning, I opened it. The blood was brown like my sister’s.

Pasta al Forno


Serves: 6

Prep: 30 minutes

Cook: 1 hour


2 lbs penne pasta

2 T olive oil

4 large cloves garlic, chopped

2-16 oz cans whole tomatoes

4 Roma tomatoes, chopped

¼ cup fresh basil, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

2 cups mozzarella cheese, grated

4 eggs

2 T fresh oregano, chopped

  1. In a large saucepan, Ma heated the olive oil on medium heat and added the garlic. While the garlic softened, Ma showed Papa my second grade art project: A hand-drawn picture of a hairy Bigfoot holding his dick, peeing on a rock. They whispered to each other, and then Papa yelled at me, “Don’t do it again.” My eyes began to sting from the garlic’s fragrant punch.
  2. Ma added the chopped and whole cans of tomatoes, juice and all, into the saucepan. And then turned the flame to low. As the tomatoes and garlic simmered for 30 minutes, Papa yelled things like, “You upset your mother,” “The principal and teachers don’t like you anymore,” and “Who taught you that, your cousin?”
  3. Ma added the basil to the tomatoes and mixed it in. Papa grabbed me by the arm and forced me into my dinner table seat—next to the wall, under a plate-sized painting of Pope John Paul II. Ma moved the saucepan off heat and kept an eye on me and Papa’s temper.
  4. She brought a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, and added the pasta and cooked it al dente. The whole time Papa yelled at Ma and my sisters. He said they walked around the house in their underwear too much and it’s causing me to draw bad pictures.
  5. Ma’s hands were shaking as she turned the oven dial to 375 and as she drained the pasta. They continued to shake while she coated the inside of a large, deep baking dish with olive oil. I too began to shake.
  6. Papa’s yelling got louder. Ma added the pasta, tomato sauce, chopped peppers and onions, cheese, eggs, and oregano to the oiled baking dish and mixed everything together. She slammed the oven door closed after sliding the baking dish onto the middle rack, and yelled back, “Maybe he found the dirty magazines you keep in the garage.”
  7. For the hour while the pasta baked, Papa sat silent in his chair smoking and watching TV. Ma scrubbed the kitchen counters and swept the floor. The picture of Bigfoot holding his dick while peeing on a rock was on the dinner table, right in front of me.
  8. Ma took the pasta out of the oven and let it cool. She put the Bigfoot picture on top of the refrigerator. We sat at the table and ate. No one spoke. After dinner, Ma washed the dishes, Papa went back to sitting in his chair to smoke and watch TV. I sat under the table and flicked breadcrumbs at him.