My aunt is going through menopause. When she’s having a hot flash, sometimes she’ll acknowledge it in a shamed whisper while she fans herself; other times, we’re supposed to just look away, like at dinner when she plucked an ice cube from her water and rubbed it over her forehead, her neck, the bony ridges of her clavicles.
“The Change isn’t so bad,” Grandma said gently. “No more periods, no more cramps.”
“Shh, shh! God, Mom, not so loud.” My aunt peeked around to make sure no one was listening, to make sure no one would know that her body isn’t immanent.
Undeniably, change is movement. But its nuance is stronger: the denial of stasis, the refusal to remain in one place or to remain as one person, way down to the cellular level. It’s a bodily thing that, like writing, is uncontainable. Of this molecular compulsion to plunge forward into the grand infinity, John Burroughs wrote in his essay “The New Vitalism,” “Give me room, get out of my way. Ceaseless activity, ceaseless change, a thousand new forms is what I crave.” As much as my aunt would like to believe she is eternal, the pinpricks under her skin are busy embracing the ephemeralness of life.
Because my aunt won’t talk about it, it’s impossible to know what terrifies her: getting old, the reminder of death, having missed the boat on having kids. I don’t know, but I’ll figure it out for myself when I get there.
Jen Corrigan is an editorial intern at the North American Review. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Heather; Apocrypha and Abstractions; Yellow Chair Review; The Gambler; Cease, Cows; and elsewhere. Visit her at jencorrigan.wordpress.com.