Nico Lim's (she/her) writing occupies a space somewhere between prose, sci-fi and fiction. Reflecting on adolescent experiences of queerness
I am a tampon
Watching flashing lights blink at the back of my mind as I close my eyes and imagined the music. Except I wasn’t imagining the music, I imagined a future where I had friends I could go out with. Ones I actually liked. It’s not like I was being bullied or tortured in school, just nobody ever notices me. I’ve always been average Zofi, the one who turns the lights off at movie time or the one who helps give out test sheets. It was like I was invisible, there never to shine but only to lurk in the background of everyone’s lives.
My family’s pretty alright I guess but there’s big brother Ben who yells at me every time I sneak into his room to play guitar.
He says “girls aren’t allowed to play guitar” because “mum says so.”
How could she agree with his statement? She let him paint his nails so why couldn’t I fucking play guitar? Mum says it would ruin my nails, give me rough fingers and boys do not like rough fingers. Dad runs the rotating Dim Sum studio down at Planet Health. Its for Trendies obsessed with exotic-ness. It’s 3016 and we’re still obsessed with gender and oriental cuisine. Aren’t we supposed to be into some UFO shit by now?
It felt like the worst day of my life was when I got my period and finally understood what Ben meant by his statement. I couldn’t play guitar because “girls-can’t-play-guitar” and he assumed I was a girl because I had different body parts and because I had my period I was a girl and therefore “can’t-play-guitar.” Before this I was just Zofi, I never thought about what gender I was. I could’ve been a piece of rock for all I cared.
But now according to Ben, I was a girl who can’t-play-guitar.
I woke up one morning bleeding through my down belows, mum was out helping out at the studio so I had no one else to run to but Ben. I barged into his room while he was retouching his weekly nail polish.
“Help me I’m bleeding” “what?”
“Yeah I’m bleeding what do I do?”
I lifted my oversized t-shirt revealing my bleeding bottom, expecting him to either make fun of me or throw me out the window.
He did neither but instead rummaged through his sock drawer, fishing out the shittest box of tampons.
“I thought it was funny to use these dipped in yolk to egg the neighbour’s car” “but what do I do with this?”
“shove it up your butt, I don’t know!”
I locked myself in the bathroom and stared down at the box of tampons. Nothing at school prepares you for situations like these. Not even the Puberty Simulation classes we have. In those classes you’re each assigned a Simulation Partner to spend a week with, they’re basically Robots who act as your Significant Other.
Holding your hand, for you to practice kissing with and stuff but the problem is they always assigned us to robots of the opposite gender. It’s the year 3016 and they use robots to teach teenagers about puberty and they are gendered. But funny how the only time I ever got smooched by someone or something else was by that hunk of metal.
My hand reached into the box and my bloody heart stopped, there was only a single tampon left which I ripped open the paper casing only to discover it was a faulty one with no string.
It had no string.
This was too much for an unkissable-newbie-tampon user. There are moments in life where you want to share a moment so badly but end up failing to do so. Only to realise it was a moment only meant to be experienced by yourself. It wasn’t like I could get Ben to tell me what to do next, so I took a deep breath and pushed the singular tampon up with my singular finger. I was singular, I’ve always been singular, I’ll always be singular.
I was 20 when I truly understood the stringless faulty tampon memory. Her name was Fancy Mcpantsy and she was the richest girl in college. She helped me with money while I let her use me for lesbian practise for when she decided to become an actual lesbian.
She tells me,
“Mum and Dad are cool with it you know, I just want to make sure I only like girls before coming out”
“But what about your boyfriend?”
“Oh, he’s there so I can see if I actually still like men”
I never considered my own sexuality, I was just Zofi sitting in the background, hitting the lights. One day as we locked lips I had a flashback to the moment I ripped open the tampon pack and found the singular, stringless, faulty one.
This was when I realised I was a faulty, queer product. Wrongly engineered and confused with my function. You know like how sometimes you open a packet of Oreos and some have no frosting or when you buy a mug from the shop and its handle is slightly sideways?
That was me. Somehow I hadn’t been completed.
But being faulty and queer wasn’t a bad thing, it meant I was something. I could finally walk around knowing this was what I was. Understanding this was empowering.
I now knew I could do anything.
Remember how I was in my room wishing with my eyes closed to have friends to go out with? Back then I thought I had to ‘fit in’ to get friends I liked and eventually you realise it’s kinda the opposite. Ever since the day I discovered that I was a faulty tampon it has become a personal symbol. Both for my sexuality and my life. You don’t need to come out a perfect tampon, even if you're short of a string someone is still going to shove it in and it’s going to change their life.
I now play guitar
better than ben
and he never yells when I do
Nico Lim does a bit of everything but currently writes fan fiction based on actual life experiences. She wishes to live a nomadic lifestyle, living in every bit of the continent if possible. She is interested in all kinds of politics, specifically the roles of race and gender within queer politics.