Now that the politicians have taken away abortion, birth control is probably next, Mom says. So, she sets up an appointment with the gynecologist for me to get an IUD, an intrauterine device.
“I don’t see how I can get pregnant when I don’t even know any boys,” I tell her, but she looks serious and purses her lips like there’s a closetful of horny ninth grade boys around the corner ready to impregnate me, so I say OK.
We go to the doctor and he explains that he’s going to insert a small, plastic, t-shaped device into my uterus. It will block any sperm from inseminating my eggs, he says in his cool, father-knows-best voice. Then he sticks his cold jellyfish hand inside me and just like that, I can have all the sex I want, at least theoretically.
When I go to school the next day, though, the metal detector beeps at me as I walk through it, even after I empty out both my pockets and everyone in line is staring at me. The mean vice principal pulls me in his office and makes me empty out my pockets again, but still there’s nothing. After searching my bag, they don’t know what to do with me, so they send me home.
Mom picks me up and I’m trying to explain what happened when that loud chirping sound starts again. At first she thinks the smoke detector needs batteries or I’ve left the refrigerator door open. “Shhh!” she says, and cups her hand to her ear, detective-like, to figure out where it’s coming from. When she realizes it’s my uterus, we rush back to the doctor’s office in a hurry.
In the exam room, the doctor gets inside me and an “Oh no” escapes his lips. How bad could it be? I think. The only contact I’d had with boys that week was brushing up against a soccer player in the hallway, which caused a little frisson of excitement to shoot through me, and acting in the school play alongside Amos, who is your basic white boy with bad skin and fluffy hair.
Doc explains the mixup – instead of inserting an IUD inside of me, he’d inserted an IED, an improvised explosive device. It turned out it was contraband from some small African nation I’d gotten wrong on my geography quiz. Immediately, nurses strap me in a gurney and whisk me off into surgery, where one comes in the room saying, “This won’t hurt a bit,” and gives me a shot.
I wake up to find mom crying by my hospital bed, saying the operation was unsuccessful and they couldn’t figure out how to remove the bomb from my vagina without setting it off. I’m trying to process this when I get a text from my friends asking if I’m OK. “My vagina is a bomb,” I write, but before I hit send, it autocorrects to “My vagina is the bomb.” Someone posts a screenshot, and the next thing I know, my uterus has gone viral on the Internet.
“I have to get out of here,” I tell Mom, who’s weeping in her hospital chair. I leave her there and walk home. In between the smoothie shop and the falafel place on Main Street, the bomb goes off. Shop windows shatter. Manhole covers somersault in the air and land back in place. I’m thrown backward against a brick wall and land in a crumpled heap on the pavement.
After I come to and the doctors realize there’s no permanent damage a good plastic surgeon can’t fix, they marvel at my uterus, how it was able to absorb the shock of the blast. Soon, videos of my exploding uterus have gotten millions of views. For a few months, I’m famous, and everyone’s calling me, all the doctors and the medical schools, wanting a piece of my vagina.
After all the madness calms down and people stop acting like I’m going to explode if they bump into me, I realize that Mom is happier, too. It’s like when that bomb went off, it released some worry lodged inside of her, something that was blocking happiness. I still don’t want to get too close to anyone, because ninth grade boys kind of suck, so I think I’ll wait until they learn how to handle me.
Lee Chilcote is an award-winning journalist, writer and author whose writing is published in The Washington Post, Associated Press, National Public Radio, Chronicle of Philanthropy, Vanity Fair, Next City, Belt and many literary journals as well as in The Cleveland Neighborhood Guidebook, The Cleveland Anthology and A Race Anthology: Dispatches and Artifacts from a Segregated City. His poetry chapbooks are The Shape of Home and How to Live in Ruins. He is founder and editor of The Land, a local news startup reporting on Cleveland’s neighborhoods, and a founder and past executive director of Literary Cleveland. He lives in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood of Cleveland with his family.