We are at the Giant Eagle in Louisville, Ohio, my dad, my brother, and I. We have 20,000 pennies and are ready to put a Coinstar machine to good use.

This was my idea, cashing in the change for my grandma. Partly because I’m a kind granddaughter who wants to reward her grandmother for her past 20 years of frugality, but mainly because after a frighteningly long absence, my period has returned with a vengeance, and I need tampons.

I’ve always felt out of place in Ohio. You have to drive everywhere and no matter where you drive you’ll pass cows. Interest here lies in Walmart and Wonder Bread. The people here are confused by my mixed race family and mainly vote Republican. Of course I love my grandma, and the road trips here are fun, too, but I’m not meant to stay for long.

The machine is making a lot of noise, as it has been since we started 20 minutes ago. The patrons in the lines nearest us have made comments to their cashiers about the scene we’ve caused. It’s Saturday afternoon, and our noise pollution is affecting traffic. The machine isn’t slow, but we’re pouring too many pennies too fast, and every few minutes we have to wait for it to catch up. Our hands are grey and stinky and we’re all sick of standing.

We’ve been at the coin machine for a good 40 minutes, but now, I have to buy my damn tampons. I’m very nervous to do so because I’ve never bought tampons on my own, ever. My dad and brother will never understand the humiliation of making such a purchase, so they refuse to come with me. I wonder if it’s because walking down the feminine product aisle would hinder their fragile masculinity or if they’re just genuinely lazy. I think of trans men, and prisoners, and the impoverished. Suck it up, Simone.

My process of selection is stunningly average and unembarrassing, but I decide to buy other things in addition to the tampons, to deflect from their looming presence in my basket. At first, I notice Charlie St. Cloud is on sale on the DVD rack. I decide against it: If I’m going to buy these feminine products with a Lifetime-quality romantic drama, I may as well throw in a box of Kleenex and some ice cream.

If I’m going to buy these feminine products with a Lifetime-quality romantic drama

Now it is time to purchase my products. Every cashier is a dude, so I figure a young dude would be best. He will be just as embarrassed as me. I avoid the cashier nearest the coin machine, as I’ll be in his direct line of sight for at least another hour.

The beginning of the transaction is seamless. And then he asks, “Do you have a Giant Eagle card?” as he bags my box of tampons. He’s kind of cute, in an Ohio way.

“Oh sorry, I don’t,” I reply. Put the tampons in the bag please. Also, why am I always apologizing for everything?

He’s still holding them, mid-bagging. “Well if you go to that register over there you can get one and you’d get six dollars off your purchase.” He waves his hand, box in it, to the opposite side of the store.

“Well, I don’t live here, so I wouldn’t get much use out of it.” I try not to sound hasty, or rude, but I need him to please put the tampons in the bag, because someone here is very embarrassed of the shedding lining of her uterus.

Finally he does, shocked to realize what he was holding. “Oh yeah, that makes sense. I understand.”

It’s all over.

We spend another hour in the grocery store cashing in coins. We break the machine when my Grandpap’s old penny bracelet gets caught in the gears, and require the help of the manager to get the machine working again. We finish our ordeal and struggle to find the correct place to cash in the voucher. The manager finds us wandering and brings us to customer service. My grandma is now $200 richer. As we leave, my 13-year-old brother shoves his newly hairy armpit into my face. I spill Vitamin Water all over my leg, and track Red Dye #3 through the rest of the store as we leave.

But for me, nothing is ever as mortifying as buying tampons. ♦